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Juniata Physics Students Turn Science into Entertainment

(Posted April 4, 2011)

Juniata Physics students show local students and their parents basic principles of physics in the entertaining demonstration extravaganza Physics Phun Night.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Finding entertainment value in classroom physics lessons is just one of the astounding pheats of Juniata College students as they stage another Physics Phun Night at 7 p.m., Wednesday, April 13, in Alumni Hall in the Brumbaugh Academic Center on the Juniata campus.

Physics Phun Night, sponsored by the Society of Physics Students (SPS) and the physics department, is free and open to the public.

Sponsorship of Physics Phun Night, a fixture in entertaining students and community members for more than a decade, is just one of the factors that the national organization, the Society of Physics Students, has recognized in naming Juniata's chapter of the Society of Physics Students the Outstanding SPS Chapter (2009-2010) for the 12th year in a row.

The Juniata chapter is sponsored by James Borgardt, professor of physics. The director of SPS praised Borgardt's leadership, writing "This award is a testament to your personal leadership skills as much as it is an acknowledgement of your chapter's superior performance."

Perhaps the most popular demonstration during Physics Phun Night, at least among the student body, is an activity illustrating the distribution of force over a wide area. Ben Sunderland, professor of mathematics, will volunteer to illustrate this phenomenon by balancing a cement block on his chest and allowing Borgardt to smash the block with a sledgehammer. To add to the drama, Sunderland will be lying on a bed of nails during the entire process.

Sponsorship of Physics Phun Night is just one of the factors that the Society of Physics Students has recognized in naming Juniata's chapter of the Society of Physics Students the Outstanding SPS Chapter for the 12th year in a row.

Other demonstrations will include:

Barrel Crush: A team of students will use atmospheric pressure to "violently implode" two 55-gallon drums.

Liquid Nitrogen: Students will use liquid nitrogen to instantly freeze a number of substances.

Phone Book Strength: By interweaving the pages of two phone books, friction prevents the books from being pulled apart. This demonstration has been seen on the Discovery Channel's "Mythbusters."

In all, the students will demonstrate more than a dozen concepts in an entertaining and informative presentation.

The student leaders for Juniata's SPS chapter are as follows: Brad Dinardo, president and a senior from Altoona, Pa.; Austin Ankney, vice president and a senior from Somerset, Pa.; Kenny Goodfellow, secretary and a senior from Duncansville, Pa.; and Kerrick Dando, treasurer and a junior from Murrysville, Pa.

Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.