Monday, February 7, 2011

Our Classroom Today--February 7, 2011


Our classroom today was a large auditorium where Physics Force was presenting Physics Circus. I have said it before and I am sure I will say it again: we are extremely fortunate to live in a major metropolitan area where the opportunities are nearly endless. This fantastic show is presented for free. Yes, FREE. The only cost was the $5 for parking. And it was worth it. The presentation was engaging and fun. The entire auditorium ooo'd and ahhhhh'd, laughed and squealed. They made this physics stuff FUN!

There were 4 main presenters and 2 assistants. There were 2 retired high school physics teachers (Hank and Jack), one current high school physics teacher (Fred) and one college physics professor who happens to be a rocket scientist (Cindy). I loved the names! Hank, Jack, and Fred? Really? How perfect! I missed the names of the two assistants, but I know one of them will be a teacher by fall.

They talked about--and DEMONSTRATED:

Waves, including sound waves
Nodes, anti-nodes, standing waves, oh my! But they explained it all so well! There was a glow in the dark rope involved, too. Big hit with the kids. In the picture they are playing music on "sewer pipes." They had the whole audience sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" along with them. They also had the audience do the wave, a good demonstration of how the wave could move, but the particle stayed put--we did not move sideways at all, but the wave went from one side of the auditorium to the other.

Air Pressure
The picture is of a Magdeburg Swing. There are two plates stuck together by pulling the air out from between them, allowing the air pressure on each side to push on the plates and press them together. He is doing "a little ballet."

The barrel crush is by FAR the most impressive of the demonstrations for air pressure. I have no picture of it--it doesn't lend itself to still photography very well. But you can watch the video of it on this page. It is impressive, but they did a great job of explaining what was happening, making it seem less mysterious.

The Bernoulli Effect
I took high school physics, liked it, and did well in it. I don't remember ever learning this! Watch the video on this page if you want to know how to toilet paper a tree more quickly easily. You'll have to scroll down to the Bernoulli effect section.

That is the classic tablecloth pull, EXPLAINED. There was much talk of friction, the first moment is the most critical because friction is strongest when things are at rest. And yes, he managed to pull the cloth out without spilling a drop of the red liquid.

This is a "giant puffer" used to talk about how gas, mass, and inertia.

Probably the biggest demonstration in the mechanics section is the one entitled "Monkey and Hunter" on this page. Again, not something that photographs well; you'll have to watch the video. It has to do with how gravity acts on objects. Needless to say, watching a man being dropped from a crane while a ball is shot from a canon into his baseball mitt gets quite a reaction from the crowd.

Lots more demonstrations. Lots. But pictures really don't do them justice. You can see many of them here. If you click on the headings, you will get pages with a wealth of information about the "why." Physics isn't hard, at least not when it is explained well!

At the end, they told the adults that physics in the United States is thought to be hard and not understandable. Incidentally, according the presenters, this is not the case in other parts of the world. He had us repeat the following: Physics is Interesting, Understandable, and Fun. Yes it is!

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