College of Liberal Arts

University of Mississippi

Fun, Frights and Food Set for Annual ‘Spooky Physics’ Night

UM Department of Physics and Astronomy hosts hands-on event Oct. 26

OCTOBER 19, 2018 BY EDWIN B. SMITH

An Oxford Elementary School student lies on a bed of nails as a volunteer places a weight on her while other Spooky Physics Night participants observe. Photo by Nathan Latil

An Oxford Elementary School student lies on a bed of nails as a volunteer places a weight on her while other Spooky Physics Night participants observe. Photo by Nathan Latil/Ole Miss Communications

New frights and fresh takes on old delights are the order of the evening when the University of Mississippi Department of Physics and Astronomy presents “Spooky Physics Demonstrations” from 7 to 9 p.m. Oct. 26 in Lewis Hall.

The program will include a stage show at 7:30 p.m. New demonstrations planned include a virtual reality simulation that will allow people to see a particle detector in 3D. New demonstrations on electricity, magnetism, lasers and optics also will be on hand.

“As in the past years, there will be shows and a lot of hands-on science demonstrations with a Halloween ‘twist’ to experience weird physics phenomena, from electricity to heat and pressure to the ultra-cold,” said Marco Cavaglia, professor of physics and coordinator of the evening’s activities. “And to make the evening ‘sweeter,’ guests will be able to taste our world-famous liquid nitrogen ice cream.”

Activities throughout the evening include freezing objects in liquid nitrogen (at minus 320 degrees), generating sound waves with Bunsen burners and tubes, and levitating magnets with superconductors. Other fun hands-on experiences include optical illusions with mirrors, a Van de Graaff generator (a “hair-raising” electrical device), a bed of nails and other contraptions.

Physics department personnel also will prepare ice cream with liquid nitrogen and award prizes for the most original, scariest and cutest costumes to kids 10 and under.

“Prizes will be cool physics demonstration toys,” Cavaglia said. “Winners will be able to impress their friends by repeating some of the cool demonstrations they will see at the show.”

The annual event is the department’s way to give something back to the community, said Luca Bombelli, chair and professor of physics and astronomy.

“We, as scientists, feel that outreach and education is an important part of our work,” he said. “Many people are often intimidated by science, and children often do not pursue a career in STEM because they have not been exposed to it.

“We want to show cool science while having fun. And, who knows? Maybe one day one of the children at our ‘Spooky Physics’ night will win a Nobel Prize.”

Parking will be available along All American Drive, in the Circle, areas alongside or behind the Turner Center and the Intensive English building (just west of the Turner Center), in the Pavilion garage or in the Tad Smith Coliseum parking lot after 6 p.m.

For more information or for assistance related to a disability, call the Department of Physics and Astronomy at 662-915-5325.