'BALLOON KEBABS' A NEW RECIPE FOR MAKING PHYSICS FUNS

Issue date: 06 January 2005


ISSUE DATE: 06/01/05

‘Balloon kebabs’, ‘Alka-Selzer rockets’ and a ‘tame tornado’ are just three of the ‘physics tricks’ featured in an innovative new pack for scientists which aims to engage a wide audience in some of the important principles of physics as part of Einstein Year (2005).

‘Physics to Go’ is an innovative pack, chock-full of advice designed to allow interested scientists to take fun, educational demonstrations into their community. It has been compiled by Graphic Science at the University of the West of England, Bristol, in conjunction with the Institute of Physics.

The purpose of the pack is to contribute to Einstein Year’s aim of raising the profile of physics with young people and those who influence them.

The pack was developed for physicists who want to share their passion for physics during Einstein Year, but it is suitable for anyone willing to have a go – teachers, youth workers, and parents – as it contains full instructions and explanations. Physics to Go is available to download from the Einstein Year website, www.einsteinyear.org.

Dr Karen Bultitude from the Graphic Science Unit at UWE says, “The pack is not a set of rules but a ‘cookbook’ of physics related activities, full of recipes for engaging public audiences. It provides all the ingredients, tips and instructions needed to take the events out of the lab or office and into the community. It was specifically designed to be used in familiar locations and venues – such as pubs, supermarkets and motorway stations – where public audiences naturally congregate and feel comfortable.”

‘Physics to Go’ contains twenty exciting and intriguing physics ‘tricks’ designed to captivate and amuse the public during the events. For example, an impressive rocket can be made out of an empty film can, an Alka-Seltzer tablet and a small amount of water. The tablet is placed inside the film can, and about 1cm of water poured on top. The lid of the film can is then pushed on firmly. The Alka-Seltzer tablet produces bubbles inside the closed film can, causing the pressure inside the can to increase, until suddenly the lid flies off with a bang!

Each trick includes a list of ingredients and full instructions on how to perform the tricks; tips and advice on getting them right; explanations of the science behind the tricks and video clips showing each trick in action.

Caitlin Watson from the Institute of Physics says, “We commissioned this pack because we wanted a fun way of encouraging our members to share their expertise and show that physics is fascinating. I am very happy with the results, especially since the tricks are so accessible that anyone can have a go – you don’t have to be a physicist to have fun doing physics!”

The pack will be available for download or on CD. As well as the twenty tricks it contains general advice on presenting to audiences, finding funds and generating publicity. Other sections contain advice on presenting science events in different venues such as pubs, supermarkets and motorway service stations. Along with this there are examples of activities and sample materials, such as ready made questions and answer sheets for a science-based pub quiz.

The pack also contains suggestions for evaluating the events including a sample questionnaire. Graphic Science staff have considerable experience of evaluation and are advocates of its importance.

-ENDS-

Editor’s notes

1. Further information/downloadable version and further info on the pack available from http://www.einsteinyear.org/get_involved/physicstogo

2. Einstein Year is the UK & Ireland's contribution to World Year of Physics (WYP) and marks the centenary of the publication in 1905 of Einstein's three ground-breaking papers on special relativity, the photoelectric effect and Brownian motion. These papers provided the foundation of modern physics, and activities throughout Einstein Year will explore ideas in contemporary physics as well as showing how our everyday lives are influenced by Einstein's legacy. Find out more about events happening near you at www.einsteinyear.org

3. The Institute of Physics is a leading international professional body and learned society with over 37,000 members, which promotes the advancement and dissemination of a knowledge of and education in the science of physics, pure and applied. It has a world-wide membership and is a major international player in: scientific publishing and electronic dissemination of physics; setting professional standards for physicists and awarding professional qualifications; and promoting physics through scientific conferences, education and science policy advice.

The Institute is a member of the Science Council, and a nominated body of the Engineering Council. The Institute works in collaboration with national physical societies and plays an important role in transnational societies such as the European Physical Society and represents British and Irish physicists in international organisations. In Great Britain and Ireland the Institute is active in providing support for physicists in all professions and careers, encouraging physics research and its applications, providing support for physics in schools, colleges and universities, influencing government and informing public debate.

For further information contact; David Burrett Reid FRGS, Press Officer, Institute of Physics, 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT. Tel: 020 7470 4815, mobile: 07946 321473 or e-mail: david.reid@iop.org, http://www.iop.org

4. The Graphic Science Unit at the University of the West of England is one of the most innovative and original science communications teams in the UK. It is acknowledged nationally and internationally for its portfolio of work that takes science directly to the public.

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