Get in sync with nature’s rhythms at the Spring Physics Demo Show

Spring Physics Demo Show: Nature’s Rhythms

Van Allen Hall — Friday, March 15 at 7 p.m.

Van Allen Hall at the University of Iowa. — via the Department of Physics & Astronomy Facebook page

Time governs the way most people lead their modern lives. More often than not, tight schedules roll by, punctuated by cell phone alarms and the occasional subscription box to mark a turning of the month. However, these rhythms are subject to those of nature itself, governing time and all its influences. These rhythms and their harmonics challenge the monotony of the world in which all schedules and subscription boxes may exist.

At 7 p.m. on Friday, March 15, the University of Iowa Department of Physics and Astronomy will host a public talk on nature’s rhythms. This talk will include physical demonstrations, a chance to ask questions and a raffle offering science-themed toys for a few lucky participating children. The event will take place in Lecture Room 1 of Van Allen Hall; it’s free and open to the public.

Each year, the department gives a Demonstration Show centered around a theme relating to what is known and what is being researched in the world of physics. The Demo Shows are part of Café Scientifique, an intellectual organization whose Iowa City chapter is run by Dr. Vincent Rogers, a professor in the physics department, and Dale Stille, UI Instructional Resource Specialist.The group aims to provide a platform for scientists to share their latest findings with the public.

“This theme (nature’s rhythms) represents the universality of time and timing that manifests itself in virtually every aspect of physics … Nature’s ‘clocks’ are embedded in the chemistry that makes up everything around us, the frequency of all the waves that engulf our world and to the life cycle of stars and even the known universe,” Rogers said in an email. “Throughout the show, [Stille] will give the audience, at least a good idea of what is happening in the very small and the extremely large.”

Physics and astronomy have deep roots in public education and participation in science. Rogers explained that the Demo Shows can be traced historically to 1825, when physicist Michael Faraday held his first Christmas Lecture in London.

Building off this groundwork of public learning, the Demo Shows signal the coming of spring in Iowa City each year by bringing themed combinations of lectures and physical demonstrations to families and community members. The Demo Shows, which debuted in 2008, are themselves a recent incarnation of public events the UI Department of Physics has historically put on for decades.

“[The yearly Demo Show] keeps our work grounded and helps expand the familiarity of science to our neighbors, family and friends. I guess it’s the same thing artists and musicians do,” Rogers said.

At the talk, speakers will discuss how the time and patterns relate to physical laws governing the universe, including some concepts that are actively being researched in the field.

“Mr. Dale Stille, along with his team of student volunteers, will demonstrate how to use sound waves to levitate things, the vortex cannon and smoke simulating gravitational waves,” Rogers said.

Families are especially encouraged to attend, with the demonstrations geared toward capturing the attention and interests of young scientists.

The Department of Physics and Astronomy hosts a variety of outreach events, such as a weekly colloquium and Hawk Eyes on Science, an outreach series geared toward K-12 students, but the Demo Show is sure to be a unique and stimulating evening. Stop by and learn something new, ask a question or step out of your comfort zone — even if just for a moment.