Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Texas A&M Students Make Physics Fun, With "Real Physics Live" Video Series

Have you ever seen air frozen solid? What about a tricycle with square wheels that can actually be pedaled? These oddities and more are on display in Real Physics Live, a new series of videos from physics and astronomy students at Texas A&M.

While there's no shortage of cool physics demos on the internet, it's rare to see ones as well-done and concise as Real Physics Live. Clocking in at two or three minutes per video, the ongoing series is just the right blend of educational and engaging—without stretching the attention span.


On top of being a great resource for anyone looking to learn a little about their universe in a quick and exciting way, Real Physics Live is a treasure trove of ideas for anyone looking to bring a physics "demo show" to their community. Some of their demos require professional equipment or a little construction, like the ones that rely on liquid nitrogen or a vacuum pump, but others can easily be adapted into home experiments with nothing but around-the-house materials like a hair dryer or leaf blower.


Some of the coolest phenomena in the series are of the "don't try this at home" variety. Although plenty of mischief-makers have made pressure-based "boom bottles" out of an empty two liter and dry ice in a trashcan, these students take all the necessary precautions for their liquid nitrogen-based rendition of the experiment, using a water barrel to absorb the explosion's shock and create an impressive visual display. 


In another video, a demonstrator holds bubbles of highly flammable methane in his hand and—wearing a flame-retardant jacket, of course—setting them alight. How does he avoid getting scorched? Watch the video below to find out, and check out the rest of the series at RealPhysicsLive.com!


Probably the coolest part about this whole series, though, is that these students produced it without having to drop a dime of their own money—the project was funded through American Physical Society's Public Outreach Grants program! If you're in the US and have an original, outside-the-classroom and outside-the-box idea that brings physics to the larger public, you can apply for the funds it takes to see your project through! Every year, we bring together a committee of scientists, educators, and outreach professionals to review the applications we receive, and those that get approved can receive up to $10,000 in funding for their endeavor. Although this year's application deadline has already passed, it's never too early to start prepping next year's proposal!

Stephen Skolnick

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