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Steve Chaplin
University Communications

Last modified: Monday, October 26, 2009

Mind-bending displays, cyclotron tours set for IU Physics-Astronomy weekend open house

Oct. 26, 2009

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- The Indiana University open house to end all open houses, complete with a perilous bed of nails, streaking rocket cars, imploding oil drums and soda cans ripped apart by magnetic fields, will be brought to you Saturday (Oct. 31) by the IU Departments of Physics and Astronomy.

Physics image

Photo by Jacob Kriese

Families can expect a fun day of experimentation, tours and talks during the annual open house of the IU physics and astronomy departments this Saturday (Oct. 31).

Print-Quality Photo

"We usually get between 800 and 1,000 people at the event," said physics Associate Professor Hal Evans of the annual event that this year will also include a seasonally appropriate "Phreaky Physics" demonstration, a new hands-on electronics room and other hair-raising (literally, think Tesla coil) activities and events for the whole family.

You can believe the hype from a particle physicist whose career path has taken him from Yale, UCLA , the University of Chicago and then Columbia University before landing at IU Bloomington. Evans' contagious excitement over physics is manifested in a full cast of student and faculty physicists and astronomers who will greet the public with electromagnetic sparks, liquid nitrogen, optical illusions and other stimulating experiences.

"I have always been interested in smashing things into each other. This narrowed my career options to High Energy Physics or Demolition Derby."

The event, set from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and based out of Swain Hall West, 727 E. Third St., will also include guided tours of the IU Cyclotron Facility (IUCF) and the Kirkwood Observatory, along with designed-for-the-public lectures from astronomy Professor Emeritus Martin Burkhead on the Hubble Telescope and School of Informatics Professor Alessandro Vespignani (also a physicist) on how physics and computers are working to fight global pandemics like the H1N1 flu virus.

Cyclotron tours by shuttle from Swain West, which also include a visit to the Midwest Proton Radiotherapy Institute at the same site, will be offered at 10:30 a.m. and 12:15 p.m. The IUCF is a large, multi-disciplinary laboratory where research in nuclear physics, material science and accelerator physics is conducted, and the radiotherapy institute is one of only four sites in the country where proton radiation therapy is offered. Only guests age 13 and older may visit the IUCF.

Area science teachers have already received special invitations to attend the event, which also includes a teachers-only lunch shared with IU faculty where ideas and experiences about teaching science will be shared.

Prizes will be offered for those who successfully match wits during question-and-answer sessions in a Swain West contest room, and an outdoor exploratorium will include the perplexing Coriolis Force merry-go-round, dry ice bowling and ground-penetrating radar compliments of the IU Department of Geology.

"This open house is aimed at people of all ages and it is free and open to everyone," Evans said. "Faculty and students will be on hand to assist, explain and discuss results, as well as to chat with anyone interested in a career or education in physics, applied physics and astronomy at Indiana University."

For more information about specific events and their times, visit the event Web site at