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Vol 37  No 13
April 28, 2005


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International Year of Physics

Bringing science to the students

By Deborah Inkpen

Using a spinning bicycle wheel, Dr. Michael Morrow demonstrates to students at Prince of Wales Collegiate in St. Johnís how gyroscopes are used to steer spacecraft. (Photo by Chris Hammond)

Faculty members of Memorialís Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography are bringing science to the classrooms of local schools. Drs. Michael Morrow, Kristin Poduska and Todd Andrews, along with Paul Chafe, recently joined with students at Prince of Wales Collegiate to celebrate the International Year of Physics.

They demonstrated holograms, lasers, polarizers, and other optical devices to an enthusiastic crowd. Students used spectroscopes to see the spectrum from a neon flamingo and a spinning bicycle wheel to learn how gyroscopes are used to steer space-craft. Other demonstrations of fun physics phenomena included an oscilloscope and microphone to look at sound waves and magnetic levitation above a superconducting disc (there is a movie of this available at www.physics.mun.ca/~myke/cryodemos.html). Graduate student Clark Richards demonstrated instrumentation used in physical oceanography.

Over the next few weeks, members of this group will be taking their travelling physics show to students at several schools on the Avalon Peninsula and in central Newfoundland.

These demonstrations are also part of Trumpets, Lasers, Rainbows and Why the Sky is Blue, an enrichment mini-course being offered for junior high school students this spring. The group is cooperating with the Newfoundland Science Centre to present a series of weekend physics events in the fall leading up to a public lecture, titled Was Einstein Right? by Professor Clifford Will, as part of the Canadian Association of Physicists/Perimeter Institute National Lecture Tour for the International Year of Physics (see www.cap.ca/wyp/tourHome.asp).

The goals of the UNESCO-designated year include raising awareness of the contributions that physics has made to modern life and the range of career opportunities available to physics students. This is the 100th anniversary of the year in which Albert Einstein published revolutionary papers on special relativity, molecular motions, and the quantum nature of light.

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