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REF NO.: 383

SUBJECT: Physics workshops celebrate Einstein’s achievements and educate young minds
DATE: Aug. 25, 2005

Several Memorial University professors will help bring physics to life for young children beginning in September at the Newfoundland Science Centre (NSC) in St. John’s. They’re hosting a number of workshops designed for young curious minds and budding scientists. The special presentations will explore physics and how it impacts our daily lives.

The series of workshops – dubbed Fantastic Physics for Everyone – was developed by the Department of Physics and Physical Oceanography and the NSC. Workshops will be presented once a month until December. Dr. Mike Morrow hosts the first session titled Matter and Motion on Sept. 10 at 1 p.m.and 3 p.m.

“The kids get a big kick out of the things we show them,” he said. “We sneak a little bit of education in when we can. We just want to get the idea across to them that physics is something that’s accessible to them in every day life.”

Dr. Morrow uses items that can be found around the house to show students the importance of physics. He uses a spinning bicycle wheel to demonstrate how gyroscopes are used to steer spacecraft. He also shows the cooling effect of liquid nitrogen by engulfing a balloon filled with air into a container of the liquid. The balloon quickly cools and reduces the volume of the air inside the balloon.

“Science and physics can be great fun for young minds,” Dr. Morrow said.

Dr. Kris Poduska, an assistant professor of physics and physical oceanography, will talk to students about sound during a session in November. She’ll use special equipment to show students what their voices and other sounds look like.

“We have an oscilloscope and we get students talk into a microphone,” she explained. “The pressure from the waves from their voices presses on a little membrane on the inside of the mic and those mechanical vibrations are turned into electrical signals. What the oscilloscope allows us to look at is those electrical signals. Voices from different people or sounds from different instruments give different shapes to the electrical signals, also the taller the signal on the screen the louder the voice.”

The workshops have been developed as part of a special year for scientists around the world. Similar events are happening as part of World Year of Physics 2005: Einstein in the 21st Century.

“This is the anniversary of Einstein’s miraculous year. It was declared by the UN a couple of years ago,” said Dr. Morrow. “Physics societies all over the world are involved in activities especially outreach and trying to get the message across ‘physics, how does it connect to people’s lives?’”

This is the 100th anniversary of three important papers by Einstein – the theory of relativity, quantum theory and the theory of Brownian motion.

Tracy Thoms, program manager at the Newfoundland Science Centre, said the workshops hosted by Memorial will be the launching pad for other activities at the Centre. “They will start our theme months,” she said. “For example, after Dr. Morrow’s talk we’ll offer demonstrations, activities and workshops geared towards his theme of matter and motion for that particular month.”

She said this fall’s workshops help the centre fulfill its mandate of demonstrating how science is such a big part of people’s everyday lives. She anticipates the sessions hosted by Memorial will be crowd pleasers.

“It’s wonderful to get involved with the university. They are the experts here in town,” she said. “These professors are great with young students, too. By allowing kids to get involved you give them the ‘wow factor’ but also get them interested in science.”

The line-up for the Fantastic Physics for Everyone workshop includes: Dr. Mike Morrow, Matter and Motion, Sept. 10, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; Dr. Todd Andrews, Light, Oct. 1, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; Dr. Kris Poduska, Sound, Nov. 5, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.; and Dr. Morrow, Electricity and Magnetism, 1 p.m. and 3 p.m.

All presentations are free with the regular price of admission to the centre.

A photo of Dr. Mike Morrow showing the cooling effect of liquid nitrogen by engulfing a balloon filled with air into a container of the liquid is available at www.mun.ca/univrel/news_photos.php.

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