For many people, physics is something that looks cool but is hard to do. But students in the Society of Physics held a demonstration Saturday in the Pine Ridge Mall to show kids it can be easy and fun.
“Asking questions is such a critical part of science,” said Ali Chlarson, secretary for the Idaho State University chapter of the Society of Physics Students. “You've got to encourage children to ask questions. So when they ask a question, and they may not be quite right, that gives you an opportunity to teach."
Many of the exhibits were made with everyday materials, including plastic tubing, copper wiring and glass jars. Dr. Steve Shropshire, adviser of the Society of Physics Students on campus, created a mixture for ice cream the night before, then added liquid air to freeze it in front of the large crowd.
Two large metal spheres also demonstrated the power of positive and negative static electricity. Not only did it cause hairs to raise, but you could see actual sparks flying between anyone who got too close to each other while touching the spheres.
"Everybody talks about how science is all math and it's so difficult, and it is,” Chlarson said. “I’m not going to lie and say that it's not hard, but it's not just sitting there with a calculator and some goggles. It's being involved and creating things and developing new technology."
The physics students do demonstrations like this in elementary schools as well, and are planning an upcoming event with demonstrations with fire. They also create a haunted lab during Halloween every year.
All events are free, though they do accept donations and raise funds for local children's charities. The donations they accept also go toward paying for the liquid nitrogen used to make the ice cream and other supplies for the demonstrations
The physics society hopes the kids who see these demonstrations will be excited to learn about science and even be in the field one day. Chlarson said there are many things you can do with a bachelor's degree in physics.
"You get a bachelor's in physics and you try and get into law school,” she said, “they'll be like, 'Oh, yeah, they're smart, they're a hard worker.' Same with medical school. It opens the doors for a lot of things."
Just make sure you don't have any static electricity built up when you reach for that doorknob.