Feb 282010
Authors: Ryan Sheine

The sound of children cheering “bigger!” filled the Lory Student Center’s East Ballroom as Little Shop of Physics Director Brian Jones and several of his student volunteers prepared to shoot artificial fog more than 20 feet from a bottomless trashcan.

The “Fog-Ring-Thing” was just one of the more than 250 experiments on display at CSU’s 19th Annual Little Shop of Physics Open House, which drew a record attendance of about 6,500 people Saturday.

At the end of the day, Jones said he would say to himself, “We threw a science party, and 6,500 people came.”

The “science party” was designed to connect people to science in a fun and easy way. Experiments were set up in the LSC’s three ballrooms.

In the East Ballroom, Jeff Doak, a freshman computer engineering major at Front Range Community College, sat in a chair holding weights in both hands. As he spun, he pulled his arms and legs in, speeding up as a result of centripetal acceleration.

Other volunteers threw Mylar discs to demonstrate how spin conserves momentum.

The West Ballroom was transformed into the Light Room in which experiments highlighted motion, waves, atmospheric science, electricity and magnetism.

The Middle Ballroom, or Dark Room, showcased the physical phenomena of light through experiments including the effects of magnetism on TV and computer screens. Magnets distort the color of screens by revealing the electron beams housed within.

The Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream presentation delighted children.

Nisse Lee, coordinator of Assessment and Outreach for the Little Shop of Physics, demonstrated how, at room temperature, liquid nitrogen is normally a gas. To transform it into a liquid to use in ice cream, you have to “cool it down severely.”

When poured out as a liquid at room temperature, liquid nitrogen boils. To go from the liquid phase to the gas phase, energy is required, which means that things in close proximity to the gas get colder, Lee said.

Lee and her partner Ben Smith, a CSU second bachelor’s candidate, said the ice cream ingredients were, “A quart of milk, a quart of heavy whipping cream –– you want full fat on everything you can get –– a pound of sugar and a splash of vanilla extract.”

The kids love it, Lee said.

“The crystals are a different size and shape than store bought ice cream,” Smith said. “It’s creamier.”

The Open House attracted people from as far as Boulder.

Carol Smythe, a mom, said she brought her son from Boulder because “It sounded interesting.”

“The response has been real positive. Everybody that I’ve talked has said, ‘Thanks for putting this on,’ and ‘Thanks to the CSU students for making this happen,” Jones said.

Staff writer Ryan Sheine can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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