The Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University invite audiences across Texas, the nation and even the world to get up-close and personal with science and technology this spring at the 2016 Physics & Engineering Festival, an entertaining and informative weekend scientific extravaganza for all ages.
No fees or tickets are required for the free annual event (view promotional poster online), scheduled for Saturday, April 9, from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Building on the Texas A&M campus.
Activities will begin at 10 a.m. with hands-on science exhibitions and engineering technology demonstrations and conclude with a 4 p.m. public lecture by internationally recognized theoretical physicist and author of popular books and the Preposterous Universe blog Dr. Sean M. Carroll, Research Professor of Physics at the California Institute of Technology and a past TED speaker.
All events are hosted by Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy and Texas A&M Aerospace Engineering in partnership with several other campus units, including the Departments of Chemistry, Mathematics and Atmospheric Sciences as well as the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.
Throughout the day, festival participants are encouraged to unleash their inner scientists aboard a square-wheeled bicycle, run through a pool of cornstarch, and try their hands at generating electricity or shooting balloons with lasers — four of the more than 150 fun experiments and displays illustrating basic scientific and engineering technology-related concepts and principles. All exhibits are manned by Texas A&M faculty, staff and students.
For the fourth consecutive year, the festival will showcase dozens of exciting new demonstrations built by student teams affiliated with the university-funded DEEP (Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering) Program. Hundreds of DEEP students, undergraduate and graduate, have been involved in creating the new demos during the years, and many will be on hand to present their work.
In addition to exhibits, the daylong festival will feature three fantastic performances of the Science Circus (11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2:30 p.m.) by physics showman Rhys Thomas, who teaches Newtonian physics through a rare blend of science, comedy and circus arts in a performance often compared to a Pixar movie. Attendees also will have the opportunity to meet Nobel Prize-winning Texas A&M physicists Dr. Dudley R. Herschbach and Dr. David M. Lee as well as NASA astronaut and professor Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, a veteran mission specialist and payload commander with the Space Shuttle Program who flew on five missions, in three successive lecture sessions scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium.
Other special events on tap include Large Hadron Collider virtual tours at noon and 1:30 p.m. as well as four performances of the Low-Temperature Physics Extravaganza at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m. Finally, a Texas-sixed five-barrel depth charge featuring 1,000 plastic balls will close out the exhibition portion of the show at 3:30 p.m. outside the Mitchell Physics Building.
At 4 p.m., Carroll will deliver a keynote presentation, The Origin of the Universe and the Arrow of Time that will discuss the differences between the universe’s past and future, as well as the one constant throughout — time. Carroll will examine the nature of time, the origin of entropy and how what happened before the Big Bang may be responsible for the arrow of time we observe today.
Prior to Saturday’s events, Texas A&M climate scientist Dr. Andrew Dessler, professor of atmospheric sciences, will deliver a free public lecture, The Historical Development of Climate Science and Why You Should Believe It, on Friday (April 8) at 7 p.m. in the Hawking Auditorium. Tickets are not required for the event, in which Dessler will review the history and science of climate change and explain why scientists remain convinced, despite the ongoing and often heated debate in the public sector. Dessler also will touch on aspects of his research on climate feedbacks — in particular, how water vapor and clouds act to amplify warming from the carbon dioxide that humans emit — and his experience, which includes a stint as a Senior Policy Analyst in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.
All events are sponsored by the Texas A&M University System, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, the Texas A&M College of Science External Advisory and Development Council, ExxonMobil, the Willard and Anne Levin Foundation and the Department of Aerospace Engineering. The event is an affiliate festival of the 5th annual USA Science and Engineering Festival as well as a member of the Science Festival Alliance.
For the latest details regarding the 2016 Physics & Engineering Festival, including event directions and parking information, please visit http://physicsfestival.tamu.edu.
Watch a recap video from the 2015 Physics & Engineering Festival on YouTube and see additional photographs on Flickr: