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Fun and Excitement in Physics and Astronomy

Open House at UCR Highlights Fun and Excitement in Physics and Astronomy

Activities, lab tours and demonstrations aim to boost local interest in physics and astronomy

(October 20, 2008)

John Ellison, a professor of physics, shows members of the public a photomultiplier tube, which coverts light signals into an amplified electronic signal.  Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.Enlarge

John Ellison, a professor of physics, shows members of the public a photomultiplier tube, which coverts light signals into an amplified electronic signal. Photo credit: UCR Strategic Communications.

RIVERSIDE, Calif. – Physics is found not only in lab experiments but all around us – from a baseball pitched, to falling objects, to how eyeglasses enable better vision, to how a stringed instrument produces music. Astronomy, long a source of inspiration to humankind, explores the universe and attempts to explain our origin and place in it.

To illustrate how physics works in the world and why astronomy is exciting, UC Riverside’s Department of Physics and Astronomy is hosting an open house from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., Oct. 25, in the Physics and Astronomy Courtyard on the UCR campus.

That day, faculty and students will bring physics and astronomy to life for the general public through more than 50 hands-on activities and fun demonstrations for all ages. They also will offer laboratory tours and answer the public’s questions on physics and astronomy.

“The open house gives prospective students and their parents an opportunity to find out what physics is, who does it, and how it affects us every day,” said Harry Tom, chair of the Department of Physics and Astronomy. “Our faculty have created the demonstrations and hands-on exhibits to share their passion and the sense of wonder that comes from research discoveries and knowing how things work.

“We hope that meeting our faculty and college students will inspire more young people to take high school physics, major in physics, and pursue physics-related technology, research, and academic careers. The open house is one of several annual events we are starting in our 5-year initiative to double the number of students taking high school physics in the Inland Empire, and majoring in physics at UCR.”

Hands-on activities at the open house will include:

  • Fun with liquid nitrogen
  • Measuring the thickness of hair with a laser
  • Pulling a table cloth without breaking dishes
  • Peddle power
  • Spinning like a top
  • Launching a chaotic pendulum
  • Making a mood patch
  • Seeing solar flares and sun spot action

  • Eddy currents
  • Physics of music
  • Color vision and holograms
  • Propulsion

Demonstrations include:

  • Ice bomb

  • “Shocking” electricity

  • Physics of snow cones and cotton candy (with free samples)

Ask the Experts” booths will feature:

  • Nanoscale physics and devices

  • Biophysics

  • Careers in physics

Presentations will cover:

Lab tours will feature research involving:

  • Electron diffraction

  • Laser breakdown of air

  • Magnetic bits on a hard-drive

The UCR chapter of the Society for Physics Students will have pizza, soda and bottled water available for sale in the courtyard.

For more information, including a schedule of activities and tours, please call Bonnie Maynard at 951-827-5334.

The Physics and Astronomy Open House is coupled to Preview Day at UC Riverside with a large range of activities geared toward prospective college students. Members of the public are asked to follow the signs to "Preview Day Event Parking" and request Parking Lot 13. Parking is $5.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

A broadcast studio with fiber cable to the AT&T Hollywood hub is available for live or taped interviews. UCR also has ISDN for radio interviews. To learn more, call (951) UCR-NEWS.

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