October 13, 2004
DeKalb, Ill. — The Physics Club and Frontier Physics outreach program at Northern Illinois University are combining efforts to cook up some weird science for an upcoming “haunted laboratory.”
In fact, two spooky laboratories will be open to the public from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 30, on the lower level of Faraday Hall, rooms 103 and 105. The event aims to provide hands-on learning activities and some family fun in advance of Halloween.
“There is no fee, but we won’t turn down any donations,” says Frontier Physics Coordinator Pati Sievert, who is preparing the haunted laboratory. Frontier Physics received a $1,000 grant from the Bauder Fund of American Association of Physics Teachers to upgrade the spookiness.
“Last year was the first time we created the haunted laboratory, and it attracted 250 visitors,” Sievert says. “Because the event was such a success, we have added an hour to the program to accommodate more people. We also increased the number of displays and activities.”
In the darkened windowless laboratories, magnets float around a broomstick, a ghost levitates, sparks fly from an electrostatic machine and an eerie fog seeps from a “witch's cauldron,” filled with a concoction of water and chilly liquid nitrogen. Visitors can don “rainbow glasses,” get creative with glow-in-the-dark face paints, ponder the lightning bolts in a plasma globe and make artworks that will only appear normal in funhouse-like mirrors.
New this year is a fog machine used for visualization of lasers. Also, more light and optical displays have been added, including an electrical Jacob’s ladder. Volunteer students and professors will be on hand to explain the science behind the demonstrations, which are geared for children ages 5 through 12.
Despite all the spookiness, the haunted laboratories promise to be an “un-scary family event.” It is required, however, that adults accompany children.
NIU’s Frontier Physics program is known far and wide for its traveling road show of exciting physics-related demonstrations. The program last year visited 49 schools, making 130 presentations to about 10,000 students.
Parking for the Oct. 30 event will be available in the NIU Parking Garage along the west side of Normal Road, about one block north of Lincoln Highway (Route 38). Use the south entrance of Faraday Hall West (across the street from the parking garage) and follow the signs. A west-side entrance to Faraday Hall West is handicapped-accessible.