Northern Illinois University

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NIU Haunted Physics Lab
Twin Einsteins keep an eye on you in NIU's Haunted Physics Lab. 

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News Release

Contact: Tom Parisi, NIU Office of Public Affairs
(815) 753-3635

October 3, 2006

Families in Oglesby, DeKalb areas invited
to discover NIU’s Haunted Physics Laboratory

DeKalb, Ill. — Like a friendly ghost in the attic, Northern Illinois University's Haunted Physics Laboratory just won’t go away.

Now in its fourth year, the popular haunted lab will be staged from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 14, at Illinois Valley Community College in Oglesby and from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 28, in the lower level of Faraday Hall on NIU’s DeKalb campus.

Geared for families with students in kindergarten through eighth grade, the event is free and open to the public, although children must be accompanied by adults.

The Haunted Physics Laboratory aims to provide hands-on learning activities and some family fun in advance of Halloween. In past years, the DeKalb event has drawn as many as 750 people.

“The haunted lab isn’t designed to be scary,” says Pati Sievert, coordinator of NIU’s Frontier Physics outreach program, which stages the event. “We view Halloween as a learning opportunity. Real science can be every bit as intriguing as ghosts and goblins.”

Under the watchful gaze of a likeness of Albert Einstein, whose eyes appear to follow guests, young people will discover the science behind fiber optics, Lava Lamps and more. In all, more than 60 displays will be featured, including pumpkin pendulums, oscillating apples, infinity mirrors and glow-in-the-dark rocks and scorpions.

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.

A fog machine is used for visualization of lasers. Other light and optical displays include an electrical Jacob’s ladder. Volunteer students and professors will be on hand to explain the science behind the demonstrations.

“I always enjoy seeing children and adults experience physics in a new light,” Sievert says. “Last year we surveyed the parents and children who attended. We had nearly a 100 percent approval rating. Parents are amazed at how much fun science can be. Nearly every child and parent said that they would recommend this event to friends.”

Parking for the Oct. 28 event on campus will be available in the NIU Parking Garage along the west side of Normal Road, about one block north of Lincoln Highway (Route 38).

A workshop will be held from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. that same day at NIU for teachers interested in presenting similar activities in their classrooms. Registration information can be found at the Frontier Physics Web site at Sievert also will be presenting a workshop on the success of the haunted lab at the winter meeting of the American Association of Physics Teachers this January in Seattle.

The Northern Illinois Center for Accelerator and Detector Development at NIU provides the majority of funding for Frontier Physics outreach. For more information on the haunted laboratory or Frontier Physics, visit the Web site or e-mail Sievert at