The NIU Department of Physics is inviting the public to experience the thrills and chills of science at the fifth annual Haunted Physics Laboratory.
The popular event, which in past years has drawn as many as 750 visitors, features more than 60 hands-on science demonstrations. It will be held from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 27, in the lower level of Faraday Hall on the NIU campus.
Parking will be available in the NIU Parking Deck along the west side of Normal Road, about one block north of Lincoln Highway (Route 38).
“We view Halloween as an opportunity for a unique learning experience,” says Pati Sievert, coordinator of NIU’s Frontier Physics outreach program, which stages the event. “Science can be every bit as fascinating 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. Other displays include pumpkin pendulums, oscillating apples, infinity mirrors and glow-in-the-dark rocks and liquids.
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.
Groups of more than 15 people are asked to contact Sievert in advance. She can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sievert also is looking for volunteers to work at the event.
“We have had volunteers from local high schools in the past, and I would welcome hearing from high school teachers who would like to have their students involved,” she says.
An open house will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. that same day at NIU for area teachers interested in previewing the Haunted Physics Lab before families arrive. Sievert has run workshops for educators on how to create their own successful haunted labs, and presented on the success of the program to the American Association of Physics Teachers at its national meeting earlier this year in Seattle.
The Haunted Physics Lab is sponsored this year by NIU Outreach and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences External Programming, as well as the Department of Physics. Visit www.physics.niu.edu/physics/outreach/haunted_lab.shtml for more information.