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Science shows off at annual open houses

October 17, 2013

Want to build a comet? Or a volcano? Take your pick on Saturday, Oct. 26, when IU Bloomington’s astronomy, chemistry, geological sciences, mathematics, and physics departments host their annual open houses. The day-long event includes fundamental experiments designed to thrill — think pumpkins flying out fifth-floor windows and lots of electromagnetic sparks, informative presentations on dark matter and dark energy, and a roundtable discussion by faculty on the interconnectedness of science research at IU.

For those interested in the latest science being done at IU, a forum titled “Connections in Science at IU: From the cosmic to the sub-atomic,” will be presented in Swain West, Room 007, from 11 a.m. to noon. IU professors Lisa Kaufman and Louis Strigari will give short presentations on how searches for dark matter and dark energy use information from the very largest to the very smallest objects in the universe. These presentations will be followed by a panel discussion on the interconnectedness of science research at IU hosted by faculty from the astronomy, geology, mathematics, and physics departments.

The open houses begin at 9 a.m., with the physics and astronomy events based out of Swain Hall West, 727 E. Third St., ending at 2:45 p.m. The chemistry open house, in the Chemistry Building at 800 E. Kirkwood Ave., and the geological sciences and mathematics open houses, in Swain Hall, end at 3 p.m. Each of the open houses is free and features a wide range of activities.


This open house coincides with the Oct. 20 to 26 National Chemistry Week, which unites American Chemical Society local sections, businesses, schools, and individuals in communicating the importance of chemistry to quality of life. This year’s theme is “Energy: Now and Forever,” and it marks the 26th anniversary of National Chemistry Week.

Chemistry magic shows will be conducted at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., and a number of laboratories, in addition to the scientific glass blowing facility, will be open for tours and will feature activities led by faculty, graduate students, and staff. Visitors will also be able to view a number of current research posters about the latest work being done in the department.

Physics and astronomy

At the physics and astronomy open houses, visitors will learn about the cosmos and build comets in the Astronomy Room; make waves and analyze sounds in the Acoustics Room; spin dizzily in the Mechanics Room; create crackling sparks in the Electromagnetism Room; experience strange optical effects in the Light & Color Room; explore quantum effects and current particle physics experiments being done at Fermilab and the Large Hadron Collider in the Modern Physics Room; play with optical illusions in the Biophysics Room; and see objects shattered after being plunged in liquid nitrogen in low-temperature demonstrations.

The always popular Contest Room will challenge science knowledge and reward brainpower with prizes. Outdoor Physics activities feature the perplexing Coriolis Force Merry-go-Round, dry ice bowling and the Bernoulli Blower .

Members of the IU Physics Club will again host a demonstration show, with shows at 9:30 a.m. and 1:45 p.m. in Swain West 119. This year’s theme is “Science Saves the Superheroes,” and the shows are suitable for children in Grades 1 to 12, as well as college students and adults. Each show will be followed by a pumpkin drop, at 10:40 a.m. and 2:40 p.m. in the Swain West parking lot.


Mathematics events, in Rooms 135 and 238 of Swain Hall West, will include a game and puzzles to challenge and amuse the brain. Play dots and boxes and learn tricks from those who’ve studied the theory behind the game, unscramble pictures, cross ancient bridges, play peg solitaires, distort your image with a conformal mapping, or cut the largest possible hole from a piece of paper for a prize.

Geological sciences

The Department of Geological Sciences will be present outside Swain West and in Room 125 with activities including making your own earthquake or fossil dig, geode-smashing, drive-your-own Mars rover, and creating volcanoes.


Faculty and students will be on hand to assist, explain activities, discuss results and chat with those interested in careers or education in astronomy, chemistry, geology, mathematics, physics and applied physics at IU, all of which are units within IU Bloomington’s College of Arts and Sciences.