Friday, October 20, 2006

I recently gave the Flying Circus of Physics talk to students at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU) after being asked by student Jennifer Kalb of the Physics Club. I included the two stunts I introduced to physics education a long time ago and which are now associated with my name: lying on a bed of nails and dipping my fingers into molten lead. (Both are very dangerous, especially the one with the lead, which involves several subtle dangers. Indeed, I have been hurt many times. So, do not even think about repeating these stunts.)
Yvette Cendes, one of the students at CWRU, wrote a very nice account of the talk in the campus newspaper The Observer for October 13, 2006. Included is a really good photograph taken by Benjamin Chodroff of my fingers just as they are entering the molten lead and as lead is splashing toward my gothic-black Flying Circus of Physics tee shirt (I think this photo is way cool). Here is a link to the article and photograph:
That photograph and another excellent Chodroff photograph (Jennifer Kalb standing on me while I am between the beds of nails---she appears to be in more pain than I am) can be viewed at
Photographs of me with the beds of nails are also available from Cleveland State University at the following web site. The shots, which were taken by Tony Carter and made while I posed for the Cleveland newspaper The Plain Dealer, show Amanda Beach (one of my students at the time) standing on top of the beds while I am sandwiched between them. Dr MJ Saunders, who was Dean of the College of Science, is making sure that Amanda does not fall. The newspaper photographer can also be seen. In order that he got a good shot, I was in the "sandwich" for about 5 minutes while he took many shots from many angles. All this was extremely painful, especially considering that I had to constantly smile for the camera! When I got off the beds, Amanda was most sorry for the pain her weight had caused. I thought the pain was well worth the result.
The nails and lead demonstrations are discussed in the new edition of The Flying Circus of Physics. Use the link at the right of the screen here to go to the web site associated with the book, or use this link
At that web site I am posting fresh stories and updates around the first of each month. Soon some of the stories will be about these two demonstrations---the successes, and also the failures (lots of pain there). --- Jearl Walker

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Flying Circus of Physics

Word has spread through hospitals about the danger of using Purell, the hand sanitizer. Is it really true that if a spark jumps from you while you have Purell on your hands, that the Purell can burn? FCP_fan