Physics & Engineering Festival features hands-on universal fun

Photo from Physics FesivalThe Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University invite audiences across Texas to get up-close and personal with science and technology next month at the 2013 Physics & Engineering Festival, an entertaining and informative weekend scientific extravaganza for all ages.

No fees or tickets are required for the free annual event, scheduled for Saturday (April 6) from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell '40 Physics Building on the Texas A&M campus.

Activities will begin at 10 a.m. with hands-on science exhibitions and engineering technology demonstrations and conclude with a 4 p.m. public lecture by internationally recognized Harvard University astronomer and author Dr. Robert P. Kirshner about the accelerating universe.

Throughout the day, participants are encouraged to unleash their inner scientists aboard a square-wheeled bicycle, run through a pool of cornstarch, and try their hands at generating electricity or shooting balloons with lasers -- four of more than 100 fun experiments and displays illustrating basic scientific and engineering technology-related concepts and principles. All exhibits are manned by Texas A&M faculty, staff and students. The Department of Physics and Astronomy and the Department of Aerospace Engineering will be joined by representatives from chemistry, mathematics, atmospheric sciences, and biochemistry and biophysics.

This year's Festival will showcase dozens of exciting new demonstrations built by student teams affiliated with the university-funded DEEP (Discover, Explore and Enjoy Physics and Engineering) Program. More than 60 DEEP students were involved in creating the new demos, and many will be on hand to present their work.

In addition to exhibits, the daylong festival will feature three fantastic bubble shows (11 a.m., 1 p.m., 2 p.m.) by internationally acclaimed bubble artist and physics showman Tom Noddy, also known as the "Bubble Guy," whose exquisite bubbles, lively humor and engaging sense of fun leave his audiences both delighted and intrigued. Attendees also will have the opportunity to meet NASA aerospace engineer and Texas A&M graduate Dr. George James '86, as well as Nobel Prize-winning Texas A&M physicists Dr. Dudley R. Herschbach and Dr. David M. Lee in three successive lecture sessions scheduled for 11 a.m., 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium.

At 4 p.m., Kirshner will present "The Accelerating Universe: Einstein's Blunder Undone" in the primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. In addition to detailing what subsequently became a Nobel Prize-winning discovery, Kirshner will share insight from his lifelong career in astrophysics, which features many Texas A&M ties.

Prior to Saturday's events, Dr. John L. Junkins, distinguished professor of aerospace engineering and holder of the Royce E. Wisenbaker Chair at Texas A&M, will deliver a free public lecture, "Impending Close Encounters with Asteroid Apophis," on Friday (April 5) at 7 p.m. in the Hawking Auditorium. Tickets are not required for the event, in which Junkins will discuss Earth's approaching dates with astronomical destiny -- close encounters with the 1,000-foot asteroid Apophis in 2029 and 2036 -- and the interesting learning opportunities each presents for astronomers and aerospace engineers.

All events are sponsored by a Texas A&M Tier One Program (TOP) grant, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the Department of Aerospace Engineering, the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy, and the Texas A&M College of Science. The event is an affiliate festival of the 3rd annual USA Science and Engineering Festival.

For the latest details regarding the 2013 Physics & Engineering Festival, including event directions and parking information, please visit