Physics & Engineering Festival set for Saturday

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The Department of Physics and Astronomy and Department of Aerospace Engineering at Texas A&M University invite audiences across Texas, the nation and even the world to get up close and personal with science and technology this spring at the 2017 Physics & Engineering Festival, an entertaining and informative weekend scientific extravaganza for all ages.

No fees or tickets are required for the free annual event (view promotional poster online), scheduled for Saturday, April 1, 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 astrophysicist and TED Senior Fellow Dr. Lucianne Walkowicz, an astronomer at Adler Planetarium and a leader in the National Science Foundation-funded Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) involving Texas A&M astronomers.

All events are hosted by Texas A&M Physics and Astronomy in partnership with several other campus units, including the Departments of Aerospace EngineeringChemistryMathematics and Atmospheric Sciences as well as the Brazos Valley Museum of Natural History.

Throughout the day, festival 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 the nearly 200 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. 

For the fifth consecutive year, the 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. Hundreds of DEEP students, undergraduate and graduate, have been involved in creating the new demos during the years, 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., 2:30 p.m.) by internationally acclaimed bubble artist and physics showman Keith Johnson, whose work has been featured on National Geographic TV amd the Discovery Channel as well as in commercials, print ads, movies and venues across America. Attendees also will have the opportunity to meet 1996 Nobel Prize-winning Texas A&M physicist Dr. David M. Lee and NASA astronaut and professor Dr. Bonnie Dunbar, a veteran mission specialist and payload commander with the Space Shuttle Program who flew on five missions. Each will present a lecture session, set for 1 p.m. and 2 p.m., respectively, in the Stephen W. Hawking Auditorium.

Other special events on tap include Large Hadron Collider virtual tours at 11 a.m. and noon; four performances of the Low-Temperature Physics Extravaganza at 10:30 a.m., noon, 1:30 p.m. and 3 p.m.; and a presentation on Claude Shannon, pioneer of the information age, at noon in Room 108 of the Jack E. Brown Chemical Engineering Building. Finally, a Texas-sixed five-barrel depth charge featuring 1,000 plastic balls will close out the exhibition portion of the show at 3:30 p.m. outside the Mitchell Physics Building.

At 4 p.m., Walkowicz will deliver a keynote presentation, The Search for Life in the Universe, in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. In addition to discussing the recent boom in exoplanet discoveries, Walkowicz will explore their prospects for habitability, along with the surprises nature may yet have in store for humanity.

Prior to Saturday's events, Harvard University physicist Dr. David Weitz will team up with local celebrity chefs Peter Madden (Mad Taco) and Mitch Siegert (Truman Chocolates) for a free public lecture, Physics of Cooking, on Friday (March 31) at 7 p.m. in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building. Tickets are not required for the kickoff event, in which the trio will demonstrate some of their favorite cooking techniques and explain the underlying science of their delectable work. The talk is based on a popular course offered at Harvard that is a collaboration between science professors and chefs.

All events are sponsored by the Texas A&M University System, the Department of Physics and Astronomy, the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and AstronomyExxonMobil, the Willard and Anne Levin Foundation, Ahmed Mahmoud '87 and Michele Mobley '87, and Susan Sheskey. The event is an affiliate festival of the 6th annual USA Science and Engineering Festival as well as a member of the Science Festival Alliance.

For the latest details regarding the 2017 Physics & Engineering Festival, including event directions and parking information, please visit http://physicsfestival.tamu.edu.