Physics Demo Display: Now Showing at the PAS Lobby

Alexis Cibrian

By: Ian Marsh & Alexis Cibrian

It is very common to take a STEM class and feel like nothing makes sense. There are hundreds of equations in existence, each more obscure than the last. If you’ve ever felt a similar exasperation, and are wondering what lies at the heart of physics, then we hope you’ll appreciate the department’s new Physics Demo display, found currently on exhibit in the lobby of the PAS building.

This display, built by third year graduate student Ian Marsh, was created to showcase the beauty of physics in the natural world. The display has been slowly coming together for about half a year and many new elements are still yet to be added in the future. One of the goals of the display is to show students the tangible nature behind physics, and to help them realize that physics isn’t just some abstract set of equations or an incomprehensible collection of complicated lab equipment. Rather, it is a useful description of the beauty in nature all around us. It also provides visitors of the department with brain-teasing aesthetics to stretch their imaginations.

There is, however, a more subtle point to the display. Nearly every piece in the showcase was hand-made by Ian from whatever materials were available in the physics department’s stockroom. The point, he says, is that “you don’t always need expensive equipment or highly abstract mathematics to appreciate physics yourself. Each demo can be easily created by anyone with a little patience, persistence, and hard work.”

This display was inspired by a similar installation at Cal Poly Pomona, where Ian received his undergraduate degree. Ian would like to thank Doug Johnson, the physics lab manager at CPP, for creating their display as part of his extensive supply of classroom demos. He considers himself fortunate to have worked under Doug as a stockroom assistant, and had the privilege of participating in Doug’s final Physics Demonstration Show before he retired.

Ian would also like to thank the following individuals for their vital support of this project: Dr. Sumit Mazumdar, Larry Hoffman, Mike Eklund, and the members of the Women in Physics Club.