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Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages: Welcome to FSU's Flying Circus of Physics!

So you think science is all about wearing white lab coats and toiling for long hours over smoky test tubes? Think again. Members of the Florida State University Department of Physics are ready to show the more playful side of scientific inquiry — and they're hoping that Tallahassee-area residents of all ages will come out to share in the fun.

The physics department's biennial open house, dubbed the Flying Circus of Physics, will be held on Oct. 1 at Florida State. Held every other year since 1991, the event includes hands-on science displays, multimedia events, demonstrations, NASA films, a planetarium presentation, and even a paper airplane contest. And then there's the always-popular "Chemical Medicine Show," in which, as part of the grand finale, a can of coal dust is ignited. Be prepared to cover your ears!

The Flying Circus of Physics will take place:

10 A.M. – 4 P.M.

The Richards Undergraduate Physics Laboratory is located near the intersection of Academic Way and Chieftan Way on the west side of the Florida State University campus.

All events, presentations and shows are free and open to the public. In addition, free parking is available near the Keen Building or south of Keen across from Mike Long Track. A Headquarters Information Tent will be visible at the north end of Chieftan Way.

The Flying Circus of Physics will include science presentations that have proven popular with kids. One of these, "The Physics of Sports," is an entertaining and fast-paced multimedia presentation in which bicycles are ridden, basketballs are thrown, and a toy gator is shot with a cannon — all to demonstrate the science behind popular sporting events.

One of three different planetarium shows, "Two Small Pieces of Glass — The Amazing Telescope," follows two teenage students as they learn how the telescope has helped people understand Earth's place in space and how telescopes continue to expand science's understanding of the universe. Their conversation with a local astronomer enlightens them on the history of the telescope and the discoveries such tools have made. The students will then see how telescopes work and how the largest observatories in the world use these instruments to explore the mysteries of the universe.

Another presentation, "From Near Space to Deep," will reveal the latest spectacular deep-space discoveries of the Hubble and other state-of-the-art telescopes. There also will be science films and live presentations on such topics as asteroids, planets, car crashes and roller coasters.

Hands-on demonstrations will be available for kids of all ages to experience strange and exciting physical phenomena. Florida State physics professors and graduate students will be on hand to explain the basic scientific principles behind these demonstrations and to answer the myriad "why?" questions that invariably result.

Other activities include guided tours of all the physics department facilities; a new physics ride called the "Space Warp," which demonstrates the Coriolis effect in a fun and entertaining way; and a paper airplane folding and flying contest that is sure to entertain children and adults alike.

For more information about the Flying Circus of Physics, click here or contact Associate Professor Volker Crede at (850) 644-2868 or

26 September 2011