A small crowd gathered Friday evening at Hinman Dining Hall for a lighthearted showcase of a topic many college students find mysterious and daunting: physics.
Resident assistants Margarita Kraynova and Mustafa Ibrahim showed students several experiments that made their hair stand on end — literally.
During one experiment, volunteers were asked to place their hands on a pulsating orb, within which a belt was moving. Though the first two attempts were unsuccessful in using static electricity to rouse the volunteers’ hair, the third volunteer, Nikki Naim, produced the intended results.
“I felt this tiny prick on my leg, and it felt like it was getting hot,” said Naim, a sophomore majoring in biochemistry. “But I felt safe because I’ve heard about [this experiment] before.”
The event’s most popular — and flavorful — experiment used liquid nitrogen to produce incredible results.
Kraynova and Ibrahim, along with two volunteers, began pouring the liquid nitrogen into large mixing bowls, where it quickly became a gas.
When chocolate syrup, vanilla extract and sugar were added to the nitrogen bowl, the crowd came together around the table where, to their surprise, ice cream was being churned. The experimenters brewed three flavors of ice cream as the crowd nearly doubled. Audience members were given an opportunity to taste the results themselves.
“I had the cookies and cream ice cream; it was really good,” said Jeanne Seepaul, a freshman majoring in biology.
Kraynova and Ibrahim organized the event with the help of the physics department.
“A lot of people think physics is really scary,” said Kraynova, a senior majoring in physics. “They don’t realize that it is actually a lot of fun if you just give it a chance. So I wanted to show the more colorful and fun side of physics instead of the scary mathematical side.”
The event organizers deemed the event a success afterward, citing the 40 or so people who witnessed the event, many of whom just happened to stumble into the dining hall.
“We’re trying to teach people basic fundamentals of physics using very simple experiments,” said Ibrahim, a junior majoring in physics. “We’re definitely going to continue this again, and we’re going to make it better next time.”
Just before cleaning up, a group of onlookers gathered around the idle liquid nitrogen tank.
Kraynova explained the potential of the substance, claiming that if she had a leaf to be dipped into the tank, it would shatter upon being dropped. Flowers brought in by one student proved her correct, and one observer wondered aloud whether or not it would work with paper. Presented with a page from Pipe Dream, a volunteer attempted to destroy the page in the same manner. He was unsuccessful.
When talking about the expo, students seemed enthusiastic.
“I’ve never actually seen these experiments in person. I’ve only seen them on TV,” Seepaul said. “I want to do that one day.”