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Physics club energizes exhibit

By May 1, 2009

Whiz! Bang! Pop! Crack! Those are some of the sounds you may hear at Explorit Science Center on Saturday, when the center hosts the UC Davis Physics Club in a Family Exploration program called “Forces of Physics.”

Club members will present physics shows at 1:15, 2:15 and 3:15 p.m. They’re free with admission to the museum, Visitors should pick up a ticket at the front desk for their preferred show.

Anyone who has seen a Physics Club show on Picnic Day or at a previous Explorit appearance will be excited to see one again, and anyone who hasn’t is in for a treat. During each of the shows, the club members will demonstrate key principles of physics in exciting ways. An exploding wire, a swinging pendulum and a sparking Tesla coil will entertain and teach at the same time.

This event complements Explorit’s current Changing Exhibition, “The Energy Story,” which runs through May 24. “The Energy Story” has several exhibits in which visitors can perform their own experiments similar to the Physics Club demonstrations.

For example, the Physics Club will show an exploding wire — demonstrating what happens when too much voltage attempts to pass through too much resistance. Instead of explosions, visitors to “The Energy Story” can attempt to harness a much lower voltage into illuminating light bulbs, running fans or firing small noisemakers.

While the Physics Club’s Tesla coil will provide a wild light and spark show, visitors can make their own sparks at Explorit’s static electricity station, and experiment with light in the laser lab. Kinetic energy, like that of the pendulum, can be explored at the “Newton’s Cradle” exhibit, where visitors can experiment with sending that energy through a series of large hanging balls.

“We are looking forward to the Physics Club event,” says Megan Contreras, Explorit’s program director. “Their shows do a wonderful job of teaching science and getting the crowd excited about it at the same time,”

This Family Exploration is sponsored by the Yocha- De-He Community Fund.

To get ready to learn more about energy, try this “Think It, Try It, Explorit” energy scavenger hunt:

Think it: Energy comes in many different forms, but it cannot be created or destroyed. We use many forms of energy in our lives. Sometimes we convert one type of energy to another. For example, in a car, the chemical energy of the gasoline is changed to mechanical energy to drive the engine.

Try it: Find examples around your home of these types of energy, and of places where energy is converted.

a) Electrical energy (electricity)

b) Chemical energy (energy stored in chemical bonds)

c) Mechanical energy (movement)

d) Chemical energy converted to mechanical energy

e) Chemical energy converted to electrical energy

f) Electrical energy converted to light energy

Explorit: Were you able to find examples? Some possible answers appear below. What other types of energy do you use?

Answers: a)Radios, computers, toasters – anything with a plug! b) Batteries, food, gasoline. c) Cars, humans, bicycles. d) Humans (food is used in our bodies, when we move we are using mechanical energy). e) Batteries in a flashlight. f) A light bulb.

———

Pacific Gas and Electric Co. has awarded $17,500 to Explorit, according to Allison Cagley, the center’s development director. It provides for three sponsorships: the current “Energy Story” exhibition; the center’s 2009-2010 Program Directory, which is published in late summer; and a gold sponsorship at Explorit’s premier benefit, the Corporate Science Challenge, scheduled for Oct. 1. Explorit is deeply grateful for PG&E’s ongoing support, Cagley said.

— Explorit Science Center has two exhibitions running: “The Energy Story” and “Move It! Science in Action.” Admission is $4 general, free for age 3 and under. For more information, call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org

Special to The Enterprise

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