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Physics for the Public

Second UO Physics Slam Entertains Eugene

The Eugene community proved again its intense fascination with physics at the second UO Physics Slam, April 8th, in the newly renovated, two-level Straub Hall.   As happened for the 2011 physics slam, the first ever in the U.S., the public packed the house and were fascinated by the entertaining and informative, yet brief (10 minutes each) presentations by all of the slammers. Each of the six contestants, all UO physics faculty, were challenged to compete for the audience’s approval with their plain and engaging explanations of topics of their choice.


Event organizer Jim Brau, serving as emcee for the evening, opened the event by reminding the audience that “physics is fun” and all were gathered for their enjoyment. He explained the plan for the evening, including that the order of presentations would be selected randomly, in real time. Then, Graham Kribs was selected for his presentation “Particles from the Sky.” He was followed by Stephanie Majewski, who talked about “Slamming Particles with the Large Hadron Collider.” Scott Fisher was selected next to deliver his presentation, which he called “Baby, You’re a Star! (and imma gonna tell you why).” The fourth presentation entitled “The Hardest Geometry Problem in the World is at the Bottom of a Bucket of Sand,” was delivered by Eric Corwin. This was followed by Ben McMorran’s demonstration heavy presentation entitled “Quantum Sculptures: Shaping Matter Waves at the Picoscale.” Finally, one presenter remained, Raghu Parthasarathy, and he began by thanking his colleagues for warming up the audience, after which he discussed “Why do Bacteria Care about Physics?”


The judges, chosen randomly from the audience as people were arriving, had a difficult choice to make, selecting from among all of these “winning” presentations, one to be designated 2015 UO Physics Slam Champion. Following careful consideration of each of the presentations and the overall response from the audience, the judges voted for Scott Fisher as champion.


After being awarded the grand prize, which was a copy of “What If: Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions” by Randall Munroe and a Petite Weather Station based on a Galileo thermometer and a Fitzroy storm glass, he commented on the success of the event. He said “We all love what we do, so I hope that comes through.” UO physics major Eryn Cangi was impressed by the large turnout. “I think it just shows that people are really interested in this stuff,” Cangi said. “They want to make the effort to learn it and I think that’s a really good sign.”

The video of the slam is posted on the UO channel: