News / Science & Technology

    Scientist Circus Performers Make Physics Fun

    Scientist Circus Performers Make Physics Funi
    X
    April 03, 2013 3:09 PM
    If you gave school children a choice between going to the circus and studying science, chances are most would choose the circus. That’s why some teachers and scientists in Boulder, Colorado, decided to use their skills as circus performers to show their students that science, too, can be fun. From Boulder, Shelley Schlender has more for VOA.
    Scientist Circus Performers Make Physics Fun
    Shelley Schlender
    By day, Joe Ramas is an aerospace engineer.

    "I do mostly magnetic design and integration of test characterization of satellites."  

    At night, though, he’s a strong man at the circus gym.

    "I hold people on top of me, either in a handstand, or sometimes they stand on my shoulders," Ramas said. "Sometimes there are multiple people standing on me."

    When several people are standing on him, Ramas feels his knowledge of physics helps him balance.  

    Acrobat and physicist, Ian Caldwell, said that’s just one example of how science adds wonder to circus acts.

    "Circus is gorgeous, circus is beautiful, in its own right," Caldwell said. "But then to look at it through the eyes of a scientist, it adds more depth."  

    Right after he graduated from high school, Caldwell traveled the world as a circus juggler and acrobat. Over time, though, he found that wasn’t enough for him.

    "I missed all the mental activity," he said. "Mental gymnastics, if you will."

    He returned to Boulder, where studying physics provided those mental gymnastics, and practicing acrobatics at the local gym kept him in shape. He joined a community of circus fans who spent their days in scientific pursuits, and performed circus acts for local community groups.

    Cassie Drew, a reading teacher and circus acrobat, gave the group a special purpose when she suggested they put on a show to raise money for her school. Caldwell suggested that ‘science’ could be the theme.

    "I love the circus arts," Caldwell said. "I love education, I love science, and I’m like 'Yeah, I’m in. Of course. 100 percent.'"

    They named their project, the Visindi Circus. “Visindi” is the Icelandic word for “science.” They believed its exotic sound hints at the magic of both science, and the circus.   

    Ramas, the aerospace engineer and strong man, designed an act that demonstrates the concept of angular momentum. In other words, why it’s hard to balance on a bicycle that’s standing still, while it’s easy to ride a moving one.  

    For the Visindi Circus, Ramas uses just a bicycle wheel.

    "We spin it very quickly, and we hang it on a big metal circle ring called a lyra, which is a circus apparatus," Ramas said. "And the way in which it hangs is pretty magical. Because it doesn’t swing or move the way that anyone would expect."  

    The performers also developed acts that showed the power of a puff of air by shooting smoke rings out of a garbage can and how you can swing a bucket of water over your head, without spilling a drop, because of centrifugal force.  

    At Visindi Circus day for Drew’s school, the curtains on the auditorium stage swept open and out danced clowns, and acrobats in colorful costumes. They juggled. They pranced on circus stilts.

    The sparkling, spinning bicycle wheel made the kids gasp. And, when the acrobats explained how gravity helps them stand on the strong man’s shoulders or do backflips, some children leaned way forward in their chairs, as if to remind themselves of gravity’s mysterious pull.

    Afterwards, many of the children vowed to join a circus someday. Others had a different dream.

    "I am a scientist. I know about gravitational forces, and gases and liquids," said third grader Caleb, who enjoyed watching a circus that celebrates science. "It’s adding fun to science."   

    Members of the Visindi Circus are creating lesson plans so that other schools can do as they’ve done, blending circus and science into a joyful, and educational, mix.

    You May Like

    US Leaders Who Served in Vietnam War Look Back and Ahead

    In New York Times opinion piece, Secretary of State John Kerry, Senator John McCain and former Senator Bob Kerrey say as US strengthens relations with Vietnam, it is important to remember lessons learned from war

    Who Are US Allies in Fight Against Islamic State?

    There is little but opportunism keeping coalition together analysts warn — SDFs Arab militias are not united even among themselves, frequently squabble and don’t share Kurds' vision for post-Assad Syria

    Learning Foreign Language Helps US Soldiers Bridge Culture Gap

    Effective interaction with local populations part of everyday curriculum at Monterey, California, Defense Language Institute

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnami
    X
    Elizabeth Lee
    May 22, 2016 6:04 AM
    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese-American Youth Optimistic About Obama's Visit to Vietnam

    U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to Vietnam later this month comes at a time when Vietnam is seeking stronger ties with the United States. Many Vietnamese Americans, especially the younger generation, are optimistic Obama’s trip will help further reconciliation between the two former foes. Elizabeth Lee has more from the community called "Little Saigon" located south of Los Angeles.
    Video

    Video First-generation, Afghan-American Student Sets Sights on Basketball Glory

    Their parents are immigrants to the United States. They are kids who live between two worlds -- their parents' homeland and the U.S. For many of them, they feel most "American" at school. It can be tricky balancing both worlds. In this report, produced by Beth Mendelson, Arash Arabasadi tells us about one Afghan-American student who seems to be coping -- one shot at a time.
    Video

    Video Newest US Citizens, Writing the Next Great Chapter

    While universities across the United States honor their newest graduates this Friday, many immigrants in downtown Manhattan are celebrating, too. One hundred of them, representing 31 countries across four continents, graduated as U.S. citizens, joining the ranks of 680,000 others every year in New York and cities around the country.
    Video

    Video Vietnam Sees Strong Economic Growth Despite Incomplete Reforms

    Vietnam has transformed its communist economy to become one of the world's fastest-growing nations. While the reforms are incomplete, multinational corporations see a profitable future in Vietnam and have made major investments -- as VOA's Jim Randle reports.
    Video

    Video Qatar Denies World Cup Corruption

    The head of Qatar’s organizing committee for the 2022 World Cup insists his country's bid to host the soccer tournament was completely clean, despite the corruption scandals that have rocked the sport’s governing body, FIFA. Hassan Al-Thawadi also said new laws would offer protection to migrants working on World Cup construction projects. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Infrastructure Funding Puts Cambodia on Front Line of International Politics

    When leaders of the world’s seven most developed economies meet in Japan next week, demands for infrastructure investment world wide will be high on the agenda. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s push for “quality infrastructure investment” throughout Asia has been widely viewed as a counter to the rise of Chinese investment flooding into region.
    Video

    Video Democrats Fear Party Unity a Casualty in Clinton-Sanders Battle

    Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton claimed a narrow victory in Tuesday's Kentucky primary even as rival Bernie Sanders won in Oregon. Tensions between the two campaigns are rising, prompting fears that the party will have a difficult time unifying to face the presumptive Republican nominee, Donald Trump. VOA national correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Portrait of a Transgender Marriage: Husband and Wife Navigate New Roles

    As controversy continues in North Carolina over the use of public bathrooms by transgender individuals, personal struggles with gender identity that were once secret are now coming to light. VOA’s Tina Trinh explored the ramifications for one couple as part of trans.formation, a series of stories on transgender issues.
    Video

    Video Amerikan Hero Flips Stereotype of Middle Eastern Character

    An Iranian American comedian is hoping to connect with American audiences through a film that inverts some of Hollywood's stereotypes about Middle Eastern characters. Sama Dizayee reports.
    Video

    Video Budding Young Inventors Tackle City's Problems with 3-D Printing

    Every city has problems, and local officials and politicians are often frustrated by their inability to solve them. But surprising solutions can come from unexpected places. Students in Baltimore. Maryland, took up the challenge to solve problems they identified in their city, and came up with projects and products to make a difference. VOA's June Soh has more on a digital fabrication competition primarily focused on 3-D design and printing. Carol Pearson narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora