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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine More

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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid