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

At International AIDS Conference One Goal, Many Paths

The 12,000 delegates attending 20th International AIDS Conference in Melbourne have vastly different visions about how to eradicate disease More

Disasters May Doom Malaysia’s Flag Carrier

Even before loss of two jets loaded with passengers on international flights, company had been operating in red for three years, accumulating deficit of $1.3 billion More

Afghan Presidential Vote Audit Continues Despite Glitches

Process has been marred by walkouts by representatives of two competing candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani 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.
Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Agei
X
Elizabeth Lee
July 20, 2014 2:36 AM
Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Nature of Space Exploration Enters New Age

Forty-five years ago this month, the first humans walked on the moon. It was during an era of the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union. World politics have changed since then and -- as Elizabeth Lee reports -- so has the nature of space exploration.
Video

Video Chicago’s Argonne Lab Developing Battery of the Future

In 2012, the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Science awarded a $120 million grant to a new technology center focused on battery development - headquartered at Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago, Illinois. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, there scientists are making the next technological breakthroughs in energy storage.
Video

Video In NW Pakistan, Army Offensive Causes Massive Number of Displaced

Pakistan’s army offensive in North Waziristan has resulted in the large-scale displacement of the local population. VOA's Ayaz Gul reports from northwest Pakistan where authorities say around 80 percent of the estimated 1 million internally displaced persons [IDPs] have settled in Bannu district, while much of the remaining 20 percent are scattered in nearby cities.
Video

Video Kurdish Peshmerga Force Secures Kirkuk, Its Oil

The Kurdistan regional government has sent its Peshmerga troops into the adjacent province of Kirkuk to drive out insurgents, and to secure the area's rich oil fields. By doing this, the regional government has added a fourth province to the three it officially controls. The oil also provides revenue that could make an independent Kurdistan economically strong. VOA’s Jeffrey Young went out with the Peshmerga and filed this report.
Video

Video Malaysia Reeling: Second Air Disaster in Four Months

Malaysia is reeling from the second air disaster in four months involving the country’s flag carrier. Flight 340 vanished in March and despite an extensive search, no debris has been found. And on Thursday, Flight 17, likely hit by a surface-to-air missile, came apart over eastern Ukraine. The two incidents together have left more than 500 people dead. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Kuala Lumpur.
Video

Video Diplomatic Crisis Grows Over MH17 Plane Crash

The Malaysia Airlines crash in eastern Ukraine is drawing reaction from leaders around the world. With suspicions growing that a surface-to-air missile shot down the aircraft, there are increasing tensions in the international community over who is to blame. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Undocumented Immigrants Face Perilous Journey to US, No Guarantees

Every day, hundreds of undocumented immigrants from Central America attempt the arduous journey through Mexico and turn themselves over to U.S. border patrol -- with the hope that they will not be turned away. But the dangers they face along the way are many, and as Ramon Taylor reports from the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, their fate rests on more than just the reception they get at the US border.
Video

Video Scientists Create Blackest Material Ever

Of all the black things in the universe only the infamous "black holes" are so black that not even a tiny amount of light can bounce back. But scientists have managed to create material almost as black, and it has enormous potential use. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Fog Collector Transforming Maasai Water Harvesting in Kenya

The Maasai people of Kenya are known for their cattle-herding, nomadic lifestyle. But it's an existence that depends on access to adequate water for their herds and flocks. Lenny Ruvaga reports for VOA, on a "fog collector."

AppleAndroid