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Feature

The U's Physics Force in action.

Members of the Physics Force shoot toilet paper in the air to illustrate the power of air pressure.

Fear of physics? Go see these guys.

The Physics Force is back with its annual public show in Northrop Auditorium

By Deane Morrison

Jan. 8, 2007

If you've never seen grown men shooting a roll of toilet paper 30 feet into the air or propelling themselves across a stage by emptying a fire extinguisher, you're in for a treat. The University's Physics Force swings into action for its annual public show this Thursday (Jan. 11) night. University physics professor Dan Dahlberg and several current or retired Twin cities high school physics teachers make up the Force. They use imaginative and humorous stunts to illustrate how the physics that govern our lives work and to show that their favorite science can be fun. The show is suitable for all ages. "I'd like everyone to realize that it is as much fun to exercise your mind as it is to exercise your body," says Dahlberg, whose day job involves research in magnetism. The Force has been with us for more than two decades, and they've got their act down to a science. It's hard to pick the most spectacular stunt, but it could be the physicist who falls from 20 feet above the stage as Dahlberg shoots a projectile at him from a small cannon. Will gravity pull both physicist and projectile down at the same rate, resulting in a catch? Come and see. (The baseball mitt on the falling physicist's hand may give you a clue.) Or perhaps the biggest stunt is when the team partially fills a 55-gallon steel barrel with water and heats it to boiling. They then seal the barrel and cool it with water. Inside, the hot water vapor condenses and the air pressure plummets. Suddenly, the barrel implodes with a loud WHUMP!, the victim of relentless pressure from air outside the barrel. Whatever your predilections, here are the specifics for Thursday night: Time: 7 p.m. Place: Northrop Auditorium, 84 Church St. S.E., Minneapolis Cost: Free, except parking Parking and directions: Park in Washington Avenue Ramp, 501 Washington Ave. S.E.; 4th Street Ramp, 1625 4th St. S.E.; or Church Street Garage, 80 Church St. S.E. View directions to campus. View a campus map showing the Church Street Garage and Northrop Auditorium. The Physics Force is funded by the University of Minnesota. Further reading Take a closer look at the Physics Force in Falling for Physics.