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SPS: Anyone can bust myths

By Brad Robinson
On April 14, 2014

The USU chapter of the Society of Physics Students confirmed and “busted” some popular myths at its annual MythBusters event on Friday.

Modeled after the popular “MythBusters” TV show, audience members had the chance to find out whether a person can relax on a board of nails, shock another person through their finger, commit the perfect crime with an ice bullet and whether a penny dropped from the Empire State Building could kill someone.

To test many of these myths, the students used tubes with compressed air to launch different objects into a box. While testing the ice bullet myth, for example, the students placed bullet shaped ice cubes in the tube before launching them into an apple, a watermelon, a cantaloupe and some meat. When audience members saw the bullet was lodged in the meat and had gone through all of the fruits they declared the myth “confirmed.”

Joseph Jepson, a sophomore studying physics and member of SPS, was surprised that the ice bullet myth was confirmed.

“Seeing them shoot the ice bullets, you wouldn’t think they would go through the things they did,” Jepson said.

When the group tested whether Emperor Palpatine from the “Star Wars” franchise could have shocked Luke Skywalker with his fingers, audience members held their breath as a student wrapped in tin foil allowed electricity from a Tesla coil to flow through it to the end of his finger. Though the electricity didn’t reach the dummy nearby, audience members watched as visible electric currents traveled through his hand to a fluorescent light bulb.

“It was cool. I learned that you can have the Force if you are wrapped in tin foil,” USU student Michael Noyes said.

After the presentations, other members of SPS had booths set up for audience members to get hands-on experiences with science. These included laser mazes, spice testing and large spinning tops.

Darren McKinnon, senior studying physics and member of SPS, said the activity was first done last year but that the association was able to prepare more for this year. He said this year had more displays than the year before and that students were able to make the presentations more visible to all audience members by using a camera.

McKinnon said the point of the activity is to increase science awareness and show the public that science can be fun.

“What it’s all about is just getting people excited about science,” McKinnon said. “Our goal is to use that to show people the real science behind things and how they work.”

“Our hope is to entertain people and get them interested in science because the general populace seems to think that science is hard and think you have to have a Ph.D. to do science,” said Phillip Lundgreen, a USU physics major and SPS member. “But in reality, you can do science with stuff you have at home. Almost all of our demonstrations are homemade.”

McKinnon said MythBusters helps USU’s SPS chapter fulfill their goal of reaching out to students and educating them about science.

“Here at USU our chapter focuses a lot on outreach,” McKinnon said. “So we go out to elementary schools and middle schools or have people come out to us and put on demo shows and show them the fun side of science that a lot of people don’t get to see. Everyone should have fun with physics.”

Lundgreen said they came up with the idea to do their own MythBusters activity after watching the TV show.

“A lot times when I watch the show, I see a myth I think, ‘I don’t think they did that right,’ or, ‘I want to try that,’” Lundgreen said.

McKinnon hopes students in all majors can become involved with SPS.

“We’re open to all majors, so if there’s anyone excited about teaching or science in general, we’re a fun group to hang out with, so get in touch with us,” he said.


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