Physics Works! Exploring Nature, Saving Lives, Driving Technology (1999-2002)

Presentation Date: 

Saturday, March 20, 1999


Traveling to the Georgia World Congress Center, Atlanta, GA; the Don Harrington Discovery Center, Amarillo, TX; and the Fernbank Museum, Atlanta, GA

Physics Works! Quantum Corral

Inspired by the work of physicists who have received Nobel Prizes, but aimed at an adolescent audience, this playful and upbeat exhibition showed how much physics exerts a positive force in people’s lives.  Filled with unique hands-on scientific activities, this exhibition was distinguished from Exploratorium-style exhibits in that its interactives not only taught physics but also placed it into social and methodological contexts.   

Physics Works! was divided into four sections; and each section featured a large representational, hands-on component that telegraphed themes quickly to visitors.  The sections with their featured components were:

  • Physics Explores the Wonders of Nature
    • a quantum corral in which visitors could climb onto atoms and explore wave-particle duality
    • a large plasma globe
    • a particle pinball machine that illustrated how scientists learn about objects that cannot be directly seen by bombarding them with particle beams
  • Physics Saves Lives
    • a wireform human figure loaded up with replacement body parts that used physics
      • Physics Works! Bionic Baseball Player
    • a thermoscope with an infrared camera so visitors could medically image their own bodies
  • Physics Drives Technology
    • a giant wristwatch (with active liquid crystal face) serving as a frame to hold a rollerblade skate, solar panel, GPS, computer chip, fiber optics magnifier, and more, to illustrate the role of physics in designing everyday items
      • Physics Works! Giant Watch
    • a laser speckle experiment in which visitors could test their eyesight while learning about coherent light
  • Physics Looks to the Future
    • a chaotic pendulum

The exhibition opened at the Georgia World Congress Center in Atlanta during the American Physical Society’s Centennial Meeting in March 1999 and then traveled to the Don Harrington Discovery Center in Amarillo, TX, before residing at the Fernbank Museum in Atlanta. 

See also: 1990s