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Fun with Science and Star Trek

Curtis Bisbee

“Fascinating” is a word often used by Spock, and he may well have used it again if he witnessed this year’s Science Demonstration Show at Western Illinois University.

The Star Trek themed show included demonstrations on astronomy, gravity, transformations, vacuums, oxygen, and liquid nitrogen.

This demonstration helps show that science is actually really cool if you understand what's behind it.

In one of the experiments, a penny was melted. This was done with a 1,000 watt overhead projector light bulb situated between two parabolic dishes that focused beams of light directly onto the coin. 

It took a couple minutes to complete the demonstration, which showed why  photon torpedoes are not realistic.

“The trick is to get Khan to stay still for this long,” joked Physics Professor Jim Rabchuk, who organizes the annual show. [video below]

This year’s theme, “Science: The Final Frontier,” continued the tradition of tying the show into popular movies.

“I like doing the movies because it’s a nice way to show how much science is part of our culture,” said Rabchuk.  Past shows have delved into the science of Sherlock Holmes, Ironman, Home Alone, and other favorites.

A capacity crowd filled a large lecture hall in Currens Hall for the demonstration, which is hosted by the Physics and Chemistry departments.

The show included an experiment by Forensic Chemistry major Hannah Drake. She said her demo, “The Silvered Flask,” played off a Star Trek Voyager episode in which the crew came across a planet where the only life form was a silver fluid thing.

Credit Curtis Bisbee
Jim Rabchuk (in the yellow shirt)

Drake thinks people gain a greater understanding of science through shows like WIU’s annual demonstration.

“Science is sometimes seen as a very boring and dull subject. This demonstration helps show that science is actually really cool if you understand what’s behind it,” said Drake.

The audience was treated to something else really cool at the end of the show.  Liquid nitrogen was combined with heavy whipping cream and vanilla flavored sweetened coffee creamer to make ice cream for everyone.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.