Wiggley Goo Balls, Styrofoam Peanut Crunchers, String Things: It’s Time for Colorado State’s Little Shop of Physics Open House

The people at Colorado State University who make science fun will hold the annual Little Shop of Physics open house from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Feb. 24.

Granted, the "Wiggly Goo Balls" may not become a popular household item, but when Little Shop director Brian Jones and his associates connect a children’s toy to a massager to strobe light, the Wiggly Goo Ball vibrates in strange and unusual ways.

The event, free and open to children (and adults) of all ages, will be held in the Main Ballroom of the Lory Student Center on the Colorado State campus. Parking is available in the lot north of the student center.

More than 100 hands-on experiments, dozens of them new, will be featured this year. For those who don’t fancy gyrating goo, new experiments this year include:

  • Peanut Cruncher: Pressure from a bike pump compresses packing peanuts to a fraction of their original size. What happens when the pressure is released? And where does the cloud come from?
  • Little Shop Vac of Physics: Feel the pressure of the atmosphere. If you’ve ever wondered what its like to be vacuum packed, this is the experiment for you.
  • String Thing: A big version of a classic children’s toy. The string is held in a graceful arc by the air from a blower.

Old favorites are bigger and better than ever, thanks to Little Shop staff. Among them:

  • Bernoulli ball. Last year, staff held up a balloon with a stream of air. This year, they have a blower that puts out about ten times as much air.
  • The Mother of All Plasma Balls. Plasma is a gas of electrons, ions and neutral particles, and this one is bigger than extremely observant Little Shop staff have ever seen, except maybe in outer space.

The classic Little Shop approach involves taking everyday objects and using them to illustrate scientific principles in an engaging and often surprising way, thanks to the Little Shop’s great equipment suppliers: garage sales, hardware stores and discount stores.

While the hands-on experiments will be available all day, the Open House will also include a series of interactive presentations – noted for their loudness, messiness and educational nature. By way of warning, watch for "The Physics of Music," in which Little Shop staff will play songs on sewer pipes, conduit, straws and other objects not normally considered musical (the real point is about sound, not music).

Another old favorite, bigger and badder than ever, is "The Million-Volt Tesla Coil," which throws three-foot sparks out of its top. Staffers suggest ducking.

"Goos and Gels" returns to a favorite theme of the Little Shop of Physics staff. Experiments are borrowed from the Poudre School District television program "Everyday Science" that the Little Shop co-produces. Open House attendees will learn to walk on quicksand, make Silly Putty and find out just how much liquid a diaper can hold.

Little Shop of experiments are developed by undergraduate students who assist in presenting the program annually to more than 15,000 students in Colorado and neighboring states. The program, the only one of its kind in the United States, has been featured in People magazine and on Nick News. In addition to the traveling program, the Little Shop of Physics presents workshops to teachers all over the country and world. The Little Shop of Physics produces the "Everyday Science" TV program with the Poudre School District Channel 10.

A collection of Science Activity Kits will be on sale at the Open House at a modest price.

For more information, call (970) 491-5131 or contact director Brian Jones at bjones@lamar.colostate.edu. The Web site is http://littleshop.physics.colostate.edu.