The Wonders of Physics

In the matter of physics, the first lessons should contain nothing but what is experimental and interesting to see. A pretty experiment is in itself often more valuable than twenty formulae extracted from our minds. --Albert Einstein

General Description

Never has there been a time when an understanding of science has been more important to the well-being of individuals and to the nation than the present. Yet many recent studies have documented a lack of interest in science and hence a decline in science literacy in the United States.

To address this problem, the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1984 began a program called The Wonders of Physics aimed at generating interest in physics among people of all ages and backgrounds. The heart of the program is a fast-paced presentation of physics demonstrations carefully chosen to be entertaining as well as educational.

The show has been presented by Professor Clint Sprott on the Madison campus over 250 times to a total audience of about 90,000. In addition a traveling show has been developed and presented by physics graduate students and staff over a thousand times to audiences of all ages throughout Wisconsin and the nation. A variety of educational tools and materials have been developed including videos, software, a demo book, and a lecture kit.
[WOP Logo]
[Clint
                                    Sprott]


Annual Presentation

Scheduled presentations of The Wonders of Physics and a Physics Fair are given on the UW-Madison campus for the general public in mid-February each year. Free tickets are recommended and are available after January 1st using the On-Line Ticket Form. Alternately, you may call (608) 262-2927 or e-mail wonders@physics.wisc.edu. The next public presentations of The Wonders of Physics are scheduled as follows:
Saturday
February 7, 2015
  1, 4, and 7 pm
Sunday
February 8, 2015  
  1 and 4 pm
Saturday  
February 14, 2015
  1, 4, and 7 pm
Sunday
February 15, 2015
  1 and 4 pm
These presentations will be held in 2103 Chamberlin Hall, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI. The presentations last a bit over an hour and are suitable for all ages.
Dramatic Entrance

Mini-shows and Traveling Shows

Special presentations at the UW-Madison or at your school can usually be arranged for groups of various sizes by calling (608) 262-2927 or by e-mail to wonders@physics.wisc.edu. A donation is requested to cover the cost of these presentations, which is about $200 to $500 plus travel for nonlocal presentations.
Einstein's Brother
Einstein's Brother

Videos

Video DVDs of past presentations of The Wonders of Physics are available for purchase for $25 each or $600 for the entire set (postpaid in the U.S.) from the University of Wisconsin Department of Physics, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706-1390. Call (608) 262-2927 or e-mail wonders@physics.wisc.edu to order or for further details. The detailed contents of the videos are available in PDF and XLS format. The DVDs will play on computers in all world regions, but they will only play on NTSC DVD players (not European PAL DVD players). The quality of the DVDs is much higher than what you see from the streamed version below. You can stream the videos directly to your computer for free by clicking on the links below:
Latest Video
Latest Video (click to play)
Show
Date  
Length
Episode Title    
Flash/iOS
 WMV 
31
2/16/14
58:41
Physics of Dimensions
Play Play WMV
30
2/17/13
58:07
30th Season Celebration
Play Play WMV
29
2/19/12   
58:40
Physics of the Wisconsin Idea  
Play Play WMV
28
3/26/11 58:36
Physics of the Arts
Play Play WMV
27
2/23/10 56:39
Physics of Sports
Play Play WMV
26
2/15/09
59:10
Physics of the Cosmos
Play Play WMV
25
3/09/08
58:56
25th Season Celebration
Play Play WMV
24
2/18/07
58:28
Physics of Water
Play Play WMV
23
2/19/06
57:48
Celebration of New Lecture Hall
Play Play WMV
22
2/20/05
58:56
World Year of Physics
Play Play WMV
21
2/15/04
58:20
States of Matter
Play Play WMV
20
2/16/03
57:51
Twentieth Season Celebration
Play Play WMV
19
2/17/02
57:26
Physics of Transportation
Play Play WMV
18
2/18/01
58:15
Physics of the 21st Century
Play Play WMV
17
2/20/00
57:59
Physics of the New Millennium
Play Play WMV
16
2/21/99
59:06
Physics of the Late 1800s
Play Play WMV
15
2/15/98
58:43
Fifteenth Season Celebration
Play Play WMV
14
2/16/97
55:23
Physics of Flying
Play Play WMV
13
2/18/96
58:15
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
12
2/19/95
57:30
Physics of Energy
Play Play WMV
11
2/20/94
57:15
Physics of the Body
Play Play WMV
10
2/21/93
58:46
Tenth Season Celebration
Play Play WMV
9
2/23/92
58:46
Physics of the Weather
Play Play WMV
8
2/17/91
58:58
Modern Physics
Play Play WMV
7
2/18/90
58:46
Chaos and Randomness
Play Play WMV
6
2/19/89
58:46
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
5
6/24/88
28:46
Wonders of Sound
Play Play WMV
4
2/21/88
58:46
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
3
2/15/87
58:46
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
2
6/03/86
51:35
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
1
2/11/86
54:33
Classical Physics
Play Play WMV
Rotating Platform
Rotating Platform

Demonstration Software

Two educational computer programs, Physics Demonstrations and Chaos Demonstrations, for IBM PC or compatibles were distributed by Physics Academic Software, but they are no longer available except that the former is distributed as part of the Lecture Kit.
Faraday Cage
Faraday Cage

Physics Demonstrations Book

A full-color, 300-page, heavily illustrated book, Physics Demonstrations containing a detailed description of 85 demonstrations used over the years in The Wonders of Physics is available from University of Wisconsin Press. It is accompanied by two closed-captioned DVD's showing all 85 demonstrations presented to a live audience. Organized to teach the six major areas of classical physics -- motion, heat, sound, electricity, magnetism, and light -- the book includes:
  • a brief description of each demonstration
  • materials lists, with sources for common materials
  • preparation procedures
  • discussions of the physics principles demonstrated
  • potential safety hazards
  • references for further information
Demo Book
Physics Demonstrations Book

Lecture Kit

A kit describing The Wonders of Physics program in detail, with a list of demonstrations, sources, handouts, publicity samples, a DVD of a recent presentation, and the Physics Demonstrations software is available. (See Preface and Table of Contents.) It is aimed at teachers and scientists who want to give similar public presentations in their own communities. Copies are available for $90 (postpaid in the U.S.) from the UW Department of Physics, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706-1390, by calling (608) 262-2927, or by e-mail to wonders@physics.wisc.edu.
Lecture Kit
Lecture Kit

Additional Information

* The Wonders of Physics Survey
* Make a donation to The Wonders of Physics
* The Wonders of Physics Traveling Show
* Brochure for Educational Products
* Physics to the People! article in The Physics Teacher (April 1991)
* Article about The Wonders of Physics in Wisconsin Week (February 18, 2002)
* Article about The Wonders of Physics in the Wisconsin State Journal (February 19, 2006)
* Article about The Wonders of Physics in the Wisconsin State Journal (February 18, 2013)
* Press report and video from show at University of Aveiro, Portugal (July 24, 2006)
* Preface and Table of Contents from The Wonders of Physics Lecture Kit
* Quotes from audience members and the press
* Theme music from The Wonders of Physics
* Physics Demonstrations very early manuscript of  a published book
* Saunders Physics Demonstrations video
* Physics Experiments That You Can Do at Home
* Demonstration Explanations: A Teacher's Guide
* A slide presentation about The Wonders of Physics
* Updated Poster from November 1996 Denver APS meeting (also in MS-Word format)
* Talk given at the November 1996 Denver APS meeting
* Additional photographs of The Wonders of Physics
* Data Base of Physics Lecture Demonstrations at the University of Wisconsin
* Usage statistics on web streamed WoP videos
* The Wonders of Physics Entrance Video

The Wonders of Physics is supported in part by the Fusion Energy Sciences Program of the U.S. Department of Energy and in part by the National Science Foundation.

Grand Finale
Grand Finale

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