The Wonders of Physics

University of Wisconsin - Madison
[WOP Logo]

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 UW-Madison campus over 150 times to a total audience of over 50,000. In addition a smaller traveling show has been developed and presented by physics graduate students and staff several hundred times to audiences of all ages throughout Wisconsin and elsewhere. A variety of educational tools and materials have been developed including printed handouts, videotapes, and computer software.

[Clint Sprott]
Professor Clint Sprott

Annual Presentation

Scheduled presentations of The Wonders of Physics are given on the UW-Madison campus for the general public in mid-February each year. Free tickets are recommended and are available by calling (608) 262-2927 or by e-mail to during the month of January. The next public presentations of The Wonders of Physics are scheduled as follows:
February  9, 2003  1 and 4 pm
February 15, 2003  1 and 4 pm
February 16, 2003  1 and 4 pm
These presentations will be held in 1300 Sterling Hall, 475 North Charter Street, Madison, WI.
[Gallows Photo]
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 A donation is requested to cover the cost of these presentations, which is about $200 to $400 plus travel expenses..
[Ranger Photo]
Power Ranger


Videotapes of past presentations of The Wonders of Physicsare available for purchase for $25 each (VHS format, other formats by special request) from the University of Wisconsin Department of Physics, 1150 University Avenue, Madison, WI 53706. Call (608) 262-2927 or e-mail to order or for further details.
         Tape 1:  2/11/86  54:33  Classical Physics
         Tape 2:  6/03/86  51:35  Classical Physics
         Tape 3:  2/15/87  58:46  Classical Physics
         Tape 4:  2/21/88  58:46  Classical Physics
         Tape 5:  6/24/88  28:46  Physics of Sound
         Tape 6:  2/19/89  58:46  Classical Physics
         Tape 7:  2/18/90  58:46  Chaos and Randomness
         Tape 8:  2/17/91  58:58  Modern Physics
         Tape 9:  2/23/92  58:46  Physics of the Weather
         Tape 10: 2/21/93  58:46  Tenth Season Celebration
         Tape 11: 2/20/94  57:15  Physics of the Body
         Tape 12: 2/19/95  57:30  Physics of Energy
         Tape 13: 2/18/96  58:15  Classical Physics
         Tape 14: 2/16/97  55:23  Physics of Flying
         Tape 15: 2/15/98  58:43  Fifteenth Season Celebration
         Tape 16: 2/21/99  59:06  Physics of the Late 1800s
         Tape 17: 2/20/00  57:59  Physics of the New Millennium
         Tape 18: 2/18/01  56:15  Physics of the 21st Century
         Tape 19: 2/17/02  57:26  Physics of Transportation
[Ring Photo]
Jumping Ring

Demonstration Software

Two educational computer programs, Physics Demonstrations and Chaos Demonstrations, for IBM PC or compatibles are available from Physics Academic Software, Box 8202, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-8202. Call (800) 955-8275 or (919) 515-7447 to order.
[Reactor Photo]
Mousetrap Chain Reactor

Lecture Kit

A kit describing The Wonders of Physics program in detail, with a list of demonstrations, sources, handouts, publicity samples, a videotape of a recent presentation, and the Physics Demonstrations software is available. 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, by calling (608) 262-2927, or by e-mail to
[Cloud Photo]
Grand Finale

Photos by Judy Hoffman

World Wide Web Resources

Additional information about The Wonders of Physics can be obtained on the World Wide Web at:
You will find all the information included in this poster, further description of educational materials, the manuscript of a book Physics Demonstrations, and links to other World Wide Web resources on physics and science education and outreach. For information about The Wonders of Physics traveling show see:

Quotes from Audience Members and the Press

* He had promised to wow the audience and he more than made good on that promise. He first appeared from beneath the seats attired in a burgandy tuxedo and black cape. For his exit, he vaporised in a man-made cloud. Jaws dropped, eyes widened and hair literally stood on end as he produced neon liquids that defied gravity, a levitating ball, a liquid nitrogen cannon and a human lightbulb.
--The Wisconsin State Journal, February 15, 1989

* I can't tell you how much my family enjoyed your show last Sunday! You went out of your way to tell people it wasn't magic--but it was! It's the best kind of magic--magic of learning and of excitement about science which suddenly becomes self-sustaining in children of all ages and encourages them to learn more about science. Thanks for the opportunity.
--Terry Kelly, Dynatech Corporation, Madison

* Clint Sprott: I loved your show! I love Physics.
--Donna E. Shalala, former Secretary of Health and Human Services

* Thanks so much for making The Wonders of Physics available to our school. The students and teachers enjoyed seeing it. It will give us all a new interest in the applications of science that students sometimes think has no meaning.
--Art Masshardt, science teacher, Sun Prairie (WI) Junior High

* I want to congratulate you for the excellent presentation you made last Friday evening. You and your colleagues deserve special thanks for a highly successful outreach activity. I am interested in acquiring a videotape of this year's presentation as well as one from last year. There are physics teachers in the Washington area that I talk to periodically and I would like them to see what you have been doing.
--Bassam Z. Shakhashiri, former assistant director Science and Engineering Education, National Science Foundation

* I know that the local educators, students, and community benefit from the efforts of all who present workshops and exhibits during these intense days of educational outreach.  I strongly support this activity.
--N. Anne Davies, Associate Director for Fusion Energy Sciences, Office of Energy Research, Department of Energy

* Thank you for such an entertaining and enlightening performance. I am pleased that so many schools are utilizing the tapes you produced. I'm sure they help to make science more fun and less frightening. Keep up the good work.
--Kenneth A. Shaw, former president University of Wisconsin System

* His laboratory table was packed with all the tools of his trade: beakers, electrical generators, bunson burners, and flasks of bubbling liquid nitrogen. Such unbridled enthusiasm would warm the heart of Sir Isaac Newton, whose bust presided over the event.
--The Wisconsin State Journal, February 15, 1989

* You make in this way an exceptional contribution to the community--and doubtless kindle among many of varying ages a keen interest in the wonders of physics!
--Robert M. O'Neil, former president University of Wisconsin System

* Your endeavors to educate the community about the principles and wonders of physics further affirms the University of Wisconsin's commitment of quality education and community involvement. I salute you for your efforts and your outstanding work at the UW and within the community.
--Tommy G. Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services