Texas A&M University invites audiences across Texas, the nation and the world to get up-close and personal with science and technology outreach at the 2023 Physics and Engineering Festival, set for Saturday, April 1, from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the George P. Mitchell ’40 Physics Building on the Texas A&M campus.
As in years past, no fees or tickets are required for the free annual event (view promotional poster online), which will feature hands-on demonstrations, keynote talks and a legendary Texas-sized five-barrel depth charge as well as special events and bonuses.
Activities will begin and end with endowed public lectures by two best-selling authors and feature a host of interactive, immersive opportunities in between. Participants are encouraged to pay close attention to the day’s tentative schedule, given that some events are exclusively in-person while others also will be offered via livestream.
The 2023 festival kicks off at 10 a.m. with Guggenheim Fellow, popular science writer and best-selling author Richard Panek, who will present the James G. Potter Lecture, The Trouble with Gravity, in the Steven W. Hawking Auditorium within the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy. Panek will discuss his latest book, The Trouble with Gravity: Solving the Mystery Beneath Our Feet, and what he learned about the role gravity plays in how we think about our place in the universe during his writing process.
From 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., festival participants are encouraged to unleash their inner scientists while taking in a bevy of fun experiments and displays illustrating hands-on science and basic technology-related concepts and principles. All exhibits are manned by Texas A&M faculty, staff and students.
In addition to exhibits, the daylong festival will feature three fantastic performances of the Science Circus (11 a.m., 12:30 p.m., 2 p.m.) by physics showman Rhys Thomas, who teaches Newtonian physics through a rare blend of science, comedy and circus arts in a performance often compared to a Pixar movie. All performances will take place in the second-floor primary lecture hall of the Mitchell Physics Building.
At 11:30 a.m., NASA astronaut and Texas A&M engineer Bonnie Dunbar will present Thinking Outside the Sphere: Exploring Space, in Hawking Auditorium. Dunbar, a professor of aerospace engineering and holder of the John and Bea Slattery Chair at Texas A&M, is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and a 27-year veteran of NASA, where she served as a flight controller and a mission specialist, flying on five Space Shuttle missions and logging more than 50 days in space. Prior to joining NASA, she worked for The Rockwell International Space Division Company building the Space Shuttle Columbia in the 1970s.
Other special events on tap include five performances of the Low-Temperature Physics Extravaganza (10:45 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 1 p.m., 1:45 p.m.) as well as the traditional grand finale of the day’s events portion, the popular, larger-than-life five-barrel depth charge featuring 1,000 plastic balls, set for 3 p.m. on the south side the Mitchell Physics Building.
At 3:30 p.m., University of Washington astronomer and award-winning astrophysicist Emily Levesque will present the Mitchell Lecture, The Last Stargazers: True Stories and Adventures in Astronomy, in the Mitchell Physics Building Primary Lecture Hall. In the process of discussing her critically acclaimed book, The Last Stargazers, Levesque will explore some of today’s most exciting astronomical discoveries while offering personal insight into some of the challenges astronomers face — including erupting volcanoes, marauding squirrels and wild bears loose in the observatory, oh, my! — in their ever-changing quest to study the stars in order to address some of humanity’s oldest questions about our universe and our place within it.
All events are presented by the Texas A&M Department Physics and Astronomy in partnership with several other campus units, including the Departments of Aerospace Engineering, Atmospheric Sciences, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics.
The 2023 festival is sponsored by Halliburton, Marsha L. ’69 and Ralph F. Schilling ’68, Nancy and Robert L. Dunham ’63, Innolight Technology USA Inc., Col. Hal Schade ’67, the College of Arts and Sciences, the Department of Physics and Astronomy and the George P. and Cynthia Woods Mitchell Institute for Fundamental Physics and Astronomy.
For the latest details regarding the 2023 Physics and Engineering Festival, including event directions and parking information, please visit https://physicsfestival.tamu.edu.