Saturday Morning Physics makes debut in Grand Rapids

October 15, 1998

Saturday Morning Physics makes debut in Grand Rapids

ANN ARBOR—Physics fun? Fascinating enough to be a road show? Judging from a popular lecture series in Ann Arbor geared to a general audience, the answer is a resounding yes.

Grand Rapids area residents can decide for themselves starting Oct. 31, when Saturday Morning Physics begins a three-week run at the Kent Intermediate School District.

The free University of Michigan program, designed for non-scientists, regularly draws about 200 people from the Ann Arbor area and had to be moved from a small classroom to an auditorium when it first debuted two years ago. The presenters design their talks in easy-to-understand, non-technical language, and use slides, computer simulations and hands-on demonstrations featuring research tools of physicists, including lasers.

Theme of the Grand Rapids Saturday series is “Dark Matters: Unmasking the Invisible Universe.” Presenter is Phil Fischer, a researcher in the U-M Department of Astronomy and a Hubble Fellow. Saturday Morning Physics continues on Nov. 7 and 14, and while thematic, all lectures are different. Each will feature a question and answer session, followed by refreshments.

“The vast majority of material in our universe is invisible ‘dark matter’ whose presence we know of only because of the great gravitational tug it exerts,” says Fischer, who will talk about what is out there, how we measure its mass, and how its gravity affects everything we see, including light itself.

In his three Grand Rapids lectures, Fischer will introduce various aspects of gravity and demonstrate how astronomers are using them to map distribution of matter in the universe. Such discoveries “will help us to understand what dark matter is, and help to answer one of cosmology’s grander questions—whether the universe will end with a whimper or bang.”

Sen. Vern Ehlers (R-3rd Dist.), who chaired the physics department at Calvin College before entering public office, will introduce the first Grand Rapids program, scheduled for 10:30-11:30 a.m. in the Grand Room at the Kent ISD Educational Service Center, 2930 Knapp, N.E., in Grand Rapids. Ehlers also serves on the House Science Committee.

The free programs are sponsored by the U-M Department of Physics in partnership with the Kent Intermediate School District and the Regional Math and Science Center at Grand Valley State University.

“We’re delighted to partner with Kent ISD and Grand Valley in bringing this popular series to Grand Rapids,” says Susan Froelich, associate director of state outreach at U-M. “While this particular program makes physics real and exciting to the lay person, on a larger level, it connects people on the west side of the state with resources at U-M.”

For more information, including details on the extended series offered this fall in Ann Arbor, visit the Saturday Morning Physics Web site at http:// or contact the U-M physics department, (734) 764-4437 or the Kent ISD at (616) 364-1333.

To register, call Carol Goodrich, (616) 365-2239 by the Wednesday before each lecture.

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