Pumpkins frozen with liquid nitrogen to be dropped from St. Mark's Tower
(October 27, 2004) GENEVA, N.Y.– Anyone interested in starting off Halloween with a bang should be on the Hobart and William Smith campus at the 'witching hour.
At the stroke of midnight on Friday, Oct. 29, two pumpkins will plummet to the ground from atop St. Mark's Tower, located at the Colleges' Demarest Hall. The pumpkins, one small and one large, will be frozen in liquid nitrogen and are expected to emit an eerie green glow when they land due to the kinetic energy. With a tip of the hat to All Hallow's Eve, a strobe light will be used for dramatic effect.
The event, conducted by HWS Professor Steven Penn and Geneva High School physics teacher Greg Baker, is a reenactment of Galileo's Tower of Pisa experiment. Legend has it that Galileo dropped a ten-pound and a one-pound weight from the tower and discovered that, except for a small difference caused by air resistance, the objects fell at nearly the same speed. Before this, the Aristotelian view stated heavier objects fall faster.
Students in Penn's and Baker's classes will be on hand to witness as well as visually record the experiment. Baker is a member of the Hobart Class of 2000, and collaborates with Penn on Laser Interferometer Gravitational Wave Observatory research, a multiuniversity collaboration headed by Caltech and MIT that attempts to provide the first-ever measurement of gravity waves.
Penn, a native of New Windsor, Md., earned a bachelor of science in physics and a Ph.D. in nuclear structure physics from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). After a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of Washington, Penn joined the experimental gravitational physics group at Syracuse University.