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Campus Life + Science & Tech

Smashing Pumpkins

Physicists toss gourds, test velocity, make a mess


On Halloween, the College of Arts and Sciences physics departmenthosted its third annual Pumpkin Drop at the Metcalf Science Center. Thetradition, which involves dropping pumpkinsfilled with substances from popcorn to paint onto Metcalf Plaza — 70feet below — is both a promotional and an educational tool, accordingto department chair Bennett Goldberg, a CAS professor of physics.“We’re interested in exciting the community about physics and seeinggravitation in action,” he says. “Additionally, we have recorded themotion of each pumpkin as it fell, demonstrating that it falls at aparabolic trajectory. So there is a learning element for the students.”

JuliaElder, the department’s undergraduate program coordinator, enlisted thehelp of her parents, who drove up from western Pennsylvania with morethan 35 pumpkins,including one that weighed 373 pounds. Some were carved and filled withingredients such as baby powder and whipped cream. The gourds filledwith paint were the first ones tossed off the roof, aimed towards acanvas on the plaza — the resulting painting will be displayed in thephysics office.

Physics major Chad Madsen (CAS’09) watched thespectacle from the ground. “I think right now we’ve been doing whateveryone has been wanting to do as a physics major, which is prettymuch destroy and show their supremacy over nature,” he joked. “We’llpretty much have a good hold over that when we drop a few pumpkins and show that we mean business!”

Robin Berghaus can be reached at berghaus@bu.edu.

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