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Parabolic Pumpkins

The fifth annual Pumpkin Drop demonstrates that gravity still rules

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In the video above, what went up surely came down, meaning a few dozen pumpkins. Photo by Vernon Doucette

On October 30, the College of Arts & Sciences physics department hosted its 5th annual Pumpkin Drop, causing an orange mess, providing entertainment, and maintaining tradition.

The ritual involves dropping more than 30 pumpkins filled with substances from pudding to paint from the roof of the Metcalf Science Center onto the plaza 70 feet below. It’s also an educational lesson in parabolic trajectory and gravitation.

Physics research associate Elly Huang correctly guessed the weight of the largest pumpkin dropped at 66 pounds; its guts and shards were flung more than 40 feet from where it landed.

Getting a start on weekend plans, students and staff also competed for best Halloween costume. First place was awarded to Jason St. John (GRS’11), who appeared as “the doctor.” Second prize went to Andrea Welsh (CAS’11), who dressed as Michael the Archangel, with feathered white wings. Third prize was split between Adam Avakian (GRS’14) as inventor Nikola Tesla and Caesar (the dog) as a miniature chariot.

“We’ve studied numerous principles, such as Galileo’s experiment of dropping large and small mass objects, seeing how they fall in the same parabolic trajectory,” said William Skocpol, a CAS professor of physics.

“This year, the smashing of all these materials provided some interesting studies in materials physics,” he said, “and it looked like we discovered a room temperature, superconducting material” — also known as baking soda and water combined with pumpkin mush.

Pumpkin pushing device in hand, Skocpol announced, “It’s been another successful implementation of this tradition, and I hope it goes on until I can pass the pusher onto someone else.”

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

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2 Comments

2 Comments on Parabolic Pumpkins

  • Anonymous on 11.03.2009 at 1:48 pm

    Where’s the picture of Caesar?

  • Anonymous on 11.17.2009 at 10:50 am

    who cleaned up the mess??

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