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Physics Phun returns to PCC next week

Bruce Bayly lies on a bed of 400 nails at a past Physics Phun Night

Bruce Bayly lies on a bed of 400 nails at a past Physics Phun Night

There are three words Tony Pitucco doesn’t want to hear when he’s lying on a bed of 400 nails: Do it again.

“Kids always shout ‘Do it again!’ but you really don’t want to do that one again,” said Pitucco, laughing. “You only want to lay on nails once a year.”

Pitucco is the man behind Pima Community College’s annual Physics Phun Night, which is in its 13th year of showing that science is fun.

The show will begin at 6 p.m. Friday at PCC’s West Campus, 2202 W. Anklam Road, in the Center For the Arts Proscenium Theatre.

The Pima show is an offshoot of a similar family-friendly physics function offered by the University of Arizona each fall.

“The things we do are rather remarkable because they are outside of common sense,” said Pitucco, chair of the physics department at PCC’s West Campus. “We have a bunch of standby experiments with liquid nitrogen, lasers, aerodynamics and the kids really get into it.”

About three years ago, Pitucco and Bruce Bayly, a UA mathematics professor and Pitucco’s partner in physics crime, decided to put the experiments into skits. The skits feature Pitucco, Bayly and a Raytheon engineer who was once Pitucco’s student at Pima.

“There’s an evil scientist, of course, and a good scientist and this year it will be pirates that are going from one island to another trying to solve the mystery,” Pitucco said. “We’re extremely bad actors, but we have no embarrassment and no shame at all.”

This year’s show – titled “The Pirates of PCC” – will also have extra experiments and demonstrations in the campus’ parking lot, courtesy of the Physics Factory Bus.

“Some of the experiments we can’t do in the auditorium because of fire and things,” Pitucco said.

The purpose of the annual event is to engage students in science and to explain that while science can be hard, it’s also really fun, said Pitucco.

“We want kids to see scientists having fun,” he said. “And it works because after the show you can’t stop them from storming the stage with questions. You can keep them there until almost midnight.”

People attending Friday’s Physics Phun Night will have the opportunity to ride a hovercraft, see liquid nitrogen freeze flowers or tennis balls and, of course, see the bed of 400 nails.

Pitucco said he and Bayly take turns lying on the bed, which demonstrates how pressure is distributed across an area. Another bed of nails is placed on the person’s chest. A brick is placed on the top bed and a Pima student is asked to break the brick with a mallet.

“If there was just one nail, it would be bad, but with a lot, it isn’t painless, but it is distributed,” Pitucco said. “Still, you don’t want to do it more than once a year.”

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