APS News

Physics Fans Get Chance to Win World's Smallest Trophy

A nanoscale football field and helmet, created in silicon and metal by physicists of the Craighead research group at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY, will be awarded as a prize in APS’s football video contest.

The contest is an APS public outreach effort to get football fans interested in physics. Participants in the contest will create short YouTube videos demonstrating some aspect of physics in football. The winner will receive the trophy and $1000.

In the nanoscale trophy, the width of the yard lines will be about a thousand times thinner than a strand of human hair. This design will be embedded in a more detailed microscale design, visible using an ordinary optical microscope. Even this version is embedded in an identical design on the scale of millimeters, so it will be visible to the naked eye. The tiny plaque will be mounted on a stand, and the winner will receive micrographs that show the design through an electron microscope as well.

Craighead’s lab, also responsible for the world’s smallest guitar in 1997, is known for their nanoscale fabrication. To create the trophy, they will use atom and photo lithography, engraving the tiny pattern by exposing the material to beams of atoms or light, respectively. For the larger image, they will use ordinary etching methods.

To win the trophy and cash, contestants must submit a video around two minutes in length that demonstrates some aspect of physics in football. Contestants can break down the forces in some footage of their favorite high school, college, or NFL team. Or they can get together with friends or family to film an experiment relevant to the game and its equipment. Videos could talk about air pressure inside the ball, the rotation of a spiral, the impact of tackle, or acceleration in a breakaway touchdown run. Other creative approaches are welcome.

To submit a video, contestants should upload it to YouTube with the tag “nanobowl” and send an email to physicscentral@aps.org. The film deadline is January 15, 2008. The winner will be announced on Super Bowl Sunday, February 3, 3008. For more details and contest rules, see www.physicscentral.com/nanobowl.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Contributing Editor: Jennifer Ouellette
Staff Writer: Ernie Tretkoff