Physics Fans Get Chance to Win World’s Smallest Trophy

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

The contest is an APS public outreach effort to get football fans interested in physics. Participants in the contest must create short YouTube videos demonstrating some aspect of physics in football. The winner will receive the trophy and $1,000.

The football field and helmet trophy will be about 1,000 times thinner than a strand of human hair, barely visible to the naked eye. Two smaller versions of the trophy will be embedded within the largest one.

The tiny plaque will be mounted on a stand, and the winner will receive micrographs that show the design through an electron microscope.

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

To win the trophy and cash, contestants must submit a video about two minutes in length that demonstrates an 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 mention 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 videos, contestants should upload them to YouTube with the tag “nanobowl” and send an email to The film deadline is Super Bowl Sunday, Feb. 3. For more details and contest rules, see PhysicsCentral is the APS Web site for outreach to the public.

APS encourages the redistribution of the materials included in this newspaper provided that attribution to the source is noted and the materials are not truncated or changed.

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