Big Top Physics
Photo by Donna Hammer/Inset Photo by Stephen G. Benka

APS led a team of six societies to create the "Big Top Physics" spectacular as part of the USA Science and Engineering Festival, which filled the big exhibit halls in the Washington, DC Convention Center from April 27 to 29. Long lines of children and adults alike waited to see the demonstrations inside the big red tent, while outside additional attractions kept them intrigued.

One of the most popular was the bed of nails, which came in two pieces, a "mattress" with over 3000 nails, and a smaller "blanket" with over 1500. In the larger photo, APS Head of Public Outreach Rebecca Thompson lies on the bed of nails (lower left), while Bo Hammer of the American Institute of Physics (right) lifts one of the spectators on top of the blanket. In the inset, Thompson shows more graphically what's involved in being the filling in a bed-of-nails sandwich. This demonstration was performed many times a day (only by the staff, not the attendees), and no one was hurt.