Science professor bubbly over 'fizz'-ics
July 7, 1999
From Correspondent Marsha Walton
ATLANTA (CNN) -- Few physicists probably have as much fun as Sidney Perkowitz. But most of them aren't able to use beer as a teaching tool.
A professor at Emory University in Atlanta, Perkowitz specializes in the "fizz" in physics, the study of foam, which includes such disparate items as champagne and shaving cream.
"When you look at how it behaves, it doesn't quite behave like a liquid or like a gas or like a solid," he said. "It is something a little bit different."
Foam pops up in many forms in everyday life, from whipped cream to packing peanuts. It also takes on a more heavenly shape.
"It really seems clear on the biggest scale we can think of, the universe to some extent looks like a head of beer," he says.
With sparkling wine and tasty meringue on the class menu, Perkowitz's lectures are popular even with non-scientists.
"How many of you are physicists?" the professor asks. Few hands go up.
"How many of you are just regular people?" The opposite reaction takes place.
Intriguing classroom examples help explain the popularity of Perkowitz. One day, for example, he lectures on a high-tech foam called aero-gel, taken aloft on a NASA space shuttle to capture remnants of a comet.
"It is really kind of a solid foam," he said. "Just the kind of thing to stop these fast moving comet particles and bring them back to Earth.
One student gives another explanation:
"It was actually fun. The topic was fun, but he made it fun and very informative."
Professorship funded in honor of Edward Teller
Andrea Liu: Physics of Foam
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