Every year, countless pumpkins become silent victims to knife-wielding humans, who are inexplicably inspired to carve cute smiley faces into them. Physics students are a bit more sadistic than ordinary people, however. Not content to just chop and splatter these pumpkins, they drop and shatter them with the help of some liquid nitrogen and a few flights of stairs.
Last Friday afternoon, the Society of Physics Students organized a pumpkin drop event that promised not only exploding pumpkins, but also a generous variety of free baked goods and apple cider.
The pumpkin drop itself is arguably a testament to Isaac Newton, but the event also goes conveniently well with a gastronomic appreciation of the illustrious Cucurbita mixta.
“You test the theory of gravity by throwing pumpkins off a roof,” explained Tom S. Rice ’12, vice president of SPS. “The 12 pies we get to eat are also a huge draw for holding this event, though.”
About 50 to 60 students arrived at the Jefferson Building to observe the spectacle, near which a large plastic tarp was laid out on the ground.
While the first frozen pumpkin missed its mark (at an acceleration rate of 9.81 m/s^2, of course) and found its end just short of the tarp, the slew of pumpkins that followed exploded right on target.
Pumpkins frozen in liquid nitrogen were the event’s crowd pleasers, bursting upon impact with a satisfying “pop” into hundreds of still-smoking shards, unlike the room-temperature pumpkins, which splattered or split into halves.
To mark the event’s conclusion, Vijay Jain ’11 announced a final experiment, displaying two pumpkins of varying sizes to test if they would hit the ground at the same time.
“Modern-day Galileo, are we?” said Nikko S.S. Pomata ’13.
Unfortunately, the experiment failed to corroborate Newton’s theories when the pumpkins landed at different times, but nobody seemed to mind.
“I think it turned out better this year than last year,” said Joanna F. Behrman ’13, who organized the event.
“Pies, cakes, cider, spectacular explosions—it was a smashing success!”
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