Hands-On Research

Sponsored by The Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP, Trieste, Italy)

Founding Directors: Rajarshi Roy, Kenneth Showalter, and Harry L. Swinney

Professors Lao-Wai (=foreigners) Performing "Bricks Break on Body" at Shanghai Jiao Tong University

Professor Harry L. Swinney claimed, one can perform "Bricks Break on Body" no matter how small and thin he/she is!

"Bricks Break on Body" was originally a traditional acrobatics and Kungfu performance in China. But today at Shanghai Jiao Tong University (SJTU), Professors Lao-Wai made it as a scientific experiment. Professor Harry Swinney (from Univ. of Texas at Austin, U.S.) seemed to be unprepared and surprised to be "invited" by Professor Michael Schatz (from Georgia Institute of Technology, U.S.) and students to do this experiment together on the stage. Harry was asked to lie down on the floor. Regardless of the fact that Harry is thin and small, Michael was extremely cruel and merciless to add 8 concretes (totally more than 70 kilograms) on Harry's body! Michael lifted and hit his hammer on the concretes without any hesitation. The concretes were immediately broken into pieces without surprise. Harry didn't make a movement for a few seconds, but suddenly stood up with unharmed! (He was just feigning death to protest against Michael's behavior.) This kinds of phenomena are surprising to people, but there are simple physical principles behind. This performance is part of the scientific demonstrations in the 4th Hands-On Research in Complex Systems School.

The hands-on school this year is held at SJTU, and sponsored by Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP), SJTU, and the U.S. National Science Foundation. There are professors and students from almost 20 countries working together for 2 weeks on hands-on experiments and lectures. The hands-on school is intended to advance the experimental physical research in developing countries. There are 17 professors from famous universities in U.S., China, and Europe building 12 experimental set-ups to teach students on how to do hands-on experiments. Professor He-peng Zhang, one of the main organizers and members of the organizing committee of this school, said "Fantastic results can be obtained in only 2-3 hours, and the experiments' cost is pretty low. The experience at this hands-on school should spark the students' interest on science. A lot of involved students told me that they will continue these kinds of research after they go back to their countries. This shall have a huge significance on the development of experimental physics in developing countries".

1 July 2012, DongFang Daily Newspaper. News by Xiaorong Han and Yue Zhao, and picture by Mengzhe Chen.

English translation by Likun Zhang at Univ. of Texas at Austin.