Making Physics Fun

Explore the motion of satellites, charges, light and empty space! Be fascinated by molecular motors, black holes and the beauty of nature! Prof SOW Chorng Haur, Head, Physics Department, explains how he uses intruiging demonstrations to bring physics to life for students.

What inspired you to develop science demonstrations?

When the Physics Demonstration Laboratory was set up in 2002, its initial intent was to illustrate that science is fun to students from all levels. Soon we realised that this platform was extremely useful for engaging teaching, which enables students to better relate to physics.


Prof Sow realised science demonstrations are a great way to engage students


How do youths benefit from the demonstrations?  

Science demonstrations provide visually appealing and thought-provoking stimuli to promote a spirit of enquiry and interactive teacher-student exchange. This helps students grasp underlying scientific concepts, or spot and correct misconceptions. The demonstrations also add reality to concept formation and the application of principles. I believe in synergising hands-on-minds-on learning and classroom activities to complement demonstrations. This maximises student participation. There is nothing more rewarding than inspiring the next generation of scientists.


Prof Sow’s demonstrations never fail to grab and sustain students’ attention


What are some of your most interesting demonstrations?

We have many demonstrations! The list includes magnetic levitation of a superconductor on a magnetic track; fascinating and complex laser light patterns formed by a laser beam reflected off a mirror on a membrane that can be controlled by sound; a Cartesian diver which has a chilli pack inside a bottle of water that sinks when it is squeezed; beautiful patterns formed when a piece of plastic is sandwiched between a polarising film; and many more!


Prof Sow’s mind-blowing demonstration on the magnetic levitation of a superconductor on a magnetic track



Prof Sow demonstrating how interesting laser light patterns can be formed by a laser beam reflected off a mirror on a membrane controlled by sound



The Cartesian diver demonstration shows a chilli pack sinking inside a bottle of water which is squeezed


How are science communication skills passed down to students?

We present interesting phenomenon to viewers and invite them to propose reasonable and logical explanations on what they see. We guide them along when they formulate their proposed model. In this way, they undergo a process of discovery and take ownership of their own model. To enable our undergraduate students to develop science communication skills, the Faculty set up the Young Educators in Science (YES) programme where members explore and share their teaching and scientific communication experiences and discoveries. YES is a very rewarding and enriching programme which truly supports what Aristotle said: “Teaching is the highest form of understanding”.  

Are you planning new demonstrations?

We recently put up an interactive science demonstration in our department. When people walk pass the corridor, they will be piqued by the presence of three bottles (Cartesian Divers) displayed on the notice board. Many stop and try the demonstration. It is very gratifying to hear their exclamations of surprise when they discover how the demonstration works. You can lift the flap and find an explanatory note on the poster board to understand the science behind it. This is a science demonstration without the demonstrator!


Click here to view some of Prof Sow’s interesting science demonstrations