English students re-enact 400-year-old Galilean experiment

September 26 2007

On its 400th anniversary -- give or take a few years -- English students at Indiana State University will authentically re-enact the famous “rate of a naturally falling sphere” experiment in which Galileo proved that acceleration is constant, no matter how steep the incline.

The re-enactment will take place from 1-1:50 p.m. this Friday (Sept. 28) in the courtyard of Root Hall (facing the auditorium of Zorah Shrine) near Seventh Street on ISU’s campus.

The demonstration, which will be performed several times by teams of students, will involve rolling a polished agate sphere down three inclined slopes, using water as a form of measurement.

Why are English students performing the experiment -- As part of their 400-level Renaissance Literature and Culture class, this exercise is bringing together several concepts for them, according to their professor Tom Derrick.

“My class of about 25 students has been working in teams to prepare for this authentic Renaissance-age scientific experiment,” Derrick said. “Although this is an English class, at the 400 level, we want the students to grasp the richness of the age, not just its literature, so this exercise brings together the literary form of the treatise with two- and three-dimensional art; science and self-awareness; and history.”

Uwe Hansen, retired professor from ISU’s physics department, will help the students with their calculations and will be making more complicated calculations of the acceleration, based on the students’ data.

In case of rain, the demonstration will take place in Root Hall in the hallway outside the foreign languages department.

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CONTACT: Tom Derrick, professor of English, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3138 or tderrick@isugw.indstate.edu

WRITER: Katie Spanuello, media relations assistant director, Indiana State University, (812) 237-3790 or kspanuello@isugw.indstate.edu

Indiana State University news: www.indstate.edu/news

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Story Highlights

On its 400th anniversary, English students of professor Tom Derrick will authentically re-enact the famous "rate of a naturally falling sphere" experiment by Galileo as part of their Renaissance Literature and Culture class.

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