Florida Tech Physics Takes On Homecoming Parade

(Pictured: SPS/SEDS members at the homecoming parade 2013. Left to right: Kim Walton, Chris Bahr, Brooke Adams, John Bohanon, Ari Fainstain, and Laurence Tognetti)

From a very young age, I could be found singing “We’re off to see the Wizard” or quoting “Lions, tigers, and bears – oh my!” Even people who don’t watch The Wizard of Oz have heard these things before and know what they are referencing – the show is a classic and the first movie to use color! But when I heard Florida Tech’s Homecoming theme was “There’s No Place Like Homecoming,” I was a bit dismayed. How on earth were we going to relate physics to The Wizard of Oz in order to participate in the parade, like Society of Physics Students/Students for the Exploration and Development of Space (or SPS/SEDS) does every year?

For a while, we considered just doing whatever we wanted and forgetting about the theme, but I always feels that isn’t very spirit-like. So I started thinking through all the songs in the movie and if there was anything, even remotely, we could twist to our advantage. The first obvious thing was the giant twister that puts the whole story into action – how much more physics-y can you get, right? But I could not think of a way to incorporate it into a parade. Then I remembered the end, how the scarecrow gets a diploma. Since a diploma is why we are all going to college in the first place, it felt very fitting. And then thinking of the scarecrow, the song hit me: “If I Only Had a Brain.” We in the Florida Tech Physics Department always discuss how demanding we feel our classes are and how after studying we feel absolutely brain-dead, so the catch phrase pictured above, “Physics: If I Only Had a Brain,” was born.

The gist of the presentation was that Kim and I dressed as Dorothy and the Wicked Witch sat on the back of the “physics car” holding a brain out to the scarecrows, played by Chris and John, and accompanied by the tin man for moral support, played by Ari. The scarecrows and tin man walked behind the car trying to “catch” us! In reality, this was not too difficult, of course, since parades tend to go under 5 miles per hour, but I think it still got the idea across. We also covered the car in various physics equations to prove our point, ranging from more simple and widely known ones like E=mc2 (Einstein’s famous equation relating energy and mass) to a little more complicated ones such as ᴪ2 = (Aei(kx-ω))2 (the solution to the Schrodinger equation for a free particle, showing the particle has wave qualities and is restricted to only one direction; squaring it as shown gives the probability density; this is the probability of actually finding the particle).

Due to sitting on the back of the car the entire parade, I didn’t get to see many of the other entries, although I could not help but notice the baseball team’s awesome giant Emerald City score board! It was a great time for the various clubs of Florida Tech to come together in support of homecoming week. When people saw our car drive by, they would smile or even laugh a little and shake their heads, the exact reaction I was going for. I try not to pass up an opportunity to make people smile, even if it is something as simple as “If I Only Had a Brain”!

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