Physics Force History

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the original physics force

From left: Jon, Hank, Dan (front) and Jack

Phil Johnson, director of the physics demonstration department at the University of Minnesota, recruited the four original members, Jon, Hank, Jack and Dan to start "The Force'' in 1984. This group began building demonstrations and refining programs designed to be both entertaining and educational. Over the next few years, six unique programs were developed around heat, optics and waves, fluid, mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Each show explored a physics topic from the simple to the complex, in little over an hour, using thirty to thirty-five selected physics demonstrations.

Phil Johnson

Phil Johnson

In the early years Phil acted as fundraiser, promoter, producer, director, equipment expert, and back stage coordinator. Interest grew, word spread about the fun, and The Force began to fulfill its mission. Their "bigger is better" style began to take shape. Why implode a pop can when a 55-gallon drum is available? Why shoot down a pretend monkey when it's possible to drop a live person from a tower 20 feet high? Their flair for the dramatic demonstrations grew, delighting children of all ages. Science teachers and their students were fascinated, as were those who knew a little about physics.

Fred and Aaron

Fred (left) and Aaron (right)

In May of 1995, Phil Johnson died unexpectedly. Losing Phil's leadership, hard work, and talent was difficult for The Force. Fred Orsted and Aaron Pinski, Physics teachers in Osseo and Bloomington school districts, joined the team to help keep the program alive. Recently, Jay Dornfeld, a physics teacher at Armstrong High School, came on board to bolster the effort. With their help, The Force has moved forward and today performs for 30 to 40 thousand people each year. Over the last two decades, The Force has been featured on Newton's Apple, performed at the Minnesota State Fair, Disney World's Epcot Center, and has traveled three times to Germany as guests of the Knoff Hoff television program.


Jon with a balloon

Jon with a balloon.

Jack and plunger

Jack with a plunger.