Physics faculty member assists Weather Channel show
Demonstrating physics concepts to make a living and receive recognition is an opportunity for those with the insight to make physics visually appealing and conceptually simple.
David Maiullo, a laboratory support specialist in the Department of Physics, spent a week during this winter break filming demonstrations for The Weather Channel’s second season of “The Strangest Weather on Earth.”
His demonstrations describe strange weather phenomena that occur in the world. He said he considers many of the demonstrations to be visually striking and engaging.
The team filmed at the Physics Lecture Hall on Busch Campus with British television production company Pioneer Productions, Maiullo said.
According to their website, the company had also filmed for other The Weather Channel shows such as “Deadliest Tornadoes” and “Lost at Sea.”
Kate Dart, a series director in Pioneer Productions, said the show illustrates the scientific principles behind strange weather phenomena.
Their role is to ask scientists to create easy-to-understand demonstrations of exciting weather phenomena, she said.
“[Maiullo’s] role in filming is to create fantastic weather chaos for us,” she said.
Ashley Gandham, an assistant to Maiullo, said the most worthwhile part about contributing to the show is how accessible it makes the concepts of physics.
“You don’t have to be a nuclear physicist or rocket scientist to understand physics,” said Gandham, a School of Arts and Sciences senior. “What I love is that David explains it in a way that the average everyday viewer can see.”
The film experience was especially enriching for her because of Maiullo’s tendency to give everyone a chance to weigh in on brainstorming, she said.
“We were doing bioluminescence of underwater creatures, and I had already studied about that during my time at a lab,” she said. “He had a director talk to me about it, which was a good experience.”
Amongst the demonstrations they did, a more memorable one involved a 55-gallon drum of water and a bottle of liquid nitrogen, she said. Immersing the bottle of liquid nitrogen in the drum of water resulted in a large explosion that was a blast for the filming crew.
“Anything we try here you generally shouldn’t try at home, but it still drives the point home,” she said. “Dave has a book filled with physics demos that you can try safely at home.”
Maiullo considers the demonstrations to be considerably do-it-yourself, but a wide variety of apparatus are necessary — nobody sports a spare 55-gallon drum in their basement.
He also considers the filming to be a good extension of the types of projects he gets involved in.
Every year, Maiullo goes to about 40 schools and gives physics lectures similar to the “Rutgers Faraday Christmas Children’s Lecture” series that he hosts here at the University. He said lectures like these aim to reach all ages and show physics in a fun, easy manner.
“That’s one of the ways [the producers of these shows] found me,” he said. “My name is all over the place for these physics demonstrations. I’m one of the lucky people in the world that gets to make a living playing with toys.”
Maiullo said this is about his seventh show. He also contributed to shows such as “Humanly Impossible: Beyond Bizzare,” “Hell Roads” and “Dark Matters: Twisted But True.”
“The first season [of Strangest Weather] rated well, so we’re making more content this time around,” she said. “Each episode features 10 or 12 stories and each story begins with a piece of user-generated content — this content is usually something you see uploaded on YouTube.”
The first season included explanations of interesting phenomena, such as the infamous “double rainbow” and of mammatus clouds — the cloud formations that draped New York skies in 2009.
Dart said the second season of “The Strangest Weather on Earth” is going to be 8 episodes long, with episodes airing at one hour each. It is expected to air sometime during the fall of 2014.