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Starts With A Bang

Weekend Diversion: Spook-tacular Science Pumpkins

Carve these frighteningly costumed versions of Einstein, Curie and other famous physicists thanks to Fermilab!

“It’s said that All Hallows’ Eve is one of the nights when the veil between the worlds is thin — and whether you believe in such things or not, those roaming spirits probably believe in you, or at least acknowledge your existence, considering that it used to be their own.” –Erin Morgenstern

All Hallows’ Eve is a special time of the year, where everyone who wants in can transform themselves into anyone or anything else they’d like to be for the day. Have a listen to a fear-inducing song by Laura Marling, her bone-rattling Night Terror,

while you consider that there’s a unique artform that comes about every Halloween, whether you participate or not: pumpkin decorating!

Image credit: The Merrythought, via Design*Sponge.

I’ve seen lots of clever (and nerdy) takes on this, from drill-and-light based constellation pumpkins (H/T, Startorialist)…

Image credit: “Pumpktris” by Nathan Pryor at

to programmable, computerized versions of Tetris, with many, many other creative projects that turn your pumpkin into pretty much whatever you want.

But these are often labor-intensive as well as research intensive, if you want to do it right. Luckily, Fermilab has come to the rescue this year, providing a unique, fun-filled and easy way to get your science on with pumpkins this Halloween.

Image credit: Reidar Hahn, Fermilab with Sandbox Studio, Chicago.

Many great scientists have long since departed this world, yet their groundbreaking science remains behind. How delightful, to celebrate their lives and achievements, by carving a pumpkin with one of your favorite science heroes dressed in a pun-filled costume?

Image credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead.

There’s “Mummy Noether,” celebrating the great Emmy Noether’s achievement of deriving the most important relation in mathematical physics ever: that for every fundamental symmetry a theory possesses, there’s also a conserved quantity associated with it. Laws like the conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum come from this, as well as our understanding of particle properties at a quantum level.

Amazing how more than a century after her work, all of it still applies!

Image credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead.

There’s “Dirac-ula,” based on Paul Dirac, whose achievements included the Dirac equation, which was the first relativistic quantum mechanical equation to accurately describe real particles (like electrons) and their behavior, regardless of their speed. Dirac also predicted the existence of antimatter (hence the “positron bats” on the pumpkin) among many other great achievements.

Image credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead.

There’s “Werewolf-gang Pauli,” who discovered the famed Pauli exclusion principle, which states that no two identical quantum fermions (one of the two main types of particle) can occupy the same quantum state. This explains the electron structure around atoms, how particles pair together in superconducting circuits, how white dwarfs hold themselves up against gravity and more. The “up/down” symbol next to the costumed Pauli showcase how all spin-1/2 fermions can be either spin up or spin down, meaning that you can have two in any given quantum state (one with spin +1/2, one with -1/2) but no more.

Image credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead.

Oh, Marie Curie, what has radiation poisoning done to you? According to Symmetry Magazine, it’s turned you into “Scary Curie,” as your achievements of discovering the nature of radioactivity and elemental transmutation, as well as a number of new periodic table elements (like Radium) are alluded to with the “radiation” symbol on your (miniature) witch’s hat.

Travel the Universe with astrophysicist Ethan Siegel. Subscribers will get the newsletter every Saturday. All aboard!

But the best pun is saved for the most famous scientists of all…

Image credit: Sandbox Studio, Chicago with Kimberly Boustead.

“Frank-Einstein!” Albert Einstein, discoverer of special relativity, general relativity, brownian motion, the photoelectric effect and E=mc^2, among others, gets some dramatic neck-bolts and an enlarged forehead to become the Frankenstein monster!

All of these are amazing, and in order to place them on your pumpkin, simply download the appropriate template:

digitally resize it to fit your pumpkin, print it out, trace, and carve! And with that, Halloween will never be the same!

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