There are many people who have an interest in physics beyond just physics professors and physics students. I have attempted to bring the joys of physics to a wider range of people, who typically aren't in a physics or research environment.
Falling Through the Earth
If a tunnel were drilled through the Earth and you jumped in, how long would it take to reach the other side? Physicists have thought about this since the time of Galileo, and gravity tunnels appear in the movie Total Recall and the book The Stone Sky. With high-school-level physics, you can figure out it would take 38 minutes. With more nuanced university-level physics, you can determine it would take 42 minutes. I analyzed the interior of the Earth as it's known from seismic data and concluded that it would take closer to 38 minutes, as predicted by high school physics. My paper in the American Journal of Physics was featured in the news worldwide and I appeared on NPR and the (Canadian) Discovery Channel talking about it. Since then there has been a resurgence in tunnel-through-the-Earth research, incorporating rotation, relativity, friction, etc.
A subset of links:
I have volunteered for the Skype-a-Scientist program, where I spoke to a group of students associated with the Montclair Public Library about knots in DNA. If you are a teacher interested in having a scientist speak to your class, check them out: Skype-a-Scientist.
There are many silly and juvenile questions to which serious scientific thought can be applied. I have answered a few of these for MEL Magazine and the affiliated Dollar Shave Club blog. A theme is apparent in the following titles, but there is no reason to prevent someone from learning physics just because they ask a silly question.
- A Biophysicist Explains How Ant-Man Could Kill Thanos From Inside His Butt (allometric scaling of material properties)
- I Have No choice but to Answer This Reader Question About a Coworker Who Pees on the Floor (fluid dynamics capillary breakup and the critical Weber number)
- How Far Down Do You Have to Roll the Window to Get a Fart out of Your Car? (the Bernoulli principle)
- Does Waving Your Hands About Actually Make a Bad Smell Go Away? (diffusion-advection processes)
- How to Make the Most of a Paper Towel (diffusion, capillarity, and saturation)
I have written many articles about science, mostly aimed at those who have an interest in physics but not necessarily a complete education in it. These include stories of my path towards becoming a physicist, general expository articles, and summaries of recent scientific papers. These are mainly located on my now-defunct blog and the Insights Section of PhysicsForums.com. I have also written for the Bulletin of the Materials Research Society, and the website SoftBites.