NIU STEM Café to host 'The Physics of the Olympics'


DEKALB – On Wednesday, July 14, two Northern Illinois University physics professors will discuss the physics of the summer Olympics at an online STEM Café.

The online STEM Café begins at 6 p.m. and is free and open to the public. Registration and more information at

“There’s a huge amount of interesting physics and science that will take place during the summer Olympics,” Associate Professor Jahred Adelman said. “It can all be understood without using any complicated mathematics, and in most cases, without any math at all.”

According to Adelman, the basic concepts of Newton’s Laws, conservation of energy and conservation of momentum can explain what happens when a diver jumps off the platform, when a gymnast pushes off the vault or when a soccer player kicks the ball.

“Thinking about sports from the perspective of a physicist can lead to surprising insights,” Adelman said.

Adelman, a particle physicist whose research focuses on the Higgs boson and particle accelerator technologies, will be joined by fellow particle physicist Professor Mike Eads.

While both professors focus much of their research on understanding matter and energy at the tiniest, subatomic level, Adelman says particle physics nonetheless has a foundation in older descriptions of the mechanics of larger objects.

“The physical laws describing everything taking place in Tokyo 2021 are no different from those that explain everyday life, from driving a car to walking to work to taking the train,” Adelman said. “But their everyday nature makes these laws anything but routine. The more we understand these rules, the more extraordinary and special they become. People may not know it, but they are already physicists! We all intuitively understand and use Newton’s Laws without even realizing it.”

Adelman and Eads share a love of sport, and they relish the chance to apply knowledge of physics to the sports we all love.

“Thankfully, being good at a sport is not a requirement for understanding it,” Adelman said.

NIU STEM Cafés are part of NIU STEAM and are designed to increase public awareness of the critical role that STEM fields play in our everyday lives. They are supported by Bayer Fund and Thermo Fisher Scientific. For more information, visit or contact Judith Dymond, Ed.D., at 815-753-4751 or