Dave Maiullo uses the magic of theater to make science fun.
His fast-paced, high-intensity show is based on hundreds of experiments presented at physics conferences and in classrooms across the country.
A 1983 graduate of Rutgers University, N.J., with a bachelor’s of science in physics, Maiullo who will be performing Saturday night at the Flying Monkey Movie House and Performance Center in Plymouth, uses a variety of everyday objects to reveal the laws of nature in a highly entertaining way. Where else are you going to see a pickle turned into a light bulb? Or see a pingpong ball propelled at such speed as to pierce a trio of soda cans like a bullet?
That Physics Show attracts people of all ages, and Maiullo said the most rewarding part of his job is witnessing the audience’s reaction to having a front-row seat to see how the universe behaves. As he explains, “Physics is the Supreme Court of the sciences.” It determines the laws of the universe, and chemistry and biology have no choice but to fall into line. And since physics is often accompanied by pyrotechnics, the 90-minute show will have the audience witnessing electricity (controlled), explosions (minor) and flames (contained).
Segments touch on motion, vacuum, friction, energy, density, momentum, sound waves and vibrations, light waves and temperature.
Maiullo uses everyday objects to de-mystify a subject that often causes considerable head-scratching and glazed eyes among students and adults alike.
“Everyone knows what a sponge or a hammer is. It makes the science behind it that much more digestible,” he said. “Physics allows us to expose the things all around us that we don’t normally see.”
Maiullo vividly recalls a childhood experience in which he was bitten by the science bug while peering with his dad through a telescope in the backyard of his native New Jersey home and spotting the rings of Saturn.
“I knew I wanted to be a physicist since I was 10 years old,” said Maiullo, who now lives in Piscataway, N.J.
After graduating from Rutgers, he joined a grant-funded team that went to Japan to build a super particle accelerator in search of top quark – among the building blocks of protons and neutrons.
“We didn’t find it. We were searching too high,” Maiullo said.
When he returned to to the States, he started doing physics demonstrations for his alma mater, and began perfecting his delivery and his showmanship.
He has just completed his 500th Off-Broadway performance in Manhattan, and won the 2016 Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience.
He credits the chance to hone his presentation skills with television appearances on the Weather Channel, National Geographic and Live with Kelly Ripa.
“People get tripped up by the equations. It’s really what is all around you, the beauty of the universe,” Maiullo said.