Lifestyles of the Rich & Noble

Don’t be sooooo 12th century. Get with the times whilst also enjoying this complementary copy of Medieval Vogue! Katie designed this gorgeous little mag for a massive Robin Hood shindig my library hosted some years ago. If you’d like to browse Medieval Vogue for the newest trends in poulaines this season, here is part 1 and part 2 *. For more about the event, read on!

Robin Hood was the book du jour for Princyclopedia, an annual large-scale event that involved bringing a book to life from all sorts of angles – history, science, music, art, food, performances, live animals, you name it! Each table had either a demo, a hands-on activity, or something cool to take home. The 2-sided event map showed you all the table activities and also matched relevant book quotes or historical blurbs to them.

Medieval Vogue was a free take-home at the “Lifestyles of the Rich & Noble” table. Here, we were delighted to be joined by Rose Fox and Kim Hanley from Medieval Scenarios and Recreation.They brought TONS of clothes and costumes for kids to look at and try on, and answered questions about fashion from this time period.

At another table, we had a different take on wearables. Namely, the armor of Sir John Williams (right) and friend (left), two knights who professionally joust at Renaissance Fairs! They brought all their gear and expertise and were simply amazing.

We had a TON of other activities as well…the chemistry of alchemy, venison chili, musical performances on period instruments, live hawks, the science of stained glass, actual longbows with a kid-safe shooting range, illuminated art, the math of taxation, a big play space with multiple cardboard castles, the science of stained glass, herbal amulets, siege engines, gargoyle sculpting, nature tracking, professional stage fight demos, forest conservation, two free roving court jesters, and more! And yes…a table on all the Medieval jobs you DON’T want.

Another fantastic component of the event is that it was a food drive. Families were invited to bring can and box goods to the event to benefit the Arm in Arm food pantry (formally the Crisis Ministry of Mercer County). We donated almost 500lbs of food!

I’ll finish today’s post by sharing the literacy-based table the Princeton Public Library hosted. Since literacy was uncommon during the Middle Ages, shops typically featured pictures of their goods and/or services on their signs. So we designed a game! First, we selected a bunch of images of Medieval signs. Then, we asked kids to guess what the signs represented. Rothenburg, Germany has some fantastic signs currently in use (it being an actual historic Medieval town, wow!).

Image source Wikipedia

We also wanted kids to make a personal connection, so Katie and I photographed a few local shops. We photoshopped out any words, then asked kids to guess what the signs represented. They were tickled to recognize signs they saw everyday and make a Medieval literacy connection!


* Images used for Medieval Vogue may be subject to copyright. Please contact danas@princeton.edu if you are the author of one or more of images used here and have objection in such a use.

The Discovery Museum: A Famous Scientist Virtual Escape Room

Scientist Museum cropped

Welcome to our latest virtual escape room, this time with a scientific twist…solve the puzzles, crack the code, and learn about five famous scientists and their contributions to the world!

Ready to explore? Click here

Interested in our other virtual escape rooms, all designed by our amazing Katie? Solve a case with Sherlock Holmes here, and search for pirate’s gold here. Want to try to design your own room? You’ll find Katie’s helpful tutorial here.

Fiery Verse

fiery verseWe always love explosions here at Pop Goes the Page, but today we are going to bring you something truly unique…today, we are going to show you words as fire. Yes, FIRE!

This remarkable demonstration would not be possible without two things: 1) A Ruben’s tube, and 2) Princeton University’s Manager of Undergraduate Labs and Demonstrations, Mr. Omelan Stryzak. There’s an interview with Omelan at the end of the post, but for now, let’s get to the FIRE!

A Ruben’s tube, which was invented by German physicist Heinrich Ruben’s in 1905, is a length of tube with perforations along the top. One end of the tube is attached to a flammable gas, and the other end to a small speaker or frequency generator. Send the gas flowing through the pipe, ignite where it escapes through the perforations, and then introduce sound through the speaker. The flames will oscillate higher and lower according to the pitch of the sound or song.

Here’s “Flight of the Bumblebee,” played through the Ruben’s tube:


Of course, being the literary fans we are, we wanted to see what happens when we read into the Ruben’s tube. Wouldn’t it be cool to see words as FIRE? The short answer is yes. It is waaaaay cool to see words as fire. Here’s Jabberwocky by Lewis Carroll. Please note: I recited it all weird to get the pitch of my voice in different places.


This awesome demo was masterminded by Omelan Stryzak, Princeton University Department of Physics. Here he is, photographed in his office/magical science playground.

omelan stryzakAnd we do mean magical because look at this! An actual levitating object, just casually sitting on the edge of his desk!

Also! A secret moving wall…which technically allows equipment from Omelan’s office to be smoothly transported to the adjoining auditorium. But we couldn’t resist a turn on it.


There are a number of other way cool objects in Omelan’s realm, from plasma balls, to portraits of Archimedes, to machines that break wineglasses with excruciatingly high tones!

science lab imagesOmelan hails from Bridgewater, New Jersey, where, as a home schooled youth, he continually curb shopped for thrown out electronics (photocopiers, fax machines, etc.) to disassemble and learn from. Graduating college with a degree in Electrical and Computer Engineering, he has worked for Disney, traveled the world, and adopted a stray kitten who he aptly named “Fizzix.” He’s also a father with a young son, and self-admits a newfound skill of telling “absolutely terrible Dad jokes.”

How did you land this incredibly cool job?

I had come back to NJ from an IT job in Miami and was teaching for the “Mad Science” franchise as a break and I received a call from Princeton…apparently the Physics Department picked out my resume because I had experience with small mechanical devices and electronics (I had learned early on – ALWAYS keep your resume in circulation… you never know who might reach out…). They wanted someone to build the sensor head to the ACT (Atacama Cosmology Telescope) and I could not pass up the opportunity to add the Princeton logo to my resume…

I spent time in the cleanroom assembling parts at the heart of the telescope that were only millimeters in size and making giant cables as wide as my wrist…I even spent a few months working at the telescope in Chile on the Atacama Plateau (at the time it was the highest continuously manned telescope in the world – and it was looking for/at the beginning of the Universe!). As this very cool project was winding down, two elderly gentlemen who were doing the job I have now were retiring – I was a pretty good fit and decided to take the job. Long story short, I kind of fell into this job.

What’s your philosophy on science education?

I wish everyone were gifted with at least a little interest in science and the opportunity to explore: Applied right, it is like having an additional sense or x-ray vision applicable to every-day life. With that said, science will become increasingly more important for future generations of children and their increasingly difficult problems to solve. It should also be more of a communal education/understanding for all – fewer revered specialists or individuals to blindly follow and rely on to make critical mistakes. My part in this? I’ve always described by job as “Bringing the boring science book to life – showing concepts in the real world to aid understanding and entertain at the same time.”

Describe a typical work day:

Its definitely changed a lot with a 13 month old… ^_^

  • Wife wakes me up just before 6am as she leaves to go teach high-school….. out the door by 7:30am at the latest.
  • My Wife’s brother takes care of our Son during the day. Never thought we’d have a “manny”. ^_^
  • If the weather is good, take the bike off the back of my car and bike from the parking lot to my office.
  • Prep any last minute demo requests – Professors love to have ideas around midnight/1am and send me an email.
  • Deliver any specially requested demos to the smaller classrooms for precepts (different sections of classes where class size is smaller and students get more one-on-one time with Professors and demos)
  • Make sure the demos pulled the previous day are ready for Professorial review (basically lecture rehearsal and getting the profs familiar with the equipment – Usually I have to remind/chase down a few Professors to remind them that they need to come down to look at their demos…. Or even remind them that we have demos to reinforce a particular topic that they are teaching)
  • Make any requested modifications/create new demos that are relevant to the upcoming classes. (I’ve got carte blanche and training on all the Department’s resources – all of the machine shops (including the machines that can kill you!), stock room, laser cutter, departmental credit card…. Ohh the possibilities)
  • Setup the demos on-stage the day’s lecture(s) while being careful of scheduling (the two large lecture halls are multi-purpose – Physics classes are not the only users)
  • Run the lecture with the Professor – depending on who is lecturing my interaction can change… sometimes I’m sitting on the sidelines just in case something goes wrong, other times I’m the one describing the science and running the apparatus while the Professor waits/watches.
  • Once the lecture is over, hang around the classroom if I can for curious students who want to learn more or have trouble understanding the demo(s). Very rewarding. ^_^
  • Break everything down and return it to backstage for cleanup/storage.
  • Pull relevant demos from inventory for the coming three days for cleaning/refurbishment/lecture prep.
  • If we recorded the lecture, either edit and upload the video myself or offload the workload to a coworker.
  • If I’m home first, cook dinner and snuggle with our Son.
  • Once baby bedtime is over, a good hour on the computer is spent on emails, making technical drawings, writing code or paying bills. Surprisingly, I don’t participate with any social networking (Facebook, etc..) saves a lot of time!
  • Then the typical chores/cleaning/home maintenance before bed.

What’s your favorite science toy in the workshop?

Always a tough question! But I really do like the reactions that I get from the singing Tesla coil exploding a balloon hydrogen filled balloon….. and EVERYONE hates it when I make it sing “Let it Go”. ^_^


Wasn’t sure if I was going to include this in the post, but since Omelan DID mention singing…here’s Katie with her rendition of “You Are My Sunshine,” courtesy of sulfur hexafluoride:


SF6 is an inert, nontoxic and incombustible gas, but…DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME KIDS!