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Circus Physics

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The Big Apple Circus' jugglers, clowns and high-flying acrobats provide an entertaining and engaging way to introduce basic physics concepts to high school students. Eight videos feature footage from the series and interviews with the performers to illustrate the laws of physics at work. For deeper exploration, each video has  a corresponding Study Guide for students and an Activity Guide for teachers, as well as raw video clips of performances which can be used for analysis in the classroom.

Circus Physics Videos and Study Guides

These eight short videos use circus performers and footage to introduce basic physics concepts to anyone interested in physics, as well as high school students. The videos are accompanied by Study Guides, which expand upon the topics introduced in the videos. Your students can visit these pages for independent study or as an introduction to the classroom activities outlined in the Activity Guides.



Projectile Motion

Jugglers know that if you throw a ball into the air it will follow a curved path. Find out why.

Newton's Laws of Motion

Watch Luciano and his puppies jump, slide, and wrestle according to Newton’s Laws of Motion.

Centripetal Acceleration

Trick riders depend on horses that can run in circles without getting tired.

Conservation of Energy

Death-defying stunts on the Russian Barre would be impossible without conservation of energy.


For Teachers: Activity Guides

In these Activity Guides you will  find tips for incorporating the Circus Physics videos into instruction as well as related activities to help illustrate and apply the concepts in your classroom.

Projectile Motion

Newton’s Laws of Motion

Centripetal Acceleration

Conservation of Energy

Linear Momentum

Pendulum Motion

Center of Mass

Conservation of Angular Momentum

Linear Momentum

Flyers on the platform trapeze use conservation of momentum to launch themselves across the ring.

Pendulum Motion

What does the trapeze have in common with a grandfather clock?

Center of Mass

The Nanjing acrobats are masters of balance. You’ll learn some of the secret physics of how they do it.

Conservation of Angular Momentum

Learn how conservation of angular momentum helps acrobats to flip and twist.


For Teachers: Video Analysis Clips

Download these raw performance clips from the series to use with VideoPoint or similar software for classroom activities or analysis.

Video Analysis: Projectile Motion (QT)

Video Analysis: Newton’s Laws of Motion (QT)

Video Analysis: Centripetal Acceleration (QT)

Video Analysis: Conservation of Energy (QT)

Video Analysis: Linear Momentum (QT)

Video Analysis: Pendulum Motion (QT)

Video Analysis: Center of Mass (QT)

Video Analysis: Conservation of Angular Momentum (QT)

(Note to Windows users: Right click on the link and select "save link as" to download.)