Physics object

What does it take to move into a new 255,000-square-foot Science Center? It’s not only about packing the belongings of 80 faculty members and the contents of 23 research labs; it’s also about delving into the accumulated storage from two centuries of research and classes. In preparation for the move, physicist Thomas Greenslade ’59, an expert in early physics teaching objects, sifted through troves of material in Merrill Science Center—and found 100 museum-quality pieces. When the Science Center opens this fall, these objects will find a new home there, too.


This object, invented in the late 18th century, was used in introductory physics classes and features two heavy steel balls. What is it? What did it do? Send your answers to or Amherst magazine, Box 5000, Amherst MA 01002. All who answer correctly will be entered to win an Amherst T-shirt. Greenslade’s explanation will appear in the next issue.

Last Quarter's Answers

David E. Little, director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum, asked readers to consider these three objects from the collection and identify key facts about each.

A woman with long dark hair leans on the ground.

Object #1: Les femmes du Maroc #14, a 2005 photograph by Lalla Essaydi, references Édouard Manet’s Olympia. As the Mead label explains, Essaydi’s work “challenges restrictions placed on women in many Arab societies and criticizes the Orientalist tradition of exoticizing and eroticizing Eastern women. In achieving the latter, Essaydi adapts poses from well-known art historical works.”

This work features layers of brushstrokes in oranges, yellows, reds, greens and blacks.

Object #2: Autumn, a painting made in 2000 by Michael Mazur ’57, attests to the artist’s “mastery of gestural abstraction to suggest nature’s colorful dynamism,” according to the Mead description. “Layers of emphatic brushstrokes” in this oil-on-canvas “suggest swirling leaves and whispering grasses in an astute evocation of fall colors.”

This depicts a room with an ornate ceiling and walls and a handful of people in it.

Object #3: Russian Marriage (Mariage russe), by Konstantin Alekseevich Korovin, is a  drawing made in 1924 with opaque watercolor and metallic pigments on paper. Korovin, who was born in Moscow  and moved to Paris in 1923,  was a leading Russian Impressionist  painter. The Mead has five Korovin  works in its collection.

The physics contest is a special print edition of a weekly online contest featuring items from the Merrill trove of physics objects. Enter each week on the College’s Facebook page (@AmherstCollege), and look for Greenslade’s answers on the Science Center Facebook page (@AmherstScience) every Monday.