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Flying circus of physics

About Jearl Walker

Jearl Walker, professor of physics at Cleveland State University, received his BS in physics from MIT in 1967 and his PhD in physics from University of Maryland in 1973. Since then he has been at Cleveland State.

The original version of The Flying Circus of Physics was published 30 years ago, was translated into at least 10 languages, and was still being sold world wide when the second edition was published in 2006. That new edition is being translated into nine other languages.

For 16 years he toured his Flying Circus talk throughout the U.S. and Canada, introducing such physics stunts as the bed-of-nails demonstration and the walking-on-hot-coals demonstration to countless physics teachers, who then proceeded to hurt themselves when they repeated the stunts in their classrooms. These talks led to his PBS television show Kinetic Karnival, which ran nationally for years and which landed him a local Emmy, now proudly displayed on the toilet in his first-floor bathroom.

During his13 years with Scientific American magazine, he wrote 152 articles for “The Amateur Scientist” section, which were translated into at least 9 languages world wide. His topics ranged from the physics of judo to the physics of béarnaise sauce and lemon meringue pies. In 1990, he took over the textbook Fundamentals of Physics from David Halliday and Robert Resnick and has not had a full night’s sleep since. So far, he has published six editions of the textbook and sold well over one million copies in the English language alone, not counting the thirteen translations world wide. He has lost count of the number of times he has been on television and radio and interviewed for newspapers and magazines. However, he clearly remembers the 20 minutes he spent with Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show, where he stuck his fingers into molten lead without losing any of them, to the great relief of his mother who was at home watching the show.

To see various videos and photos of him and by him, go to the FaceBook pages for The Flying Circus of Physics (public pages) at and click on videos (there are several pages) and photos (there are several albums).

To send him a message, sign up for the FCP newsletter (use the button on the left side of this screen) or go the FCP blog site (also linked in the menu on the left side of this screen).

To see his resume, go to and click on the Vitae button at upper right.

To see his office, here are some scenes.

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