Science Sunday: Mess Fest at the Science Center

Post Author: Mark Dixon & Aoife Ryle

Greetings and welcome to another edition of Science Sunday! To help celebrate our big weekend event, Mess Fest, Aoife brought a little bit of the mess to the WFSB studio. No there isn’t any slime or bubbles for this one– today she brought the Science Center’s vacuum cannon to show the power of air resistance. Air is all around us; we can’t see it and we don’t typically notice the force it puts on us, but it is putting 14.7 pounds per square inch on us all the time. 

Paper ball versus a flat piece of paper; which will hit the table first? All of the air in the room is pushing back up on the paper as it falls, exerting a force and slowing it down. The flat piece of paper will fall slower due to the larger surface area it has. 

The vacuum cannon shoots out ping pong ball projectiles using the force of air. How you may ask? The vacuum pump pulls out all of the air in the tube, which is capped on both ends; meaning there is no air in the way of the ping pong ball to slow it down. Once all of the air is removed, Aoife pierces a hole in the end of the tube, and all 14.7 pounds per square inch rushes in to push the ping pong ball forward. With no air in the way of the ball, watch to see what happens using just the power of air.

Mark Dixon is a meteorologist on WFSB Channel 3 Eyewitness News and a host of the weekly Science Sunday segments with the Connecticut Science Center. He has been nominated for several Emmy awards for weather anchoring and has won awards from the Connecticut Associated Press Broadcaster’s Association and the American Meteorological society.


Aoife Ryle is a STEM Educator at the Connecticut Science Center. In addition to working with school groups, she works with our Teen Program, Overnights department, and shoots weekly science segments for WFSB. She has a degree in Bioengineering from the University of Maine and has a personal interest in the life sciences and engineering which makes bioengineering a perfect crossover.