uring his first days as a new assistant professor at Northern Arizona University, Gus Hart began soliciting among his new colleagues for a racquetball partner. He found a peer who was willing to play with him—if Hart would agree to try handball as well. Hart remembers being apprehensive to the idea because he considered handball a “pansy sport.” Once he began playing, however, his perceptions quickly changed. “It was like a new drug,” Hart said. “The tempo is unbelievable.” Five years later, in 2006, Hart joined the Department of Physics and Astronomy at BYU. Since then he has converted many faculty members and over fifty students to the sport. To these student novices, he has offered a lure of $100 to whoever can beat him before he or she graduates. To this day, Hart’s wallet has been safe, but he says he had one close call. One of his former students, who was the best student handball player Hart had ever seen, practiced for two-anda-half years while he was at BYU and missed beating Hart by only two points before he graduated. “To tell you the truth, if I could pay $100 to play regularly with a student who could beat me . . . I would shell out a few hundred every year. I would gladly pay to have the competition,” Hart joked. Hart enjoys the exercise he gets from handball and likes that it is easy on the body—he will be able to play handball until the day he dies. “I plan to die of a heart attack on the court,” he said. Hart’s discovery of handball is similar to his discovery
of his other love—physics. It wasn’t something he found right away. Hart began college at Ricks in 1986 as a technical engineering major, but quickly changed to art. He enjoyed art, but soon left that major for economics. Hart then declared a Japanese major, during which time he had the opportunity to travel to Japan and study Japanese history and linguistics. In fact, Hart and his wife, Cynthia, were married just a few weeks before they left for Japan so he could study at Shizuoka University through the Japanese Ministry of Education Research Fellowship Program. While he enjoyed it immensely, Hart decided to go back to engineering. It was then that he took his first physics classes—a mechanics course and then an electricity and magnetism course, the latter greatly piquing his interest in physics. “It was the hardest class I had ever taken . . . but it was so fascinating that I couldn’t leave it alone,” he said. In the end, Hart double-majored in Japanese and physics. With the skills he learned from his Japanese major, Hart had the opportunity to work as a freelance translator for things like patents, journals, and technical documents. During school, Hart struggled with what to do with his physics studies. He liked the idea of being a teacher, but never imagined himself doing research. After his experience as a graduate student working in the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and as a post-doctoral researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, he decided to go into academia, where he could do research and teach.