Astrophysical Principles - Radiation

Elastic Light

What it shows: 

The redshifted spectrum of galaxies and quasars is due to an expanding universe and can be expressed as the ratio of the scale factor of the present Universe to that of the Universe when the light was emitted. You can think of this as the light being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d as the Universe expands so it arrives with a longer wavelength.

How it works: 

A 50cm × 10cm strip of dental dam with a wave drawn on it, attached at one end to a post and the other end free to pull. A wooden dowel at the pulling end ensures...

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Sodium Absorption

What it shows:

Sodium 'D' line absorption showing up as a black line in the yellow of a continuous spectrum. Good as a simulation of the sodium portion of the Fraunhoffer absorption spectrum caused by atoms in the solar atmosphere; it does not however, resolve the 5890/5896Å doublet.

How it works:

As in the Sun, which is a black body source surrounded by an atmosphere of cooler gas containing many heavy atoms including sodium, we can set up a black body spectrum using a slide projector, and provide a hot sodium 'atmosphere' using...

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Bouncing Photon

A photon (modeled by a bouncing ping-pong ball) is observed from two reference frames and provides the motivation for time dilation.

Relativity Train

What it shows:

The Relativity Train is a realization of the famous Einstein gedanken experiments involving traveling trains carrying clocks and meter sticks. The demonstration is used to show how the preservation of the postulated constancy of physical laws and the speed of light in all inertial frames requires length contraction and time dilation in the train frame relative to the lab frame of reference. The demonstration is, of course, not a real experiment but rather a visual means of showing (without using any equations) how length contraction and time dilation are...

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Collisional Broadening

What it shows:

Perturbation by colliding atoms in a high pressure gas result in the broadening of emission and absorption lines. This is clearly seen in the sodium D (589nm and 589.6nm) lines of a high pressure sodium lamp.

The broadening in frequency width is dependent upon the separation of the perturbing particles (Novotny 1973) by

∆ν ∝ r-n

With n=2 the broadening is due to the coulomb field of an ionized atom or electron; this is the linear Stark effect. With n=3 the interaction is between neutral atoms of the same type; this...

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Spectrum Piano

The visible part of the electromagnetic spectrum is represented by less than an octave of the keys; UV, IR, and microwaves are also indicated.

What it shows:

The keys of a piano are used to represent the electromagnetic spectrum, illustrating the narrow range of frequencies that constitute the portion visible to human sight.

How it works:

An old piano 1 with its center octave of keys (C4=261.6Hz to C5=523.3Hz) colored for the visible spectrum (the seven colors spread to...

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Doppler Tuning Forks

Run towards the blackboard carrying a tuning fork...

What it shows:

Waves emitted from a moving source are Doppler shifted to higher frequencies when moving towards the observer, and shifted to lower frequencies when moving away from the observer. In this situation the source is moving away from you, but the raised frequency sound is reflected back interfering and causing beating.

How it works:

All you need is a tuning fork (say 896Hz, see comments), a reflective surface like a blackboard, and plenty of room to take a run at...

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Doppler Whirler

A high-pitched alarm on the end of a rope is whirled about the head.

What it shows:

Doppler shift of sound emitted by an object moving in a circular orbit, with the pitch clearly changing as the object move towards, away or perpendicular to the line of the observer. Useful as an analogy to the redshift and blueshift of spectral lines from a rotating astronomical source such as a planet or binary star system.

How it works:

We have a Powerhorn™ Security System buzzer attached to a 1.5m length of nylon cord. Swing it in a...

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Doppler Turntable

Two speakers, one at each end of rotating platform; beating due to frequency shift of speakers travelling in opposite directions.

What it shows:

Doppler shifting of sound to higher frequencies occurs when a source is moving towards the observer, and shifted to lower frequencies when the source is moving away. Here two sources emitting the same frequency when stationary rotate on a turntable. With one source moving towards you and one away, the Doppler shifted waves interfere to create beats.

How it works:

Two 1.5W 8Ω...

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Doppler Ball

Plastic Wiffle Ball with built-in shriek to throw past (or at) your audience.

What it shows:

Waves emitted from a moving source are Doppler shifted to higher frequencies when moving toward the observer, and shifted to lower frequencies when moving away. This audio demonstration is also a useful analog to the optical red shift and blue shift exhibited by astronomical sources moving relative to the Earth.

How it works:

A plastic Wiffle-Ball™ is filled with foam padding to protect an enclosed mini-speaker 1 and its...

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