The Atmosphere

Greenhouse Bottles

Simulation of the greenhouse effect with silvered and unsilvered glass bottles.

What it shows:

Heat energy readily escapes from a clear glass flask, but is trapped inside a silvered flask which rapidly heats up.

How it works:

Two 2L flat bottom Florence flasks, one clear and one silvered (see reference), have identical 10Ω, 25W resistors placed inside them connected in series to a DC supply 1 These resistors act as good sources of infrared radiation. The clear flask readily transmits the IR, but the silvered...

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Smog in a Bottle

Nitrogen dioxide is produced by an electric discharge in air and, when sprayed with a water mist, produces acid rain.

What it shows:

Some of the most irritating and dangerous pollutants in our atmosphere are gases such as sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide. Nitrogen dioxide is a deep orange-red gas that, together with smokelike particles, is responsible for the color of smog. In this demonstration, nitrogen dioxide is produced by an electric discharge in air and, when sprayed with a water mist, produces acid rain.

How it works:...

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Convection Cell

What it shows:

Hot fluid rises, cool fluid sinks. Here is a desktop convection cell modeling the processes in the atmosphere, oceans or stellar interiors.

How it works:

The currents are set up in rheoscopic fluid 1 (basically minute aluminum flakes in water) in a small 10×10×15cm glass tank. Half the base of the tank rests on a heater, the other on an aluminum block that acts as a heat sink. The rheoscopic fluid has a weird metallic sheen such that the bulk motion of fluid is clearly seen from the changing reflectivity....

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Polarization by Scattering

Simulation of atmospheric scattering and polarization of sunlight using slide projector and aquarium containing milky water.

What it shows:

Unpolarized light passing through a fluid is scattered; the scattered light being partially or completely plane polarized. For scattering by particles of comparable size to the wavelength of the light, this process is called Rayleigh scattering. The wavelength dependence of this type of scattering is responsible for blue skies and red sunsets.

How it works:

Unpolarized white light from a...

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55 Gallon Drum

What it Shows

With an air pressure of 105 Nm-2 at sea level, even a heavy duty oil drum will be crushed if it has nothing inside to balance the pressure.

How it Works

The screw cap on the drum is fitted with a vacuum pump connector. Simply turn on the Varian SD-200 pump and wait—it usually takes a few minutes to pump down, so you can carry on with what you were doing interrupted by various creaks and bangs as the drum's side walls begin to give. Because drums of this size are ribbed for strength, they can hold up under the strain, but when it...

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Golf Ball Atmosphere

A model of molecular motion and pressure using practice golf balls.

What it shows:

The kinetic energy of gas molecules bouncing off a surface causes pressure.

Increasing the molecules' speeds increases the pressure and the volume of the gas.

 

How it works:

Plastic practice golf balls represent...

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