Microscope Resolution Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What it shows:  The wave nature of light limits our ability to see the very small. Application of the Rayleigh limit of resolution tells us that the size of the smallest objects one can resolve under a microscope is approximately equal to the wavelength of light. The optical limits of a microscope are demonstrated as one attempts to resolve 1 μm diameter spheres (about twice the wavelength of light) — one sees spots of light surrounded by diffraction rings rather than sharply defined spheres, similar to the 3rd image (from: Cagnet/Francon/Thrierr, Atlas of Optical...

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Air Table Center-of-Mass Motion Monday, May 2, 2016

What it shows:  Two bodies, rotating about each other, rotate about their common center-of-mass (COM). The COM exhibits uniform motion (or none at all) regardless of what the two bodies are doing.

How it works:  The "bodies" are 4-1/2" diameter acrylic disks that float on a cushion of air on a large air table.1 Presently we have three versions ready to go. (1) The first version has two disks connected by means of a 12"- long plastic ruler. A large "dot" at the center of the ruler marks the COM. The disks can be made to simply...

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Pulse Reflections in a Coax Cable Thursday, February 25, 2016

What it shows:  A voltage pulse, injected into a long coaxial cable, will travel down the length of the cable and undergo a reflection at the other end. The nature of that reflection depends on how the cable is terminated at the other end. Shorting the cable at the far end produces an inverted reflection. With no termination (an "open" end), the reflected pulse is not inverted. When the impedance of the termination matches that of the cable, there is no reflection.

Knowing the length of the cable and noting the amount of time it takes the pulse to come...

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Reverse Sprinkler Friday, December 18, 2015:

What it Shows

Inspired by Richard Feynman's story in his 1985 book (pp 63-65), Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, the demonstration answers the question "which direction does a lawn sprinkler spin if water enters the nozzle rather than being expelled from the nozzle?" The reverse sprinkler spins in the opposite direction of a "normal" sprinkler. "Dissipative effects" has been the hand-waving reason for the past 30 years, but the real reason why it spins in the reverse direction is far from obvious (see Comments, below). It turns out that a sprinkler designed to be "truly...

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Rotating Saddle

Mechanical analog of a Paul Trap particle confinement—a ball is trapped in a time-varying quadrupole gravitational potential.

How it works:

A large saddle shape (attached to a plywood disk) is mounted on a multi-purpose turntable. The saddle shape is essentially a quadrupole gravitational potential. Rotation of...

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Static model of site; can be used with light source to simulate a mid-summer's morning.

What it shows:

1:50 scale model of the Stonehenge site with the positions of Sun and Moon on important dates marked. It can be used with a light show to reproduce Sunrise on Midsummer's morning, June 21.

How it works:

The Stonehenge site consists of the sarsen circle of 30 megaliths capped with 30 lintels. Within this circle is a horseshoe pattern of five trilithons. 80m north-east of the circle's center is the Heel Stone; it is the...

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Brownian Motion of Latex Spheres

“Under the microscope one, to some extent, immediately sees a part of thermal energy in the form of mechanical energy of the moving particles.” —A. Einstein 1915

What it Shows

Tiny latex spheres in water, viewed under a microscope, undergo a kind of random jiggling motion called Brownian motion—named after the botanist Robert Brown, who observed this kind of motion in 1827 when looking at tiny pollen grains. The spheres are all 1.054 micron in diameter. Each particle can be seen...

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Shive Wave Machine

Rods attached to metal spine; transverse wave generator shows the reflection of waves free, fixed, terminated and transition boundaries.

What it shows

Mechanical demonstration of transverse standing or traveling waves using the Shive wave machine.

How it works

The Shive wave machine consists of a series of horizontal metal rods 1.25 cm apart coupled by a torsion wire. A pulse can be sent down the machine by displacing the end rods (when doing this by hand, pull down on more than one rod as the connections are delicate and do break). The far...

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