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Fakir Physics

The concept of pressure is demonstrated by lying on a bed of nails.

What it shows:

The lecturer (or someone else) lies on a bed-of-nails without discomfort, thus demonstrating the concept of pressure, which is the force per unit area. For added drama the person is sandwiched between two beds of nails with the added weight of a cinder block on top. The cinder block can be broken with a sledge hammer.

figure 1: A supermarket tabloid reports on how macho man pulls off this stunt.
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Collapsible Cow

What it shows:

A small crude spindly model of a cow is able to support five times its own weight. Another model, scaled up exactly six times in all dimensions, collapses under its own weight! Assuming that strength is proportional to cross-sectional area (∝ dimension 2) and weight is proportional to volume (∝ dimension 3), simply scaling the model up geometrically leads to the situation where the weight is too great for its strength.

How it works:

This demonstration was inspired by R.H. Stinson's apparatus note in the AJP (see References...

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Double Sound Source Interference

What it shows:

Two loudspeakers, separated about 1.7 meters emit the same tone of frequency 500 Hz and produce a pattern of constructive and destructive interference.

How it works:

At this frequency, the successive positions of constructive interference (maximum intensities of sound) occur approximately every two meters at a distance of 10 meters (which is roughly the middle of the lecture hall). The separation of maxima would be about 2.3 meters at 440 Hz. One way to make the interference pattern evident to the students is to...

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OHP Circuit Board

What it shows:

This demo allows a lecturer to play around with various DC circuits on the overhead projector.

How it works:

A removable template of 26cm × 17cm plexiglass has a set of 6mm diameter tightly wound springs of length 1cm fixed at 5cm intervals (reminiscent of those Radio Shack® n1000-in-1 electronics kits). Standard resistors and 5cm lengths of 22AWG wire clip into these springs to form a circuit, and the template is then rested on a parent board consisting of two transparent meters (figure 1). These are...

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Diamagnetic Levitation

What it shows:

Stable levitation of one magnet by another is usually prohibited by Earnshaw's Theorem, but the introduction of diamagnetic material at special locations can stabilize such levitation. The demonstration is a replica of an experiment described by M.D. Simon and A.K. Geim1 and is pictured in the photograph. The illustration is from their paper.

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Newton's Rings

What it shows:

Waves reflecting from two surfaces can interfere constructively and destructively. In this case it is light waves that are being reflected at glass/air and air/glass interfaces. The interference produces a concentric ring pattern of rainbow colors in white light, or dark and light rings in monochromatic light.

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Rutherford Scattering

What it shows:

A qualitative demonstration of Rutherford's α-particle scattering experiment using magnetic pucks on an air table.

How it works:

In its simplest form, we use an Ealing air table, 1 1m square, with a fixed magnetic puck at the center. A second puck with the same polarity is repelled and scattered by the first; the scattering angle being dependant upon the impact parameter b (see figure 1). A more complex setup is described in the Comments.

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OHP Kinetic Theory Model

Simulation of molecular motion (Brownian, diffusion, etc.) with ball bearings on shaking table.

What it shows:

Two dimensional simulations of molecular dynamics and crystal structure using ball bearings. It can be used to show qualitatively the dynamics of liquids and gases, and illustrate crystalline forms and dislocations.

How it works:

The molecular dynamics simulator is more commonly known as a shaking table. It consists primarily of a circular shallow walled glass table that is oscillated vertically so as to vibrate and...

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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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