Supersaturation and Crystallization

What it shows:

A supersaturated solution is unstable, and by seeding it you can trigger rapid crystallization.

How it works:

Sodium acetate can dissolve in water in great quantities at high temperature, and if you let the solution cool carefully to around room temperature, you have a clear supersaturated solution. Disturbing this unstable equilibrium by dropping a small crystal of sodium acetate into the solution makes the whole thing solidify; the sodium acetate crystals growing radially outwards from the impact point of the...

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Cooking Ice vs. Cooking Eggs

An egg size piece of clear ice is dropped into a hot frying pan, with hissing and melting and steaming from solid to liquid to gas . An egg is carefully dropped into another hot frying pan, and it transforms from liquid to solid.

A small water bottle in the freezer overnight will freeze solid.  Cutting off the plastic and breaking the ice with a hammer will generate the egg size piece of ice.

Gravi Car

A falling weight propels a car forward.

What it shows:

Gravitational potential energy can be converted into mechanical kinetic energy.

gravi car

How it works:

A Gravicar is a vehicle powered by gravitational potential energy that it stores in a 2.5kg mass on a thread which is coupled...

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Tuning Forks

Selection of mounted tuning forks and rubber hammer.

How it works:

Each tuning fork is mounted on a wooden sound box to amplify the sound (they're very difficult to hear without the box). A microphone/preamp/scope setup may be used to visually demonstrate the pure sinusoidal sound wave. Additionally, a frequency analyzer shows a single frequency component (however, if the gain is turned up high, you may also see the frequency components due to the resonances of the sound box or harmonics of the tuning fork if it was whacked too hard). One of the...

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Magnetic Bubbles

What it shows:

A thin wafer of Ferromagnetic Garnet reveals its magnetic domain alignment as light and dark serpentine patterns when viewed between crossed Polarizers. These domains can be flipped by an external magnetic field, changing the pattern structure.

How it works:

The magnetic bubble apparatus consists 1 of a thin (8-12μm) single crystal film of Ferromagnetic Garnet (FMG) sandwiched between a pair of crossed Polaroids. The FMG crystals are magnetically anisotropic, that is, they have a strong tendency to orient...

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Circular Polarization

What it shows:

A linear polarizing filter followed by a quarter-wave plate whose slow and fast axes are at 45° to the axis of the polarizer becomes a circular polarizing filter, and incident unpolarized light emerges as circularly polarized light. This will not work if the order of the polarizer and wave plate is reversed. A quarter-wave plate converts circularly polarized light into linearly polarized light.


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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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Viscous Flow of Bread Dough

Bread dough is stiff but still flows. A big blob of foodstuff that slumps over time, like Silly Putty but large and edible.

Make bread dough enough for a couple loaves, and knead it stiff enough that a round ball of dough takes half an hour to slump to half its original height. Place on a plate, put a camera on it. Project the image at the beginning, just as the dough ball is released, and again some time later, after viscous flow.

Newton's Cradle

What it shows:

Demonstration of elastic collisions between metal balls to show conservation of momentum and energy.

How it works:

Newton's Cradle (less affectionately known as Newton's Balls) consists of six rigid balls hanging in a row with bifilar suspension. The balls hang so that they just barely touch their neighbor.

Various initial conditions can be employed. A single ball displaced will collide with the remaining four, sending the ball at the far end off. Same idea for two or three balls. Four balls, and only the first two will stop; the center two...

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Frahm Resonance Gyroscope

Vibrational resonances of metal reeds are excited by a spinning gyro as it slows down.

How it works

The Frahm resonance gyroscope is a standard piece of equipment that can be purchased from science supply houses. 1 It consists of a heavy wheel slightly unbalanced, held in a frame to which seven metal reeds are attached, each having a different vibrational frequency. The wheel is set in motion by unwinding a string that has been wrapped around the axle. As the wheel runs down, it sets each reed successively into vibration as its rotational frequency passes through...

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