Radioactive Human Body

What it shows:

Gamma ray spectroscopy is used to detect the minute amount of radioactive potassium-40 present in the human body. Using a NaI(Tl) scintillation detector in conjunction with a multichannel pulse-height analyzer (PHA), 1.46 MeV gammas originating from the human body are detected. The source of these gammas is K-40 which has a half-life of 1.26 billion years, and is the main source of radioactivity inside the body. The second most active radionuclide in the body, carbon-14 (5,730 yr half-life), can not be detected with this apparatus because it is a...

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Vortex Shedding in Air

A thin wire, moving through the air, is made to vibrate in the audio range at the vortex shedding frequency.

What it Shows

When air flows around an object, there is a range of flow velocities for which a von Karman vortex street is formed. The shedding of these vortices imparts a periodic force on the object. The force is quite small and not enough to accelerate the object to any significant amount, especially if the object is relatively massive. If the situation is such that the object can vibrate about a fixed position, we have the possibility of simple...

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Galileo's Chandelier

galileo's chandelierBowling ball pendulum with burning candles stuck in holes, used as prop only.

What It Shows

Rumor has it that one day at the cathedral, Galileo watched the swinging of a chandelier after it had been displaced and lit. By using his own pulse as...

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Rocket Car

Single seat CO2 powered rocket cars.

rocket car
Photo by Rose Lincoln

Inverted Pascal Experiment

What it shows:

This is a concept question relating to Pascal's cask-bursting experiment. Imagine the experiment inverted—literally! Attach a 20-ft length of tubing to the opening of a can full of water. Turn the can upside down and raise it high. Will the water stay in the can, or will it run out? Will atmospheric pressure hold up the column of water in the tubing? What will happen? Have the class vote.


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Giant Capacitor

What it shows:

The basic principles of the parallel plate capacitor made large.

How it works:

The capacitance C of a simple parallel plate capacitor is given by

the ratio of the magnitude of the charge Q on either conductor to the potential difference between the...

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Continuous Spectrum

What it shows:

White light is shown, á la Newton's demonstration of dispersion by a prism, to be composed of a continuous spectrum of colors.

How it works:

A large brilliant spectrum is produced by using a 1 kW carbon arc light source 1 with adjustable slit, a "fast" f/0.9 imaging lens, 2 and a highly dispersive in-line prism. 3 The spectrum easily fills a two meter wide screen with vibrant colors. An alternative (more compact) setup consists of a Beseler slide projector 4 which...

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Edge Diffraction

What it shows:

A point light source will produce seemingly sharp shadows which turn out to be not at all sharp when viewed under magnification. Narrow interference bands are seen within the shadow of a straight edge while more complicated shapes yield more complicated interference bands and striations.


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Neutron Activation of Silver

What it shows:

One of the more important discoveries in modern physics is the production of isotopes (both radioactive and stable) by the capture of neutrons. 1 In this experiment the bombardment of silver by thermalized neutrons produces short lived radioactive isotopes of silver whose half lives can readily be measured. It can also be shown that bombardment by fast neutrons does not induce radioactivity because of the extremely low neutron cross sections involved. Using a Geiger counter in conjunction with a multichannel analyzer in the MCS (...

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NMR model

What it shows:  Using the classical description of the motion of a spin in an external magnetic field, the demonstration helps visualize NMR in the time domain. The nuclear magnet and its classical vector model are represented by a spinning ball with magnets attached. A rotating mass is characterized by its angular momentum L, which is the analog of the magnetic moment mu, which characterizes a rotating charge distribution. The spinning ball mimics protons in that it has both angular momentum as well as an "intrinsic" magnetic moment. The torque...

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