Coffee Mug on a String

What it shows:

Conservation of angular momentum and the exponential increase in friction are what save the coffee mug from smashing into the floor. Use this entertaining demonstration to introduce either of those physics concepts.

How it works:

You need a pencil, a pen, a china cup (we use a china cup to add suspense and a threat of disaster), and about 1 meter of string. Tie one end of the string to the cup and the other to the pen. Hold the pencil in one hand and drape the string over it so the cup hangs down a few centimeters. Hold the pen with your other hand (arm...

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Creep of Lead

What it shows:

A metal under stress will not fracture straight away, but will deform plastically due to the dislocation of crystal boundaries; this is called creep.

How it works:

Here we use lead as the test sample because there is significant creep compared to other metals. The lead is loaded (see fig.1) to a value that is just below the breaking stress of the sample. When creep occurs, the lead is drawn thinner at its weakest point (called 'necking', see fig.2) until its reduced cross-sectional area causes the sample to exceed its breaking...

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Chaotic Pendulum

Coupled, double, physical pendulum executes chaotic motion when non-linear initial conditions are imposed.

What it Shows

A double pendulum executes simple harmonic motion (two normal modes) when displacements from equilibrium are small. However, when large displacements are imposed, the non-linear system becomes dramatically chaotic in its motion and demonstrates that deterministic systems are not necessarily predictable.

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Siren Discs

What it shows:

Demonstrate musical intervals, the relation of pitch to frequency, and autocorrelation in psycho-acoustics.

How it works:

A 25 cm diameter metal disk has a number of concentric rows of regularly spaced holes. When rotated at a uniform speed while blowing air at a row of holes, a musical note is produced by the sequence of regular puffs of air issuing from successive holes. The frequency is determined by the speed of rotation and the known number of holes.

The numbers of holes in the successive rows are 24, 27...

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Lead Acid Battery

Homemade chemistry-lab style battery in a beaker.

This is actually just show and tell, lead plate and lead/lead oxide plate in a battery jar.

Use a gel cell battery to show electrical current at an integer multiple of the cell voltage between lead and lead oxide in sulfuric acid. Two volts is not as useful as six volts, or twelve and more.

The Barkhausen Effect

What it shows:

The magnetization of a ferromagnetic substance occurs in little jumps as the magnetic moments of small bunches of atoms, called domains, align themselves with the external field. We can actually "hear" the switching of these domains by amplifying the currents induced in a coil that surround the ferromagnetic material.

How it works:

We use two 10mH coils mounted back-to-back to cut out AC noise. The samples, listed in Fig.1 are in wire form, about 3-5cm in length and pushed through corks so they can sit...

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Fiber Optics

What it shows:

Light is transmitted by a bundle of optical fibers and/or a coiled length of plastic rod, regardless of the twists and turns in the path it must negotiate. Total internal reflection keeps the light confined.

How it works:

A HeNe laser is used as the source of light. The bundle of optical fibers consists of a very large (but unknown) number of individual glass fibers measuring 0.05 mm (0.002") in diameter. About 30 cm of the bundle is exposed at the end while the rest of the length is protected by a rubber sheath....

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Microwave Tunneling analog

3 cm microwaves and prisms made of plastic beads demonstrate total internal reflection in one prism, and coupling of the evanescent wave to a second prism. An audio signal corresponds to the one kiloHertz modulation of the microwaves.

The prisms are made of foam core board, cut and hot glued, then filled with small pony beads.


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