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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Hula Hoop Rotational Inertia

What it shows:

A suspended hula hoop has the same period of oscillation as a pendulum whose length is equal to the diameter of the hoop.

How it works:

The parallel-axis theorem allows us to readily deduce the rotational inertia of a hoop about an axis that passes through its circumference and is given by

\(I = I_{cm} + MR^2 = 2MR^2\)

where M is the mass of the hoop and R is its radius. The period of oscillation thus becomes


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Pascal's Paradox

What it shows:

Three containers are filled with water to the same depth, and each has the same base surface area (see figure 1). Since the pressure and area are the same in each container, the force should be the same (pressure = force/area). pascalSo how come the scales...

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Detection of IR radiation from hair dryer and/or special IR source.

What it Shows:

Detection of infra-red radiation by the rotation of a paddle-wheel vane inside a low pressure flask.

How it Works:

A radiometer consists of a partially evacuated flask containing a four bladed vane (see figure 1). One side of each blade is a matt black, the other silver. The black surface, being a better absorber and radiator of heat, warms the air above its surface more than the silver. The resulting higher kinetic energy of these air...

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Polarization by Scattering

Simulation of atmospheric scattering and polarization of sunlight using slide projector and aquarium containing milky water.

What it shows:

Unpolarized light passing through a fluid is scattered; the scattered light being partially or completely plane polarized. For scattering by particles of comparable size to the wavelength of the light, this process is called Rayleigh scattering. The wavelength dependence of this type of scattering is responsible for blue skies and red sunsets.

How it works:

Unpolarized white light from a...

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Potential Well Orbiter

Orbital motion simulated by ball rolling on wooden potential well.

What it shows:

Motion in a central potential is demonstrated by a ball rolling on a circular 1/r curved surface.

How it works:

The 1/r potential well simulates the gravitational potential surrounding a point mass; a ball bearing moving in this potential follows a parabolic or elliptical orbit depending upon its initial trajectory and velocity. As it loses energy due to friction, the orbit decays and the ball spirals towards the centre of the well. You could...

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