Balancing Forks

Two forks, a cork, and a matchstick balance on the lip of a glass.

What it shows:

Balancing two forks in an unlikely configuration is a lesson in finding the center of mass and stable equilibrium. Nothing too deep here, but it's fun.

balancing forks


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Disappearing Prism

What it shows:

Light is refracted as it passes between two transparent materials of different refractive indices. If the materials are different, but the refractive indices are not, then the light rays are undeviated and the materials are optically indistinguishable.

How it works:

"And if you put a sheet of common white glass in water, still more if you put it in some denser liquid than water, it will vanish almost all together, because the light passing from water to glass is only slightly refracted or reflected or indeed...

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Crystal Growth & Recession

What it shows:

By providing a cold boundary, you can get water to crystalize as advancing needles of ice.

How it works:

This cold boundary can be provided by a petri dish of alcohol. Adding dry ice to this produces an endothermic reaction that lowers the temperature below 0°C. By placing a smaller petri dish containing distilled water within the alcohol dish (figure 1), the water freezes from the outer edge inwards. In front of a "thick" wall of ice shoots a monolayer of needles. The advance or recession can be...

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Hydrogen Peroxide Decomposition by Iodide

Hydrogen peroxide 30% in a large round flask decomposes to boiling water and oxygen when postassium iodide is added.

The 12L Round Bottom Flask is set on white C-Fold towels covering a large cork ring on the lab bench.  100-150 ml of 30% hydrogen peroxide is carefully poured in. The liquid should be visible against the white towels from the perspective of the class, and any camera, if used.

The catalyst is 5 g of potassium iodide in a small plastic weighing boat labeled KI.

Safety goggles and gloves. Raise the projection screen and make sure the flask is...

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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...

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Two tuning forks with similar frequencies; one fork is variable in frequency to tune beating.

What it shows:

The interference of waves from two tuning forks of slightly differing frequencies gives rise to beating, that is, a modulated wave of frequency.

νb = (ν1 - ν2)

How it works:

Using two tuning forks of 256Hz, with one of the pair having small clamps (see figure 1) attached to the fork's limbs. These alter the fork's resonant frequency, and adjustment of the clamp...

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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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Dilatancy of Deformation

What it shows:

When sand in a balloon, just as atoms in a lattice, are close packed, they occupy the least possible volume. Any deformation, even compression, deforms this close-packed arrangement causing an increase in volume.

How it works:

The balloon is filled with sand, and black ink added allowed to percolate down and fill the air gaps. A capillary tube sticking out of the balloon indicates the ink level. When the balloon is squeezed the sand, which had settled down to a closely packed arrangement, is dislocated. Larger...

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Reaction of Magnesium and Air

A magnesium ribbon is held with tongs and lit with a match or torch, making a bright flame that consumes the ribbon from the bottom up.

The ribbon should be about 20-30 cm long. Hold the ribbon with the tongs high and at arms length. Let the magnesium ribbon hang at a steep angle but not vertical. Light the bottom of the ribbon by bringing the end of the torch flame up to ribbon.  Magnesium will melt before it lights, so carefully with the torch. The ribbon can also be lit with a wooden match.

Wear safety glasses and don't look directly at the flame.

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