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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The Surface Treatment of Glass

What it shows:

The strength of a material in tension or compression will be affected by discontinuities in its surface structure. This can be demonstrated for glass using microscope slides, and the comparison of failure stress before and after the removal of surface scratches.

How it works:

The slide rests between two custom built test beds (figure 1), the upper bed supporting the load. We use slotted 1kg and 0.5kg masses placed carefully in their holder, and allowing a short time between additions. We find the breaking...

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Nitrogen Phase Change

Liquid nitrogen is pumped on and freezes into a sponge of solid nitrogen.

The liquid nitrogen is in a 600 or 800 ml beaker under a shielded bell jar on top of the red vacuum cart. A cold trap is not necessary if only nitrogen is being pumped on.

It is important that the beaker of liquid nitrogen not have frozen water vapor on its side, as the view is impaired. A camera is zoomed in on the beaker, which is in a thick glass bell jar and an acrylic tube shield.

With the pump running and the bell jar vent open, pour the nitrogen and cover the beaker with bell jar. Open up...

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Double Bubble

What it shows

When two different size soap bubbles are connected together, the smaller diameter bubble will shrink and collapse to blow up the larger diameter bubble. One can use this to demonstrate Laplace's law or the phenomenon of minimizing the surface area of a soap film.

How it works

Laplace's law tells us that the gauge pressure of a spherical membrane is given by 2γ/r, where γ is the surface tension and r is the radius of the sphere.1 For soap bubbles (which have an inside as well as outside surface), the gauge pressure is twice...

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OHP Circuit Board

What it shows:

This demo allows a lecturer to play around with various DC circuits on the overhead projector.

How it works:

A removable template of 26cm × 17cm plexiglass has a set of 6mm diameter tightly wound springs of length 1cm fixed at 5cm intervals (reminiscent of those Radio Shack® n1000-in-1 electronics kits). Standard resistors and 5cm lengths of 22AWG wire clip into these springs to form a circuit, and the template is then rested on a parent board consisting of two transparent meters (figure 1). These are...

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Sugar Syrups

What it shows:

Certain materials (sugar in this experiment) are optically active because the molecules themselves have a twist in them. When linearly polarized light passes through an optically active material, its direction of polarization is rotated. The angle of rotation depends on the thickness of the material and the wavelength of the light.


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What it shows:

A superconducting material in the presence of a magnetic field excludes that field from its interior. This is shown by levitating a magnet above a high temperature superconductor.

How it works:

We have a 25mm disc of ceramic yttrium barium copper oxide YBa2Cu3O7 that becomes superconducting above liquid nitrogen temperatures (Tc = 90K). Using a cubic neodymium magnet 4mm of side, two effects can be shown. Firstly, the Meissner effect itself, by placing the magnet on the...

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Mixing Ethanol and Water

Ethanol and water are mixed in volumetric glassware, showing a volume decrease and a temperature increase.

Two 250 ml graduated cylinders are filled to the line with water and ethanol (100%). A temperature probe shows both at room temperature. The temperature probe is then moved to an empty 500 ml graduated cylinder, and the contents of the two smaller cylinders poured simultaneously to mix well. 

The temperature of the mixture rises about 8°C, and the volume decreases to 480 ml just after mixing, clearly visible on the scale of the 500 ml cylinder, and to the class by...

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OHP Magnetic Lines of Force

What it shows:

The magnetic field lines of the Earth can be represented by the field lines of a bar magnet.

How it works:

The Earth's magnetic field is basically a magnetic dipole. It can therefore be represented to first approximation by the field of a bar magnet. The shape of the field lines can be highlighted by the sprinkling of iron filings, or by the use of plotting compasses. The latter method has the advantage of showing the variation of dip angle with latitude, with the lines of force running parallel to the surface of...

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