Microscope Resolution Tuesday, December 6, 2016

What it shows:  The wave nature of light limits our ability to see the very small. Application of the Rayleigh limit of resolution tells us that the size of the smallest objects one can resolve under a microscope is approximately equal to the wavelength of light. The optical limits of a microscope are demonstrated as one attempts to resolve 1 μm diameter spheres (about twice the wavelength of light) — one sees spots of light surrounded by diffraction rings rather than sharply defined spheres, similar to the 3rd image (from: Cagnet/Francon/Thrierr, Atlas of Optical...

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Air Table Center-of-Mass Motion Monday, May 2, 2016

What it shows:  Two bodies, rotating about each other, rotate about their common center-of-mass (COM). The COM exhibits uniform motion (or none at all) regardless of what the two bodies are doing.

How it works:  The "bodies" are 4-1/2" diameter acrylic disks that float on a cushion of air on a large air table.1 Presently we have three versions ready to go. (1) The first version has two disks connected by means of a 12"- long plastic ruler. A large "dot" at the center of the ruler marks the COM. The disks can be made to simply...

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Pulse Reflections in a Coax Cable Thursday, February 25, 2016

What it shows:  A voltage pulse, injected into a long coaxial cable, will travel down the length of the cable and undergo a reflection at the other end. The nature of that reflection depends on how the cable is terminated at the other end. Shorting the cable at the far end produces an inverted reflection. With no termination (an "open" end), the reflected pulse is not inverted. When the impedance of the termination matches that of the cable, there is no reflection.

Knowing the length of the cable and noting the amount of time it takes the pulse to...

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Feather and Dime

Falling in an evacuated tube at the same rate.

What it shows:

In the absence of air resistance all bodies, regardless of size or weight, fall with the same acceleration at the same point above the Earth. Here a feather and a dime (see Comments) fall under the influence of gravity in an environment where there is no air to mess things up.


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Barrel of Fun

What it shows:

An object finds itself heavier and pinned against the wall of a spinning cylinder; the principle behind fairground Barrel of Fun rides and centrifuges.

How it works:

The object in such a ride experiences two forces, that of its weight and the centripetal force exerted by the barrel wall; the vector addition of these forces giving the apparent increase in weight (figure 1 ) The reaction force of the object also presses it against the wall; the increased friction force preventing it from sliding down.

The barrel in our demo is a...

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Driven Damped Oscillator

Single air track glider, with and without variable frequency driver, variable damping, and oscilloscope position vs. time display.

What It Shows

With one end of the car attached via a spring to the end of the track and the other end of the car coupled (via a similar spring) to a driving motor, we can see how the car behaves when it is driven below, at, and above the resonance frequency. Markings on the motor help to show the phase relationships between the driver and car at different frequencies. A storage scope tracks the motion of the car (see Setting It Up...

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Semimusical Blocks of Wood

What it shows:

Drop a piece of wood on the floor and listen to the sound it makes. It may sound like noise, but it also makes a "semimusical" sound which is so poor in quality that one would be hard pressed to call it musical. Yet it is not pure noise because the sound contains a series of regular impulses that have a pitch. This may be demonstrated by dropping wood bars (one by one) onto the floor — a musical scale or tune is easily recognized.

How it works:

The tuned wood (oak) bars are 6½" long and 1" wide with thicknesses...

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TV Image Deflection

Image on black and white television is deflected by a magnet, not unlike the Maltese Cross.

What it shows:
The television is basically a sophisticated cathode ray tube. The electron beam in the TV is influenced by magnetic fields in the same way as in Crookes tubes.

How it works:
The image on a black & white TV is formed by a single electron gun scanning the screen. Holding a strong magnet to the side or in front of the screen deflects the beam from its regular sweep pattern, distorting the image.


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Driven RLC Circuit

rlc circuit

What It Shows

The amplitudes and relative phases of the voltages across the individual elements of a series RLC circuit varies with the frequency of the driving voltage. The voltages of the three elements plus the driver are plotted simultaneously on an...

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