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Resonance Radiation/Absorption

What it shows:

For an electron to make a transition from one energy level to a higher one, it needs to absorb a photon who's energy is equal to the difference in the energy levels involved. When jumping back down, it will emit a photon of that same energy. These discrete energy separations are characteristic of the atom involved, and it's what provides an atom with its fingerprint line spectrum. Trying to induce a transition with a photon of different energy just doesn't work.

In this demonstration, light from a sodium source will be absorbed by sodium gas...

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Solid, Liquid, Gaseous CO2

Observation of phase changes with corresponding pressure changes.

A two ml. plastic microcentrifuge vial and a small shop vise are used together to melt dry ice.

Wear safety glasses for this demo. The vial can explode, or shoot out of the vice, from the pressure of liquid carbon dioxide. Set up a camera with a close shot of an empty vial before putting in a loaded vial.

Crush a pellet of dry ice to make pieces that fit into the vial. Place a couple of pieces in the vial, and snap the lid closed.

Immediately place the vial horizontally in the jaws of the vice,...

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Binary Star

Two small closely mounted bulbs simulate resolution problems.

What it shows:

The ability to resolve two closely separated stars depends upon the aperture size of the observing instrument. Here two tiny bulbs represent stars that are barely resolvable by human eyes across the lecture hall.

How it works:

The light collected from two stars by the eye (or by a telescope mirror) are themselves geometric point sources but are circular diffraction fringes

The light from a distant star is not detected as a geometric point...

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Center of Percussion

The motion (or lack of motion) of the suspension point of an object is observed when the object is struck a blow.

What it shows

The center of percussion (COP) is the place on a bat or racket where it may be struck without causing reaction at the point of support. When a ball is hit at this spot, the contact feels good and the ball seems to spring away with its greatest speed and therefore this is often referred to as the sweet spot. At points other than this spot, the bat or racket may vibrate or even sting your hands. This experiment shows the effect by demonstrating what...

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Circular Motion and Simple Harmonic Motion

Simultaneous shadow projection of circular motion and bouncing weight on spring.

What It Shows

One of the simplest of periodic motions is uniform circular motion. By shadow projecting both uniform circular motion and oscillatory simple harmonic motion onto a screen, one can show that these two seemingly different kinds of motion are actually identical.

How It Works

A 8 cm diameter plastic ball mounted near the edge of a 46 cm diameter disk undergoes uniform circular motion. The disk, oriented vertically, is driven by a 57 RPM motor.1 A large...

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Bell Plates

What it shows

Bell plates are polygonal-shaped flat pieces of sheet metal which, when held in the hand and struck with a beater, produce a pleasant, sustained, slightly bell-like tone. Compare this to any arbitrary shaped piece of metal which produces a "clunk" when struck. The sound of the bell plate depends strongly on its shape and even the most modest change in the symmetry (like snipping off a corner) or proportions will make it go clunk when struck.

How it works

Why does a particular shape ring so well,...

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RC Time Constant

Charging and discharging of a 10µF capacitor with variable time constant.

What it shows:

The growth and decay of current in an RC circuit with a time constant chosen so that the charge and discharge is visible in real time.

How it works:

By choosing the values of resistance and capacitance, a time constant can be selected with a value in seconds. The time constant τ is given by

τ = RC

To obtain useful values, we chose three resistors 100K, 200K and 400K in series with a 10µF capacitor, giving time constants of...

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Hertz Resonator

What it shows:

The transmission and detection of radio frequency electromagnetic radiation by use of LC oscillator circuits recreates the discovery by Hertz of a method to generate and detect electromagnetic waves.

How it works:

The core of the apparatus (figure 1) is a series LRC circuit (the R provided by the circuit resistance). The inductor L is a 1m diameter loop made of 1 inch copper tubing which also serves as the radiating antenna. A transformer 1 supplies 15kV to charge up the capacitor 2 until...

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Frustrated Total Internal Reflection

What it shows:

In quantum mechanics, it is possible for a particle to tunnel through a potential barrier because its wave function has a small but finite value in the classically forbidden region. Here we use FTIR as an optical analog of this quantum mechanical phenomenon.

How it works:

A 45°-90° prism will deflect a beam of light by total internal reflection. When two such prisms are sandwiched back-to-back and pressed together, the air-glass interface can be made to vanish and the beam then propagates onward undisturbed. This transition, from...

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