Rayleigh's Criterion

What it shows:

The criterion for the resolution of two sources is that the central maximum of the single slit interference pattern of one source falls on the first minimum of the pattern of the second source.

How it works:

Each laser beam passing through the slit will form a diffraction pattern on the screen. With the aperture closed down, the pattern will be spread out and the central maxima of both sources will overlap giving a blurry image. Opening up the aperture and the diffraction patterns will get narrower, until the point...

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Green Glass Candy Dish

What it shows

How could the fluorescence of the glass in a Crooke's tube generate x-rays? This was the question Henri Becquerel addressed in 1896. His experiments with fluorescence in uranium salts and subsequent discovery of radioactivity are recreated in this demonstration.

How it works

Instead of uranium salts, we use a green glass candy dish—the green glass being uranium glass, a popular consumer item in the 1950's! The green glass fluoresces brilliantly when illuminated by UV (a "black light") and, although not particularly "hot," a Geiger-Mueller counter held...

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Brownian Motion of Smoke Particles

Smoke cell under microscope; smoke particles seen bombarded by air molecules.

What it Shows

Brownian motion shows direct evidence of the incessant motion of matter due to thermal energy. Here we use the random bombardment of smoke particles by air molecules.

How it Works

The CENCO Brownian Movement Apparatus consists of a metal chamber with a glass viewing window on top and a lens on one side (see figure 1). Smoke from a piece of smoldering rope or match is drawn into the chamber through an inlet tube by squeezing the rubber bulb....

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Reaction of Hydrogen and Oxygen

Blue balloon with hydrogen, green balloon with helium, red balloon in back with hydrogen and oxygen mixture, and, on a cart, a red water balloon on large watch glass. Candle on a stick with matches, and a needle in the end to prick the water balloon.

Safety glasses and hearing protection is required for the demonstrator and anyone else who can't cover their ears for the red balloon.

Gravi Car

A falling weight propels a car forward.

What it shows:

Gravitational potential energy can be converted into mechanical kinetic energy.

gravi car

How it works:

A Gravicar is a vehicle powered by gravitational potential energy that it stores in a 2.5kg mass on a thread which is coupled...

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Collapsible Cow

What it shows:

A small crude spindly model of a cow is able to support five times its own weight. Another model, scaled up exactly six times in all dimensions, collapses under its own weight! Assuming that strength is proportional to cross-sectional area (∝ dimension 2) and weight is proportional to volume (∝ dimension 3), simply scaling the model up geometrically leads to the situation where the weight is too great for its strength.

How it works:

This demonstration was inspired by R.H. Stinson's apparatus note in the AJP (see References...

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Vibrating String

A 1.5m length of string driven at one end and fixed at the other shows standing waves for various driving frequencies.

What it shows

vibrating string

The fundamental is the most dramatically visible state (usually around 15Hz). It's possible to show up to 8 nodes clearly--bearing in mind...

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Benjamin Franklin's Thunder House

A replica of Franklin's Thunder House demonstating the efficacy of his invention—the lightning rod. The class will get a charge out of this one.

thunder house