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Yo-yo

A very large cable spool (or smaller version) is made to roll in either direction or slide, depending on the angle of pull; action of a torque.

What it shows:

Depending upon the angle of applied force, a yo-yo can be made to roll forwards, backwards or simply slide without rotating.

How it works:

The effect of force angle is illustrated in figure 1; (a) and (b) are the extreme cases. For (a), pulling the string vertically creates a torque r1F rotating the yo-yo counter-clockwise. Pulling the string horizontally as in (b) creates a...

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Barton's Pendulum

Ten coupled pendulums of different lengths; shows resonance and phase.

What it shows:

All objects have a natural frequency of vibration or resonant frequency. If you force a system—in this case a set of pendulums—to oscillate, you get a maximum transfer of energy, i.e. maximum amplitude imparted, when the driving frequency equals the resonant frequency of the driven system. The phase relationship between the driver and driven oscillator is also related by their relative frequencies of oscillation.

How it works:

Barton's Pendulum...

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Triboelectric Effects

What it shows:

As long ago as 600 B.C., the Greek philosopher Thales knew that amber, when rubbed, would attract bits of paper and other light objects. Many other substances have this same property and can be electrified by rubbing. The kind of electrification (positive or negative) depends on the substances used.

...

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Magnetic Levitation

What it shows:

A magnet tethered over a spinning aluminum disc levitates due to induced currents in the disc.

How it works:

As the disc spins, electrical currents are induced in the aluminum as it moves with respect to the magnet. These induced currents create a magnetic field which, in accordance with Lenz's law, opposes the field of the magnet. The magnetic repulsion causes the rider to levitate about 1cm above the disc. Lenz's law also says that the induced field will oppose the motion that causes it. The magnet therefore tugs...

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Photoelasticity

What it shows:

Normally isotropic substances can become birefringent when under stress. This property can be used in stress analysis.

How it works:

To use birefringence in stress analysis, the sample is placed between two crossed Polaroids. The first Polaroid produces a linearly polarized light source for the sample. This source has components split into ordinary and extraordinary rays; the differing velocities of these rays in the sample creates a phase difference which is color dependent. The second Polaroid takes components of...

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Spherical Blackboard

What it shows:

You can use a spherical blackboard for many things, including the teaching of geographical coordinates, as a model for a closed Universe, or simply as a mathematical shape.

In the non-Euclidean geometry of the sphere, a circle will have a circumference greater than 2πr and an area greater than πr2. A triangle’s angles will add to more than 180°, and two parallel lines, called Great Circles, will converge.

A Universe with a density parameter Ω greater than unity will have too much mass to overcome its own gravitational...

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Armillary Sphere

Model to show celestial sphere; larger version has capacity to show lunar motions.

What it shows:

The position and motions of heavenly bodies are projected against a hypothetical sphere of infinite radius, centered on the Earth, called the Celestial Sphere. With this demo you can explain the motions of the stars and of the Sun, and show various aspects of the seasons.

How it works:

The main features of the sphere itself are shown schematically in figure 1. The spherical wire cage defines the celestial sphere, its...

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Cannon Ball Boat Puzzler

What it shows

Does the level of the ocean rise or fall when a cannon ball is tossed overboard? A question of displacement.

How it works

A difficult effect to see at sea, but it becomes clear by taking some parameters to extremes. Reducing the ocean to 12L in volume, and the boat to practically no mass by using a plastic bowl, a cannon ball of 1kg mass suddenly becomes substantial. With the cannon ball in the boat, its weight is distributed throughout the boat; the lowered density increases the amount of water displaced (by the fraction of the boat submerged), raising...

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Stack of Blocks

A dozen blocks are stacked on top of each other over the edge of the table seemingly defying gravity.

What it shows:

N objects of unit length can be stacked on top of each other so that the top object sticks out over the edge of the lecture bench by a distance equal to 1

1/2 + 1/4 + 1/6 + 1/8 + ... + 1/(2N)

For N approaching ∞, the diverging infinite sum suggests that the top of the pile can stick out an infinite distance. In actuality the divergence is slow, 2 and our more practical stack of a dozen 2 × 4 "blocks" can...

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