Tension Puzzler

What It Shows

The two ends of a dial-type spring balance are each connected to strings which run over pulleys. With equal weights attached to the ends of the strings, the spring balance indicates the value of one of the weights.

How It Works

The demonstration is presented to the class as a puzzler: the spring balance is turned around so that the class can't see the dial. Students are invited to guess what it is reading. Invariably they guess the sum of the two weights. The lecturer then turns the face of the dial gauge around showing them the error of...

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Dinner Table

Sliding tablecloth out from under posh dinner setting.

What it shows:

A body will remain at rest unless a force acts upon it. So too will your best china remain in place as the table cloth is whipped from under it providing the friction between the cloth and table setting is low, and the speed of removal high.


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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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What it shows:

A siphon is a device that allows the transfer of a fluid from one reservoir to a second at a lower level even though the first part of the journey is up-hill.

How it works:

A siphon is effectively an inverted U-tube with unequal length tubes. The asymmetry means that there is a pressure difference between the ends;

at the upper reservoir: p1 = P - ρgh1
at the lower reservoir: p2 = P - ρgh2
(where P = atmospheric pressure)

so p1 > p2 if h2 > h...

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Shive Wave Machine

Rods attached to metal spine; transverse wave generator shows the reflection of waves free, fixed, terminated and transition boundaries.

What it shows

Mechanical demonstration of transverse standing or traveling waves using the Shive wave machine.

How it works

The Shive wave machine consists of a series of horizontal metal rods 1.25 cm apart coupled by a torsion wire. A pulse can be sent down the machine by displacing the end rods (when doing this by hand, pull down on more than one rod as the connections are delicate and do break). The far...

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Doppler Ball

Plastic Wiffle Ball with built-in shriek to throw past (or at) your audience.

What it shows:

Waves emitted from a moving source are Doppler shifted to higher frequencies when moving toward the observer, and shifted to lower frequencies when moving away. This audio demonstration is also a useful analog to the optical red shift and blue shift exhibited by astronomical sources moving relative to the Earth.

How it works:

A plastic Wiffle-Ball™ is filled with foam padding to protect an enclosed mini-speaker 1 and its...

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Conservation of Charge to 3 Sig Figs

What it shows:

Electricity is never created or destroyed, but only transferred. Rubbing fur and Teflon™ together transfers charge (electrons) from the fur to the Teflon, making the Teflon negatively charged. Conservation of charge requires the fur to become equally and oppositely charged as is demonstrated in this experiment to an accuracy of ≤1%.

How it works:

The difficulty in demonstrating charge conservation quantitatively lies in catching all the charge before it leaks away, the fur being the main problem. This is overcome...

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