Thermal Expansion

Brass ball doesn't fit through brass ring until ring is heated.

What it shows:

Most solids (see Comments) expand when heated due to increased atomic and lattice vibrations. In this demo, a brass ring expands when heated to let a previously too small a ball pass cleanly through.

How it works:

The apparatus consists of a brass ring on a handle (figure 1), attached by a chain to a brass ball. Demonstrate that the ball is too large to pass through the ring, then heat the ring over a blue Bunsen flame for about a minute. The...

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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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Precession Globe

Globe pivoted so north pole can precess.

What it shows:

Due to the oblateness of the Earth, the gravitational force between the Earth and the Sun sets up a couple which causes the Earth's axis of rotation to precess. An adapted globe shows what is meant by precession.

How it works:

An old 8" (19cm) globe has been modified 1 to allow it to precess on its axis. A 23° cone is cut into the south pole, and a cone of metal supported by a metal equatorial ring has been inserted. This makes the globe bottom heavy (and...

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Seismic Wave Refraction

Total internal refraction of laser beam through sugar solution with refractive index gradient; representative of seismic waves through Earth's mantle.

What it shows:

As a simulation of atmospheric refraction, this demonstration shows the gradual and continuous bending of light due to a gradient in the optical density of the medium. In this case the variable refracting medium is a tank of sugar water with a vertical gradient in the concentration of sugar and a HeNe laser provides the light beam. It can be used as a model of mirage formation (except that the...

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Reactions of Li, Na, and K with Water

Lithium, sodium, and potassium undergo reactions with water.

Two liters of warm water in large pyrex vessel, covered with fine mesh stainless steel screen, is on a stool close by in-floor vent hood.  Add a few drops from the phenolphthalein indicator bottle, and a few drops of 1M hydrochloric acid if the warm tap water turns pinkish.

Video camera is clamped to the stool leg, and pointed at the bottom of the beaker. Before class, frame the shot and focus on the center of the beaker.

Using the long forceps, pick out the coil of lithium wire from the mineral oil in...

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Viscous Flow of Bread Dough

Bread dough is stiff but still flows. A big blob of foodstuff that slumps over time, like Silly Putty but large and edible.

Make bread dough enough for a couple loaves, and knead it stiff enough that a round ball of dough takes half an hour to slump to half its original height. Place on a plate, put a camera on it. Project the image at the beginning, just as the dough ball is released, and again some time later, after viscous flow.

Bernoulli's Principle

What it shows

The relative velocities of two sides of a spinning ball to an oncoming wind creates a pressure difference and therefore a net force on the ball perpendicular to the air flow.

figure 1. Direction of motion of ball due to pressure difference

diagram of air flow and spinning ball

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Ball shot horizontally, one dropped vertically; both hit the ground at the same time.

What it shows:

The horizontal and vertical motions of a projectile are independent of each other. So two objects falling under the influence of gravity from the same height will reach the ground simultaneously, regardless of their horizontal velocities.

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Three-Legged Table

Triangular table supported by platform scales.

What it shows:

This is a two-dimensional version of the Loaded Beam demonstration.

How it works:

An equilateral triangular-shaped table is supported at each corner by a platform scale (same type as in "Loaded Beam"). One of our large (14.5 kg = 32 lb) weights is placed on the table. The scale readings vary with the position of the weight. The procedure to be followed in this demonstration...

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