[★★★★]

Stonehenge

Static model of site; can be used with light source to simulate a mid-summer's morning.

What it shows:

1:50 scale model of the Stonehenge site with the positions of Sun and Moon on important dates marked. It can be used with a light show to reproduce Sunrise on Midsummer's morning, June 21.

How it works:

The Stonehenge site consists of the sarsen circle of 30 megaliths capped with 30 lintels. Within this circle is a horseshoe pattern of five trilithons. 80m north-east of the circle's center is the Heel Stone; it is the...

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Relativity Train

What it shows:

The Relativity Train is a realization of the famous Einstein gedanken experiments involving traveling trains carrying clocks and meter sticks. The demonstration is used to show how the preservation of the postulated constancy of physical laws and the speed of light in all inertial frames requires length contraction and time dilation in the train frame relative to the lab frame of reference. The demonstration is, of course, not a real experiment but rather a visual means of showing (without using any equations) how length contraction and time dilation are...

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Nuclear Fission

What it shows:

In a nuclear reactor or atom bomb, a fissile material such as 235U can capture a neutron. The resulting unstable nucleus fragments into two smaller nuclei, releasing energy and several neutrons (a typical equation is given below). Each of these neutrons can in turn cause the fission of a 235U nucleus. If there is above a critical concentration of fissile material, this chain reaction will continue unaided, and if unregulated can result in a very loud bang.

n + 235U → 236U* → 141Ba + 92Kr + 3n

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Uranium Block

What it shows:

This block of uranium is of great historical significance -- it is a remnant of the WWII German Atomic Bomb Project. It was brought to Harvard by Prof. Edwin C. Kemble, Physics Dept. Chairman and also Deputy Science Director of the ALSOS mission in 1945. The American ALSOS mission was an intelligence effort to discover the extent of German progress toward atomic weapon development and its ultimate purpose was to secure all the uranium ore the Germans had confiscated during the war and finally close the books on the German program to build an atom...

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Neutron Activation of Silver

What it shows:

One of the more important discoveries in modern physics is the production of isotopes (both radioactive and stable) by the capture of neutrons. 1 In this experiment the bombardment of silver by thermalized neutrons produces short lived radioactive isotopes of silver whose half lives can readily be measured. It can also be shown that bombardment by fast neutrons does not induce radioactivity because of the extremely low neutron cross sections involved. Using a Geiger counter in conjunction with a multichannel analyzer in the MCS (...

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Thoron Decay

What it shows:

The very first determination of a half-life for a radioactive decay was made by Rutherford. 1 In a study of the properties of thorium emanation, he found that the intensity of the radiations fell off with time in a geometric progression. That historically important result is reproduced in this demonstration experiment. The gas thoron, or thorium emanation, is an isotope of radon (86Rn220) which decays by α emission and has a half life of 55.6 seconds. 2 Using an emanation electroscope, we observe the...

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Planck's Constant Determination

What it shows:

The photoemission of electrons from a metal surface depends on the energy of the incident radiation and not on its intensity. Knowing the energy of the emitted photoelectrons and the frequency of the incident light, you can calculate a value for Planck's constant h.

How it works:

Using a mercury source, we have at our disposal three very bright visible lines, in the blue, green and yellow (doublet), and a rich selection of ultra-violet. Our main source is a Phillips Lifeguard 1000W street lamp with its outer (uv...

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Single Photon Interference

Wave/particle duality observed in Young's double slit experiment with camera sensitive to individual photons.

What it shows:
In this demonstration we perform the double-slit interference experiment with extremely dim light and show that even when the light intensity is reduced down to several photons/sec, the audience can see the familiar Young's double-slit interference pattern build up over a period of time. This addresses the question of how can single photons interfere with photons that have already gone through the apparatus in the past, or with those that...

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Thin Film Interference

What it shows:

Waves reflecting from two surfaces can interfere constructively and destructively. In this case it is light waves that are being reflected from the front and rear surfaces of thin soap or oil films. The interference produces a pattern of beautiful colors in white light, or dark and light bands in monochromatic light.

How it works:

Our two most visually dramatic illustrations of thin film interference use either a soap film suspended in air from a 19 cm diameter circular frame, or a very thin layer of oil floating on top of water....

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Bucket of Light

What it shows:

A beam of laser light can be trapped inside a stream of water by suffering total internal reflection—the aquatic equivalent of a fiber optic cable.

How it works:

A stream of water flows from a hole in the side of a soda bottle (figure 1). The critical angle of 49° is such that...

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Schlieren Optics

Optical technique that allows us to see small changes in the refractivity of air and other transparent media.

What it Shows

Refraction due to inhomogeneity in air is made visible by our single-mirror schlieren optics setup. The refraction can be caused by changes in the density, temperature, or pressure of the air immediately...

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TV Color Perception

What it shows:

The full spectrum of colors (including white) in a television picture is produced by the additive mixing of only three colors: red, green, and blue.

How it works:

In a color television tube, three separate electron beams are focused so as to strike the appropriate phosphor dot on the screen. By looking at the television screen under considerable magnification, one can clearly see that there are only three phosphors which are stimulated by the electron beam(s). The apparatus is diagrammed below.

...

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