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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Foucault Pendulum

Plane of pendulum oscillation appears to change due to rotation of Earth.

What it shows:

Due to the rotation of the Earth, the plane of oscillation of a pendulum will rotate with respect to the surface beneath it. We expect a rotation of about 10˚/hr at our latitude of 42.˚

How it works:

Here the observer standing on the Earth resides in the reference frame, with the swinging pendulum oscillating in a rotating frame. From the pendulum's point of view, it keeps oscillating in the same plane, but the Earth spins below it. The deflection from its original plane...

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Foucault Pendulum Model

What it shows:

A "working model" of a Foucault pendulum to show how its oscillations appear to change due to the rotation of "Earth" below it.

How it works:

The pendulum consists of 9-cm diameter brass ball suspended from a sturdy tripod which, in turn, sits on a heavy 3-ft diameter wooden disk. The disk represents the Earth with a projection of the northern hemisphere drawn on it. The suspension point of the pendulum is positioned over the North Pole. The entire apparatus sits on a ring bearing and the disk (Earth) can be rotated slowly by hand. While the plane of...

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Barrel of Fun

What it shows:

An object finds itself heavier and pinned against the wall of a spinning cylinder; the principle behind fairground Barrel of Fun rides and centrifuges.

How it works:

The object in such a ride experiences two forces, that of its weight and the centripetal force exerted by the barrel wall; the vector addition of these forces giving the apparent increase in weight (figure 1 ) The reaction force of the object also presses it against the wall; the increased friction force preventing it from sliding down.

The barrel in our demo is a 45cm...

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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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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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Ball on string orbits with increasing speed as string is shortened.

What it shows:

An object moving in a circular orbit of radius r has an angular momentum given by:

L = r × mv = mr2ω.

A simple way to show conservation of angular momentum is a ball on a string, whirled around your head. As you change the length of the string, the ball's orbital speed changes to conserve angular momentum.

How it works:

The orbiter consists of a meter length of cord with a wooden ball at one end and a wooden anchor at the other. The cord passes...

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Newton's Cradle

What it shows:

Demonstration of elastic collisions between metal balls to show conservation of momentum and energy.

How it works:

Newton's Cradle (less affectionately known as Newton's Balls) consists of six rigid balls hanging in a row with bifilar suspension. The balls hang so that they just barely touch their neighbor.

Various initial conditions can be employed. A single ball displaced will collide with the remaining four, sending the ball at the far end off. Same idea for two or three balls. Four balls, and only the first two will stop; the center two...

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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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Reactionary Roadbed

Radio controlled car moves one way while road moves the other.

What it shows:

We tell our students that, when a car drives down the road, the road and the Earth move in the opposite direction, albeit imperceptibly. This demonstration is a realization of that concept, made possible (and perceptible) by the fact that the road is not attached to the Earth.


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Reversible (Kater's) Pendulum

A physical pendulum with two adjustable knife edges for an accurate determination of "g".

What It Shows

An important application of the pendulum is the determination of the value of the acceleration due to gravity. By adding a second knife-edge pivot and two adjustable masses to the physical pendulum described in the Physical Pendulum demo, the value of g can be determined to 0.2% precision.

How It Works

Using a simple pendulum, the value of g can be determined by...

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Feather and Dime

Falling in an evacuated tube at the same rate.

What it shows:

In the absence of air resistance all bodies, regardless of size or weight, fall with the same acceleration at the same point above the Earth. Here a feather and a dime (see Comments) fall under the influence of gravity in an environment where there is no air to mess things up.


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