Can be put up immediately (under 10 min).
Coke Can Buoyancy

What it shows

An unopened can of Diet Coke floats in a tank of water, whereas the same cannot be said for a can of regular Coca-Cola.

photo of fish tank with can of diet coke floating in it

Setting it up

Use the smallest available tank. If unopened cans are not already in the Prep Room, they can be procured...

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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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Buoyant Force Measurement

What it shows

We have three 20 oz. soda bottles, one filled with water, one filled with sand, and one filled with air. A spring scale shows the water-filled bottle to weigh approximately 6N in air, and nearly 0N when it is fully submerged in a large container of water. Since gravity is still acting on the bottle when it is submerged in the water, there must be a force of 6N pushing up on it. This is the buoyant force.

We can do the same experiment with the bottle of sand. This bottle weighs roughly 13N in air, but when it is fully submerged in water it weighs 6N less. Even...

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Buoyant Force on Finger

What it shows

An object does not need to float in order to experience the buoyant force.

finger about to push against liquid in a cup

In this example we see a cup of water at rest on a pan balance. When the demonstrator pushes a finger down into the liquid, the buoyant force of the liquid pushes...

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Bean Buoyancy

What it shows

Objects with a density lower than the fluid that they are submerged in will float; objects with a greater density will sink. This is shown using a brass ball and ping-pong ball of equal size, and a sea of beans.

How it works

500g of navy beans form a rather coarse fluid in a 1.5L glass beaker. Embedded in the beans is a ping pong ball, and sitting on the surface is a brass ball, 4cm in diameter. This fluid needs to have flow 'induced', and this is done by shaking the beaker side to side. The ratio of densities of brass:beans:ping-pong is approximately...

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Archimedes' Principle

What it shows

Archimedes' principle states that the buoyant force or upthrust is equal to the weight of fluid displaced. An object with equal mass but a lower density occupies more volume so displaces more water; it therefore experiences a greater upthrust.

How it works

This demo compares the buoyant force acting on two 1kg masses, one of aluminum and one of brass. Each in turn is lowered into a beaker of water using a spring balance (figure 1). The aluminum, having the lower density, experiences the greater upthrust and a reduction in weight from 10N to about...

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Bernoulli Beach Ball

What it shows

Bernoulli's principle shows the velocity dependence of pressure in a fluid. Here, fast flowing air creates a zone of low pressure that holds a beach ball aloft.

beach ball held aloft by fast flowing air from a blower

How it works

Here we have a beach ball held in the air stream from a...

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Reverse Sprinkler Friday, December 18, 2015:

What it Shows

Inspired by Richard Feynman's story in his 1985 book (pp 63-65), Surely You're Joking Mr. Feynman, the demonstration answers the question "which direction does a lawn sprinkler spin if water enters the nozzle rather than being expelled from the nozzle?" The reverse sprinkler spins in the opposite direction of a "normal" sprinkler. "Dissipative effects" has been the hand-waving reason for the past 30 years, but the real reason why it spins in the reverse direction is far from obvious (see Comments, below). It turns out that a sprinkler designed to be "truly...

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Random Walk Model

What it shows:

A random walk is a mathematical model for the movement of a particle that is under the influence of some random or stochastic mechanism that affects its direction of movement. Physical situations that can be described by random walks include diffusion and Brownian motion.

How it works:

The board is a two dimensional random walk model consisting of a hexagonal array of corks, 1 11 to a side (331 corks in all), with each point of the hexagon given a number. The random walk begins from the center cork and...

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Mixing Air and Water

Three clear containers, about 10% full of water, and three immersion blenders are on the bench. Three students volunteer to mix air into water. To one container is added an egg white, and to another is added xantham gum. The students are met with varying levels of success.

Good containers are 1500 ml beakers. The xanthan gum is best hydrated before the demo, and added as a gel to the water. An equal mix of lecithin and xanthan gum also works.

Ice in Water and Ethanol

Ice in water at 0°C is strained and added to a room temperature, 50% ethanol in water mixture. Stirred with a temperature probe, the iced mixture reaches -2°C. 

The stainless steel temperature probe is connected to a Vernier Labquest Mini and LoggerPro software displays a record of the temperature.  Two probes can be used, one in the ice water, and one in the room temperature alcohol. 

Instead of beakers, thick walled pint glasses are used. A strainer and bowl are needed for straining the ice from the water, showing that the same ice melting in water at 0°C...

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Mixing Ethanol and Water

Ethanol and water are mixed in volumetric glassware, showing a volume decrease and a temperature increase.

Two 250 ml graduated cylinders are filled to the line with water and ethanol (100%). A temperature probe shows both at room temperature. The temperature probe is then moved to an empty 500 ml graduated cylinder, and the contents of the two smaller cylinders poured simultaneously to mix well. 

The temperature of the mixture rises about 8°C, and the volume decreases to 480 ml just after mixing, clearly visible on the scale of the 500 ml cylinder, and to the class by...

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Nitrogen Phase Change

Liquid nitrogen is pumped on and freezes into a sponge of solid nitrogen.

The liquid nitrogen is in a 600 or 800 ml beaker under a shielded bell jar on top of the red vacuum cart. A cold trap is not necessary if only nitrogen is being pumped on.

It is important that the beaker of liquid nitrogen not have frozen water vapor on its side, as the view is impaired. A camera is zoomed in on the beaker, which is in a thick glass bell jar and an acrylic tube shield.

With the pump running and the bell jar vent open, pour the nitrogen and cover the beaker with bell jar. Open up...

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Vacuum Infusion

A vacuum is drawn over a beaker of sliced cucumber covered in a clear dressing. The cucumber outgases, making bubbles. When the atmosphere is readmitted, the dressing is forced into the cucumber, rendering it translucent and seasoned. 

A polycarbonate bell jar with a volume of about three liters is centered on the base, with attention to the seal. The vacuum pump tube ID is the same as the outlet tube OD, so attach by hand. Vacuum release by sliding the vinyl tube off of the outlet. 

The vacuum pump is the oil-less variety, and is not bothered by water. The pump is...

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