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Jupiter's Satellites

Static model of satellite orbits.

What it shows:

Static 3-D model showing the orbital paths of Jupiter's satellites.

How it works:

The model marks the orbital paths of the Jovian satellites to a scale of 1.5cm = 106 km. This scale allows the orbit of the outermost satellite Sinope to fit within a 1m × 1m plywood base. The orbits of the outer 8 satellites are marked using loops of 2mm × 1mm spring steel supported to their correct heights by 5mm Plexiglas rods (Pasiphae rising to the greatest height of 42cm). The...

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Centrifugal Eggbeater

Spinning frame that demonstrates equatorial bulge (oblateness).

What it shows:

The rotation of a planet about its axis causes its equator to bulge due to the "centrifugal force" acting on its mass. Here a spinning wire frame simulates the effect.

How it works:

Planets are actually oblate spheroids rather than spheres due to their rotation. This device consists of two spring metal rings mounted on a metal axis. The north pole is free to slide so that, as the frame spins, the hoops flatten and the equator bulges. The axis is...

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Kepler's Universe

Model of the solar system based on the five perfect solids.

What it shows:

Kepler attempted to describe the orbits of the planets in terms of the five regular polyhedrons. The polyhedrons, inscribed within one another define the distances of the planets from the Sun. They act as (invisible) supporting structures for the spheres on which the planets move. The order of the solids outwards from the Sun are the octahedron, icosahedron, dodecahedron, tetrahedron, and hexahedron.

How it works:

A contemporary illustration of...

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Armillary Sphere

Model to show celestial sphere; larger version has capacity to show lunar motions.

What it shows:

The position and motions of heavenly bodies are projected against a hypothetical sphere of infinite radius, centered on the Earth, called the Celestial Sphere. With this demo you can explain the motions of the stars and of the Sun, and show various aspects of the seasons.

How it works:

The main features of the sphere itself are shown schematically in figure 1. The spherical wire cage defines the celestial sphere, its...

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Eudoxos Hipoped Machine

Electrically driven machine to represent retrograde planetary motion according to Aristotle's theory of concentric spheres.

What it shows:

This is the realization of a proposed solution to retrograde motion put forward by Eudoxus (427 - 347 B.C.). Here a combination of three uniform circular motions produces retrograde motion.

How it works:

The hippopede machine consists of three concentric rings, with a point on the innermost representing the position of the planet. The assembly in figure 1 is held vertically in...

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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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Moon Orbit Model

Mechanical model of Earth-Moon orbit around Sun.

What it shows:

A model to demonstrate the precession of the Moon's orbit relative to the ecliptic. It is useful for discussing the conditions necessary for the occurrence of an eclipse.

How it works:

A large aluminum disk represents the plane of the Moon's orbit about the Earth. The disk lies flush with the box surface it sits in; the plane of the box representing the Ecliptic. The Moon's own orbit is inclined at 5° to the ecliptic, and precesses with an 18 year period. You...

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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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Elastic Light

What it shows: 

The redshifted spectrum of galaxies and quasars is due to an expanding universe and can be expressed as the ratio of the scale factor of the present Universe to that of the Universe when the light was emitted. You can think of this as the light being s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d as the Universe expands so it arrives with a longer wavelength.

How it works: 

A 50cm × 10cm strip of dental dam with a wave drawn on it, attached at one end to a post and the other end free to pull. A wooden dowel at the pulling end ensures...

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Liquid Crystal Sheets

What it shows:

The selective reflection of a specific wavelength of light through a chiral nematic liquid crystal is temperature dependent and forms the basis for LCD thermograms and thermometers.

How it works:

Liquid crystals are an intermediate state of matter or mesophase between (crystalline) solid and liquid. Substances that have a mesophase have a non-flexible rod-like molecular structure. Although in a liquid phase, the shape of the molecule and intermolecular forces means that the molecules retain a common preferred...

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Giant Vibrating Crystal

What it shows:

A simplified model crystal with non-rigid inter-atomic bonds. You can show that solids really do vibrate, distort and expand.

How it works:

A cubic lattice of 3×3×3 15cm diameter Styrofoam™ spheres linked by 3cm steel springs. The springs are epoxied to corks embedded in the Styrofoam.

...

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Copper and Bulb

Copper has positive temperature coefficient; light bulb gets brighter when copper leads are dipped in liquid N2.

What it shows: 

Copper has a positive temperature coefficient (≈ 3.9×10-3 per ˚C), which means that its resistance drops with temperature. Here copper wire is immersed in liquid nitrogen (77˚K = -196˚C), decreasing its resistance (from room temperature) by almost a factor of 2, thus increasing the current flow though a circuit.

How it works: 

We have a coil of 30AWG copper wire...

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Jumping Ring

Shoot the ring through the roof after dipping it in liquid N2; Lenz's law induced EMF in metal ring.

What it shows: 

The induced current in a metal ring is dramatically increased by lowering the ring's temperature.

How it works: 

Here is an extension of the ...

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Lead Bell

Dull at room temperature, rings clearly after immersion in liquid nitrogen.

What it shows: 

A lead bell, dull sounding at room temperature, rings brightly when cooled to liquid nitrogen temperatures.

How it works: 

A lead bell at room temperature is dull in more ways than one. But its elasticity is temperature dependant, with an increase in elasticity as its temperature decreases. This increase in elastic modulus narrows the resonance response with frequency and increases the quality Q of the lead as...

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Bag of Lead Shot

Dropping bag containing lead turns gravitational potential energy to heat.

What it shows: 

A demonstration of the conversion of gravitational potential energy to heat energy. A bag of lead shot, repeatedly dropped to the ground, will heat up.

How it works: 

Lead has a sufficiently low specific heat capacity (128 J/kg/K) that a 5kg bag dropped five times from a height of 1.0m onto a rigid floor should increase in temperature by about 2K. The shot is contained in a bank deposit bag with reinforced...

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