Doppler Whirler

A high-pitched alarm on the end of a rope is whirled about the head.

What it shows:

Doppler shift of sound emitted by an object moving in a circular orbit, with the pitch clearly changing as the object move towards, away or perpendicular to the line of the observer. Useful as an analogy to the redshift and blueshift of spectral lines from a rotating astronomical source such as a planet or binary star system.

How it works:

We have a Powerhorn™ Security System buzzer attached to a 1.5m length of nylon cord. Swing it in a...

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Doppler Ball

Plastic Wiffle Ball with built-in shriek to throw past (or at) your audience.

What it shows:

Waves emitted from a moving source are Doppler shifted to higher frequencies when moving toward the observer, and shifted to lower frequencies when moving away. This audio demonstration is also a useful analog to the optical red shift and blue shift exhibited by astronomical sources moving relative to the Earth.

How it works:

A plastic Wiffle-Ball™ is filled with foam padding to protect an enclosed mini-speaker 1 and its...

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Standing Wave in Metal Rod

An aluminum rod, supported in the middle, rings for a long time in its longitudinal mode.

What it shows:

Longitudinal standing waves in solids.

How it works:

A metal rod is not unlike an organ pipe with both ends open. Holding it exactly in the middle will force the simplest, or fundamental, mode of vibration -- the ends will be free to vibrate maximally and the center will be a node. The fundamental frequency happens to be 2.26 kHz. As with a pipe open at both ends , the rod will vibrate at all the odd as well as even...

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Standing Wave on Long Spring

Obtain as many harmonics as your arm can handle.

What it shows:

Generation of a standing wave by reflection from a fixed end.

How it works:

A two person demonstration using a 2m (2cm diameter) steel spring. 1 One party acts as the fixed end, standing holding the spring rigidly at chest height. The other sends the pulses down the spring by vigorous up-and-down movements. The frequency is adjusted to set up a standing wave from the fundamental up to whatever you're capable of (see Comments). Amplitudes of...

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Slinky Wave Cradle

Longitudinal wave demo with suspended slinky.

What it shows:

Demonstration of longitudinal traveling waves in a spring. 

How it works:

The Slinky hangs with a bifilar suspension from a rigid thin-walled electrical conduit frame, which is light, strong and cheap. In total, 23 suspension points run the length of the spring; the cord is a thick cotton thread that attaches to a loop of the Slinky with No.10 fishing swivels. The layout of the Slinky and frame are shown in figure 1, but the thread has been...

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Wooden Dowel Wave Machine

Large (20 feet long) Shive wave machine that can clearly show the reflection and transmission of a pulse at the boundary of fast and slow media.

What it shows:

Being so large (20 feet long), transverse traveling waves on this apparatus are easily seen by a large audience. The propagation speed of the waves is much slower than on the Shive Wave Machine, giving the audience time to process what's going on. The apparatus can be used to show three properties of waves: (1) wave speed is inversely proportional to the square root of the medium's inertia, (2) waves traveling from a...

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Shive Wave Machine

Rods attached to metal spine; transverse wave generator shows the reflection of waves free, fixed, terminated and transition boundaries.

What it shows

Mechanical demonstration of transverse standing or traveling waves using the Shive wave machine.

How it works

The Shive wave machine consists of a series of horizontal metal rods 1.25 cm apart coupled by a torsion wire. A pulse can be sent down the machine by displacing the end rods (when doing this by hand, pull down on more than one rod as the connections are delicate and do break). The far...

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Rotating Saddle

Mechanical analog of a Paul Trap particle confinement—a ball is trapped in a time-varying quadrupole gravitational potential.

How it works:

A large saddle shape (attached to a plywood disk) is mounted on a multi-purpose turntable. The saddle shape is essentially a quadrupole gravitational potential. Rotation of...

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Frahm Resonance Gyroscope

Vibrational resonances of metal reeds are excited by a spinning gyro as it slows down.

How it works

The Frahm resonance gyroscope is a standard piece of equipment that can be purchased from science supply houses. 1 It consists of a heavy wheel slightly unbalanced, held in a frame to which seven metal reeds are attached, each having a different vibrational frequency. The wheel is set in motion by unwinding a string that has been wrapped around the axle. As the wheel runs down, it sets each reed successively into vibration as its rotational frequency passes through...

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Barton's Pendulum

Ten coupled pendulums of different lengths; shows resonance and phase.

What it shows:

All objects have a natural frequency of vibration or resonant frequency. If you force a system—in this case a set of pendulums—to oscillate, you get a maximum transfer of energy, i.e. maximum amplitude imparted, when the driving frequency equals the resonant frequency of the driven system. The phase relationship between the driver and driven oscillator is also related by their relative frequencies of oscillation.

How it works:

Barton's Pendulum...

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Chaotic Pendulum

Coupled, double, physical pendulum executes chaotic motion when non-linear initial conditions are imposed.

What it Shows

A double pendulum executes simple harmonic motion (two normal modes) when displacements from equilibrium are small. However, when large displacements are imposed, the non-linear system becomes dramatically chaotic in its motion and demonstrates that deterministic systems are not necessarily predictable.

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Tuning Forks

Selection of mounted tuning forks and rubber hammer.

How it works:

Each tuning fork is mounted on a wooden sound box to amplify the sound (they're very difficult to hear without the box). A microphone/preamp/scope setup may be used to visually demonstrate the pure sinusoidal sound wave. Additionally, a frequency analyzer shows a single frequency component (however, if the gain is turned up high, you may also see the frequency components due to the resonances of the sound box or harmonics of the tuning fork if it was whacked too hard). One of the...

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Pendulum Waves

What it shows:

Fifteen uncoupled simple pendulums of monotonically increasing lengths dance together to produce visual traveling waves, standing waves, beating, and random motion. One might call this kinetic art and the choreography of the dance of the pendulums is stunning! Aliasing and quantum revival can also be shown.

How it works:

The period of one complete cycle of the dance is 60 seconds. The length of the longest pendulum has been adjusted so that it executes 51 oscillations in this 60 second period. The length of each...

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Torsional Pendulum

Oscillation of mass on wire in torsional mode of oscillation.

torsion pendulum

What It Shows

The frequency of oscillation of a torsional pendulum is proportional to the square root of the torsional constant and inversely proportional to the square root of the rotational inertia.


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