Fun/amazing/mindblowing Physics Presentation?
April 19, 2011 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Ideas for Amazing in-class Physics presentation?

So my lab partner and I have toyed with a few ideas, but have not yet found that spectacularly fun & interesting experiment to perform as a presentation in our Physics class. It needs to be appx 5-10 minutes long. We need to be able to relate it to physics and of course, show the math behind it.

The top two so far have been:

1) Our #1 idea that turned out to be too expensive was to build a dry ice and alcohol fueled cosmic ray detector.

2) Ball Lightening from a microwave. It's dangerous!

3) Measuring the speed of light using marshmallows in a microwave. This is our most favorite. It's easy, fun and involves food, but it lacks that... razzle-dazzle?

Basically, the marshmallows will melt, but in a pattern, equidistant from each other. The premise is that the distance between melted spots is half the wavelength. using this, and some info from the back of the microwave, one can calculate them together and come up with the exact speed of light. That's the quick and dirty explanation of it anyway.

In the end, after we prove it works, we were going to bust out with more of the marshmallows and also butter/lucky charms/rice crispies/captain crunch and make delicious rice crispie treats. Just to be the fun group that somehow makes food for the class.

We're excited to give a badass presentation, but so far our ideas are not matching our enthusiasm.
posted by MansRiot to Science & Nature (15 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: As an afterthought, the presentation can be done outside in the parking lot!
posted by MansRiot at 2:33 PM on April 19, 2011 [1 favorite]

I'm building a Rubens' Tube. They're cool.
posted by MrMoonPie at 2:37 PM on April 19, 2011

Ferofluids can make for some interesting demonstrations.
posted by samsara at 2:43 PM on April 19, 2011

Liquid Nitrogen ice cream?
posted by Urtylug at 3:49 PM on April 19, 2011

I remember two presentations from high school physics. One, the teacher froze a rose with liquid nitrogen and smashed it on the desk. Definitely one of the most visually impressive things I have seen. I remember the small pieces of rose after they had thawed in particular. In the other, we made gun powder and used it to burn gummy bears and calculated the calories in them.
posted by miscbuff at 3:56 PM on April 19, 2011

This laminar flow demo would require specialized equipment, but it's just mind-blowing enough that I wanted to be sure you got to see it.
posted by you're a kitty! at 4:01 PM on April 19, 2011

Use a big gong-gong with a dark and a bright side. You can make it ring with a strong camera flash, to show that light carries momentum.
posted by springload at 4:04 PM on April 19, 2011

Response by poster: So many idea!

The Rubens' tube is just magical.

We did a lot of work on magnetism so the ferofluids would excite everyone.

I love the guy in the crushing cans video, and we actually talking about building a magnet coil that would crush a soda can in the middle.

The ice cream with LN2 would definitely make my day.

I had to watch the laminar flow video twice, i couldn't believe it could be reset that simply.

The gong idea is really simple but would astound everyone, do you have more specifics or a write up i could read? I might have access to some high powered lights for photography, sans the softening filter things,which could be fun to use on full blast.
posted by MansRiot at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2011

My physics teacher rigged up an apparatus to demonstrate the falling monkey principle-- an electromagnet attached to a pan kept the pan hanging in the air, and my physics teacher shot a ball in a tube towards the pan. When the ball left the tube, it triggered a switch, turning off the electromagnet, causing the pan to fall. Since the ball and the pan were falling at the same rate due to gravity, the ball hit the pan in mid-air.
posted by deanc at 5:08 PM on April 19, 2011

Two source sound interference: 1 , 2

That day in physics class totally blew my mind.
posted by unknowncommand at 6:38 PM on April 19, 2011

First day of Physics class, my teacher lay down on a bed of nails and had a student stand on him.
posted by ActingTheGoat at 6:52 PM on April 19, 2011

Bicycle wheel gyroscope.
posted by Nomyte at 7:18 PM on April 19, 2011

I went to a wedding that did liquid nitrogen ice cream (bride and groom were science majors) and it was a big hit.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:25 PM on April 19, 2011

If you happen to have a vandagraph, one of the best times we had in physics was standing on an insulated box holding a florescent light tube, shocking other students with it, and every time you shocked someone it would glow momentarily. Learned about charge and voltage.

Another thing we did was get 50 feet of hot-wheels track (got a deal on eBay), and strung it around the room with steep inclines, banked turns, and loops. We sent a steal ball bearing down the track and tried to construct the track so the bearing would reach the end. This showed conservation of energy, centripetal force, and acceleration down an inclined slope. After we built it we did calculations and simple measurements to figure out the ball bearings speed at different points on the track. (Do be careful tho, a rouge ball bearing broke a glass beaker during this)
posted by token-ring at 7:45 AM on April 20, 2011

Response by poster: Just wanted to follow up and say thanks to everyone for your help. We built a Rubens' tube and blew them all away! The professor was stoked about it too and in the end we donated the tube for her future classes to enjoy during their lecture.
posted by MansRiot at 5:36 PM on May 22, 2011

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