PDA

View Full Version : Physics Project Ideas



Level8Mudcrab
2011-03-30, 02:54 AM
As part of my physics class I have to come up with a project. After thinking about it for awhile I've found myself stuck for ideas, so I decided to come to the playground for some inspiration.

Here's a quick summary of what I need to do for this project.
I have to make a project on one of these four topics, projectiles, collisions, springs or circular motion. I need to make a experiment that demonstrates the concepts learned in the topic. I also need to make a smaller version that can be used as a demonstration in class.

Oh, this is at high school level physics, so nothing too complicated :smalltongue:

If anyone has some ideas for what to do it would be appreciated. Preferbly something interesting but not too ambitious.

thubby
2011-03-30, 03:39 AM
newton's cradle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newton%27s_cradle)
about as original as a mud volcanoe; but it's simple, looks good, and involves newtonian physics.

Incompleat
2011-03-30, 11:56 AM
Billiard-Ball Computing (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Billiard_ball_computer) is a pretty fun computation model based on newtonian mechanics.

Dunno if it's a bit hard as a project, but for example explaining a little why reversible computation is interesting (make sure you mention Landauer's Principle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Landauer%27s_principle): basically, erasing information increases the temperature of the system, and this cannot be avoided), then showing a simulation of, say, an And gate (you can find a pretty good simulator here (http://jameslin.name/bball/) as a java applet, you could do some other gate too but they can get seriously tricky) could already make for a really cool presentation, and I at least would be perfectly willing to consider the computer simulation as an "experiment" - but otherwise, implementing an "and" gate for reals should be also possible.

Science Officer
2011-03-30, 06:15 PM
you... get to choose what to do?

madness.

we had to make a spring launcher. ( that is, something that launches springs of their own power. not something that uses springs to launch things.)
so that would be projectiles and springs.

trebuchets or catapults would be projectiles and circular motion.

Vonriel
2011-03-30, 08:07 PM
trebuchets or catapults would be projectiles and circular motion.

This. A thousand times this. Both of these siege weapons utilize tons of physics goodies, and as part of your demonstration, you get to knock something to smithereens. You don't lose. :smallbiggrin: (Sidenote: I loved the trebuchet project I had in my high school physics class)

If you need to back it up with physics, trebuchets fire their projectiles in an arc, and there is hopefully an awesome collision with some object at the end of said arc.

thubby
2011-03-30, 08:24 PM
i would talk to your teacher before proceeding with a catapult of any sort. over the years kids have gotten in trouble for bringing "weapons":smallsigh: to school.
with a teacher's go-ahead you're just better off.

RS14
2011-03-30, 11:43 PM
Build a simple Centrifugal governor (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centrifugal_governor), connected to the throttle of an electric or gasoline motor.

You could also construct something like the centrifugal governor used in old rotary phones to brake the dial as it rotates back into position.

Sacrieur
2011-03-30, 11:47 PM
Put ferrofluid around a magnet and then spin it. That counts right?

http://www.slipperybrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/ferrofluid.jpg

Vonriel
2011-03-31, 12:40 AM
i would talk to your teacher before proceeding with a catapult of any sort. over the years kids have gotten in trouble for bringing "weapons":smallsigh: to school.
with a teacher's go-ahead you're just better off.

I'm not talking anything big enough to break anything, here. Just a simple contraption a little bigger than a shoebox, with about enough power to knock over some styrofoam blocks, maybe. If any kid gets in trouble over that, well... no, scratch what I said, I entirely expect that to happen, so it's probably a good idea to talk to your teacher.

araveugnitsuga
2011-03-31, 12:43 AM
Put ferrofluid around a magnet and then spin it. That counts right?

http://www.slipperybrick.com/wp-content/uploads/2006/08/ferrofluid.jpg

Or you could build a ferrofluid self cycling waterfall that operates mainly thorugh magnets and heat.

But really, if you just take it to school and shout IT CURES CANCER! you are assured a great grade or first place in science fair.

Ravens_cry
2011-04-01, 03:54 AM
Ferrofluids are so cool. I first learned about ferrofluids after watching Terminator 2 and wondering if there was anything that could work like that in real life. While ferrofluids aren't quite the same, they are still super neat in their own right and really weird and beautiful.

Sacrieur
2011-04-01, 10:03 AM
Ferrofluids are so cool. I first learned about ferrofluids after watching Terminator 2 and wondering if there was anything that could work like that in real life. While ferrofluids aren't quite the same, they are still super neat in their own right and really weird and beautiful.

Ferrofluids work by binding a special compound to metal, disallowing the metal to bond with itself and share electrons. This new compound looks like a liquid metal, mostly because it is.

IthilanorStPete
2011-04-04, 09:07 AM
It doesn't cover springs, but if you build a particle accelerator you can cover all 3 other topics!

...and it probably wouldn't be too hard to actually build one. I mean, I'm not suggesting it, but you could probably do it as a college-level project...

userpay
2011-04-04, 09:34 AM
I'd say do a trebuchet if possible. I had alot of fun with that project (high school) and the one I built threw 2nd farthest out of all the classes (including the AP classes). I might post a video later today if anyones interested.

Ezeze
2011-04-04, 04:14 PM
It would be easy to set up an experiment with a cup, some water and a little bit of twine to demonstrate how circular motion results in centrifugal force through inertia.

Just drill three little equidistant holes in the cup, string bits of twine of equal length through them so you can spin it freely, fill the cup with a little bit of water and, well, spin it freely :smallsmile:

Just be sure none of the twine is going to snap or come loose while you're spinning it - that would be bad!

Level8Mudcrab
2011-04-04, 08:56 PM
Thanks for the ideas everyone. I haven't decided what to do yet, but I have till the end of the week to decide. A trebuchet sounds like fun.

araveugnitsuga
2011-04-04, 10:03 PM
Ferrofluids work by binding a special compound to metal, disallowing the metal to bond with itself and share electrons. This new compound looks like a liquid metal, mostly because it is.

Nope, it's a colloidal suspension made of metal particles coated in a surfactant (read an oil) (which also prevents them from joining up) suspended in a liquid phase (normally something hydrophobic to tolerate the oil). It's more of a liquid that has metal inside but cannot split from it.

It's relatively easy to make if you have ammonia handy (which in my country is a regulated substance).

thubby
2011-04-04, 10:08 PM
Nope, it's a colloidal suspension made of metal particles coated in a surfactant (read an oil) (which also prevents them from joining up) suspended in a liquid phase (normally something hydrophobic to tolerate the oil). It's more of a liquid that has metal inside but cannot split from it.

It's relatively easy to make if you have ammonia handy (which in my country is a regulated substance).

vegetable oil and toner works. it seperates, but it stays long enough to do goofy ferofluid antics.

araveugnitsuga
2011-04-04, 10:13 PM
vegetable oil and toner works. it doesnt stay suspended for very long, but enough to do a demonstration.

That one is not a true ferrofluid, it's actually an electrorheological fluid.

Vonriel
2011-04-04, 10:52 PM
It would be easy to set up an experiment with a cup, some water and a little bit of twine to demonstrate how circular motion results in centrifugal force through inertia.

I guess this one was ok in high school, I can't remember exactly. However, try this in college, and your professor will give you an earful about how centrifugal force doesn't exist and it's all centripetal force. Personally, I think they mean the same thing, but some pedant somewhere wanted to start something, so now students everywhere are confused. :smalltongue:

IthilanorStPete
2011-04-04, 10:58 PM
I guess this one was ok in high school, I can't remember exactly. However, try this in college, and your professor will give you an earful about how centrifugal force doesn't exist and it's all centripetal force. Personally, I think they mean the same thing, but some pedant somewhere wanted to start something, so now students everywhere are confused. :smalltongue:

Appropriate xkcd here (http://xkcd.com/123/). Funny and technically accurate.

Ravens_cry
2011-04-04, 11:01 PM
Appropriate xkcd here (http://xkcd.com/123/). Funny and technically accurate.
That, sir, is xkcd in a nutshell, I approve.:smallamused:
One pi for you.

Sacrieur
2011-04-04, 11:23 PM
Nope, it's a colloidal suspension made of metal particles coated in a surfactant (read an oil) (which also prevents them from joining up) suspended in a liquid phase (normally something hydrophobic to tolerate the oil). It's more of a liquid that has metal inside but cannot split from it.

It's relatively easy to make if you have ammonia handy (which in my country is a regulated substance).

D=, this is what I get for not being a physicist.

Anyway, I had my physics TA told me centrifugal force didn't exist, and then he wondered why he got two answers from a 2nd degree equation. I 'bout got up and left.

Autolykos
2011-04-14, 07:37 AM
Ferrofluids: There's an easier way... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetite#Preparation_as_a_ferrofluid)
An even cheaper way would be to dissolve/suspend black iron oxide in kerosene (might not be a true ferrofluid though).


It's relatively easy to make if you have ammonia handy (which in my country is a regulated substance).Don't you have horses in your country? :smallwink:

Phae Nymna
2011-04-14, 11:04 PM
You should devise some kind of spinthariscopes. Everybody loves isotopes.

araveugnitsuga
2011-04-14, 11:43 PM
D=, this is what I get for not being a physicist.

Anyway, I had my physics TA told me centrifugal force didn't exist, and then he wondered why he got two answers from a 2nd degree equation. I 'bout got up and left.

I'm not even out of high school yet actually.


Ferrofluids: There's an easier way... (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Magnetite#Preparation_as_a_ferrofluid)
An even cheaper way would be to dissolve/suspend black iron oxide in kerosene (might not be a true ferrofluid though).

Don't you have horses in your country? :smallwink:
Natively we have llamas and alpacas, however a section of the population does have horses, however they are mostly imported since the ones bred here suck.

And there is an even easier method, mix ferric chloride with steel wool to get ferrous chloride. You then mix those with water and ammonia and get Magnetite. NaOH is harder to get than housecleaning ammonia (In 90% of the world, damned be the paranoid chemical regulations in my country). No Massart involved.

However, the next part is basically the same, get an oleate to adsorb itself to the magnetite to get micelle, suspend micelle in hidrophobic solution, get Ferrofluid.


As for a physics experiment, a Gauss Rifle is easy, cool and physic, Ferrofluids are more akin to chemistry.

Vonriel
2011-04-15, 01:55 AM
I kind of wish he'd tell us which project he decided to go with in the end. Anyone else feel the same way? :smalltongue:

Level8Mudcrab
2011-04-15, 04:44 AM
I kind of wish he'd tell us which project he decided to go with in the end. Anyone else feel the same way? :smalltongue:

Heh, sure thing.

In the end I decided to do it on projectiles. I made a ramp and launched balls of varying masses and sizes off it to see what difference it would make.

Not as fun as catapaults but they would have been too much trouble.

Autolykos
2011-04-16, 04:02 AM
As for a physics experiment, a Gauss Rifle is easy, cool and physic, Ferrofluids are more akin to chemistry.If you're going down this road, a Railgun is easier to build and looks much more impressive. If you have enough power, you can shoot small balls of tin foil that actually start glowing when they leave the barrel. A car battery or some NiCd cells plus a bunch of SuperCaps (double-layer capacitors, to be exact) should do the job - the main trouble is to get switches that have low enough resistance and won't melt/fry when you send a few Amperes through them (I'd stick to mechanical relays, most semiconductors won't survive such abuse for long).
If you do, Vid please :smallsmile:

The_Admiral
2011-04-16, 10:02 AM
Lets make it simpler how about a Coilgun instead?

Autolykos
2011-04-17, 04:42 AM
Coil Gun = Gauss Rifle.
And that's actually harder to do than a Railgun, because you need to get the timing between the coils right, require a ferromagnetic projectile, prevent your coil/capacitor units from becoming an oscillator, make coils that survive a few Amperes blasted through them (if you go the low resistance way) or work with much higher voltages (if you use bigger coils with lower current) which restricts you to the use of regular capacitors (SuperCaps wont survive more than 2-3 Volts), plus all the power troubles you have with a Railgun already.

The_Admiral
2011-04-17, 09:32 AM
Bowshttp://www.instructables.com/id/Disposable-camera-coilgun/ plus you only need 1 coil it is for a demonstration right?

0tt3r
2011-04-17, 01:56 PM
I did a harmonograph for a physics project. See youtube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H4YQonwQUDs&feature=related). It uses rotary motion and the ratio between the length of the legs to make beautiful pictures (http://www.google.com/images?q=harmonograph&um=1&ie=UTF-8&source=og&sa=N&hl=en&tab=wi&biw=1304&bih=707).

You can make a large, large variety of pictures by adjusting the ratios of the lengths of the pendulums. The coolest part, in my opinion, is that the most well behaved picture ratios correspond to the standard harmonic ratios of music (the Pythagorean ones). It is like drawing musical harmonies!