DIY

Curie Point Heat Engine

This DIY project is pretty easy to build. One half of one of these inexpensive magnetic necklace clasps will work well for the heated magnet. 

From Amazon: BUYNOW: magnet for curie point engine

Curie Point Heat Engine: when the magnet on the end of the wire heats up to a particular temperature (the Curie point) its magnetic field is temporarily lost until it cools. This engine design uses a second magnet to pull the swinging magnet back into the heat source once the magnetic field is reestablished. Repetition of this process creates mechanical motion as long as the heat source is fueled.

Vibration Unthreading

Get inexpensive small motors and accesories for DIY projects here:
From Amazon: BUY NOW DC Motors Kit

A DIY project to see if just shaking a bolt at the right frequency could make a standard nut rotate and fall off. Similar physics to the phase locking propeller toy featured in my last post. Motivated by videos seen on Instagram where a brass bolt is placed in magnetic putty and the nut mysteriously rotates up and off- now convinced that vibration is how that effect is produced. Here a small DC motor spins an offset mass to produce the vibrations.

Bottle, Hoop, and Nail Trick

The hoop used is just the inner circle of an embroidery hoop. Get one for a couple dollars here: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Wooden Hoop 

The science writer Martin Gardner has published many books of physics tricks and simple but amazing science experiments like the one in this video. Highly recommended. 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Martin Gardner's Science Magic: Tricks and Puzzles 

Bottle, Hoop, and Nail Trick: with some practice, a snap of the wrist removes the hoop and the nail falls straight into the bottle. Newton's 1st Law as seen in slow motion- a mass at rest tends to stay at rest. (Best to watch with sound/audio) Balancing the nail on the hoop ensures the nail is directly over the top of the bottle. The hoop is removed so quickly that it does not interact significantly with the sufficiently massive nail, and thus the nail remains over the mouth of the bottle so that gravity pulls it in. G4G Week repost- a favorite from Martin Gardner’s collections of physics tricks. 


Self Propelled Homopolar Motor

Here are disk magnets I used for the "wheels": 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Disk Magnets 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Disk Magnet 

Wire that looks and works well is just 10 gauge ground wire. Inexpensive and available at any local hardware store-- or order a small quantity here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 10 gauge Copper Wire 

Wikipedia has some good details on the physics of homopolar motors 

Self Propelled Homopolar Motor: cylindrical neodymium magnets supply the static magnetic field for this motor and become the wheels of a very simple vehicle with an AA battery as the energy source. As soon as both ends of the copper wire make contact, an electric current will flow which in turn induces a magnetic field around the wire. This induced field around the copper wire will then interact with the neodymium magnets on each end causing them to spin- a wonderful example of a motor with minimal components.

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Ring Catch Chain Trick

Get a set here: 
From eBay:(best selecton) BUY NOW Ring Chain Catch 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Ring and Chain Set 

The physics of this trick in great detail with more slow motion: Ring Falling into a Chain: No Magic — Just Physics 

Ring Catch Chain Trick: a solid ring will be caught by a loop of chain if it tumbles during its fall. By Newton's Third law, when the ring twists into and hits the chain, the impact transfers momentum to the end of the chain, which rises up and over the ring- seen here in 480 fps slow motion. 


Homopolar Motor

Fairly simple to make- here are the inexpensive supplies needed to make a few of these motors. 
AA batteries have a diameter of 14.5 mm, so a bottom magnet with a diameter of 15 mm is just right: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Disk Magnet 

Wire that looks and works well is just 10 gauge ground wire. Inexpensive and available at any local hardware store-- or order a small quantity here: 
From eBay: BUY NOW 10 gauge Copper Wire 

Wikipedia has some good details on the physics of homopolar motors 

Homopolar Motor: a minimalist electric motor- battery, wire, and magnet. This type of motor does not need a commutator- the polarity of the electromagnetic coil does not need to reverse. The challenge with this design is balancing the coil to center on the battery as it rotates. A favorite DIY physics toy!

Tumble Rings

I made this set of tumble rings from reading Martin Gardner's description in his famous mathematical recreations books- highly recommended: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Knots and Borromean Rings by Martin GardnerDescribes the Tumble Rings 

From Amazon: BUY NOW Books on recreational math and puzzles by Martin Gardner Lots of physics and math toys in these pages! 

Tumble Rings: the links in this chain are connected in a special way such that the top ring appears to tumble to the bottom- a compelling illusion! 

Mobius Zipper

If you like this kind of math exploration I highly recommend this book by Matt Parker: 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Things to Make and Do in the Fourth Dimension 


... and any of the books by Martin Gardner 
 
From Amazon: BUY NOW 
Recreational Math Books 

Möbius Zipper: exploring topology with a bisecting strip (a zipper with velcro ends). 0 twists creates a cylinder which simply gives two cylinders when split, ½ twist creates a Möbius strip- splitting down the center produces one long loop with with two full twists, 1 twist in a loop-splitting in half produces two interlocked Möbius loops! Just some of the curious properties concerning the Möbius strip, an unorientable, one sided surface, with only one boundary. 


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Spinner Fidget Trick

Click this link for a gyroscope that will perform the same trick! 

Spinner Fidget Trick: defy gravity!- a trick to try with a fidget spinner you might have in a drawer somewhere. For the trick to work the spinner needs to have most of its mass far from the center (not all spinners will work)- and you may need to drill a hole down its center to attach an axle. This Spinpal spinner has three heavy steel spheres placed to maximize rotational inertia, that along with precision bearings, gives this fidget toy properties of a quality gyroscope. Give the spinner significant RPMs and it will suspend from, and precess around, a string! Thanks to @spinpal for sending me this a while back. 

Faraday Train

Here's the parts to make your own: 
From eBay: BUY NOW Neodymium Spheres 15mm 
From Amazon: BUY NOW Bare Copper Wire 10 gauge 

The wire used for the Faraday Train has to be bare- so make sure it does not have any kind of clear coating on it. The solid grounding wire sold at hardware stores works great. 

Here is a nice description of the Faraday Train and the physics of its propulsion

Faraday Train: two magnets, one battery, and a coil of bare copper wire are the simple essence of this self propelled craft. The magnets conduct electricity, thus when put in contact with the coil current will flow creating a solenoidal magnetic field in the vicinity of the battery, which in turn pushes on the magnets at each end of the battery moving the craft along. The spherical neodymium magnets used allows the craft to slide along the coil with minimal friction. 


Self-Propelled Homopolar Motor on Aluminum Foil Racetrack

I used neodymium disk magnets, small end = 1/2" diameter, Large end = 3/4" diameter. 
From eBay: BUY NOW Disk Magnets for Simple Motor 

Foil Runner Motor assembly diagram: 
Self-Propelled Homopolar Motor on Aluminum Foil Racetrack: A favorite DIY physics toy where disk shaped neodymium magnets supply the static magnetic field for this motor and become the wheels of a very simple vehicle with an AAA battery as the energy source. As soon as both ends make contact with the conducting aluminium foil an electric current will flow which in turn induces a magnetic field underneath the battery assembly. This induced field will then interact with the neodymium magnets on each end causing them to spin- a wonderful example of a motor with minimal components. The racetrack is a cardboard circle from a pizza box covered in kitchen foil.

Disappearing Spoon

Gallimum metal and a silicone mold to produce the spoon- available here:

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Gallium Mold Spoon Kit 

Disappearing Spoon: the metal gallium has a melting point of 30°C (86°F) and will melt quickly when exposed to tea temperature hot water- or melt in one’s hand if handled too long. This spoon was made with a silicone mold (swipe to see process), and feels and sounds just like a regular spoon, except solid gallium is brittle and the spoon can shatter like glass if dropped. An amazing parlor trick as well as a classic and historical class demonstration.

Hyperbolic Holes

This inexpensive kit available here: From eBay: BUY NOW
Hyperbolic Holes Kit

Hyperbolic Holes: a straight rod, in this case a pencil, glides through a symmetrical pair of curved holes. The design is based on the hyperboloid, the 3D ruled surface traced by an offset rotating diagonal line. This device is sold as an inexpensive kit to assemble yourself, and includes a motor with geared drive and pre-cut pieces. The pencil is my addition- just the right size to clear the curved openings.


Unmixing Density Column

The bottle used here is from Voss Water: a nice cylinder and the labels come of easy. Amazon has the ingedients:

From Amazon: BUY NOW 
acetoneblue glitterfood coloring, Voss Water

The density column I made for this video is based on this "science snack" from the exploratorium: Klutz-Proof Density Column and this ChemED X post: Blog of Prof. Tom Kuntzleman  

See my Salt Fractionation post for details. 

Unmixing Density Column: three liquids that won’t stay mixed! Acetone (dyed blue) floats on top of the higher density vegetable oil, which in turn floats atop salt water (dyed orange) which is more dense than oil. Acetone usually dissolves in water through hydrogen bonding interactions, but solubility can be altered. In a process called “salting out” a sufficient amount of salt is dissolved such that the water molecules, which are much more attracted to the resulting Na+ and Cl- ions (through ion-dipole bonds), will then ignore the weaker acetone hydrogen bonds. This results in the spontaneous separation of these three liquids no matter how well shaken up. 

Magnetic Suspension Sculpture

The DIY version can be assemebled with these parts. Steel wire of guage 10 or 12 should work well. 

From Amazon: BUY NOW: Quilting Hoop, Neodyumium Magnet, Steel Wire

Magnetic Hoops Suspension Sculpture: Steel circles are suspended by a magnet (black sphere) and held down to the base by a thin thread. The tops of the steel hoops, being ferromagnetic, become a north pole in the presence of the south pole end of the black magnet, so they are attracted to the black magnet, but repel each other. Made by Rathcon Inc. in 1970. Swipe to see my DIY version made from a quilting hoop, neodymium magnets, and some bailing wire.