The foregoing article describing the "Skidoo-Skidee Trick" appeared in a recent issue of Popular Mechanics. I have been told that a similar arrangement is used by a tribe of Indians in the state of Washington, by the Hindoos in India, and one friend tells me that they were sold on the streets of our large cities many years ago.
This toy interested me so much that I have made an investigation into the causes of its action, and I think the results may be of interest.
To operate, one end of the notched stick is held firmly in the left hand, while with the right hand a nail or match stick is rubbed along the notched edge, at the same time pressing with the thumb or finger of the moving hand against the oblique face of the stick. The direction of rotation depends upon which face is pressed. A square stick with notches on edge is best, but the section may be circular or even irregular in shape. The experiments were as follows:
1. A rectangular stick had notches cut on one face. When the pressure was applied upon a face normal to the first, no rotation resulted. If the pressure was upon an edge, rotation was obtained.
2. Irregular spacing of the notches did not interfere with the action. The depth of the notches was also unimportant, although it should be suited to the size of the nail for best results.
3. The hole in the revolving piece must be larger than the pin; if there is a close fit no rotation is obtained.
4. The center of gravity of the revolving piece must lie within the hole. If the hole is not well centered the trick cannot be performed.
5. If the stick be clamped in a vise no results are obtained; with this exception: if the stick has enough spring, and the end clamped is far enough away from the notched portion, the rotation may be obtained.
The above experiments led me to the conclusion that the operation of the device is dependent upon a circular motion of the pin, and this was confirmed by the following experiments. The action is somewhat similar to swinging the toy known as a locust around with a slight circular motion of the hand, It is necessary to show here that a slight circular motion is sufficient to produce the result and, secondly, that such motion can be produced by the given movements of the hands.
6. A piece of brass rod was clamped in the chuck of a lathe, and a depression made in the end slightly eccentric, by means of a center punch. If the end of the pin is inserted in this depression, while the hand holding the other end of the stick is kept as nearly as possible in the axis of the lathe, rotation of the lathe will produce rotation of the revolving piece. Speeds between 700 and 1,100 r. p. m. gave the best results.
Illustration: The Lathe Experiment
7. A tiny mirror was attached to the end of the pin, and the hand held in the sunlight so that a spot of sunlight was reflected upon the wall. The notches were then rubbed in the usual way. The spot of light upon the wall moved in a way which disclosed two components of motion, one circular and one due to the irregular movements of the hand holding the stick. Usually the orbit was too irregular to show a continuous and closed circular path, but at times the circular motion became very pronounced. It was observed and the direction of rotation correctly stated by a man who was unaware of the source of the motion.
The production of the circular motion can be explained in this way: When the rubbing nail comes to a notch the release of pressure sends the stick upward; this upward motion against the oblique pressure upon the (say) right hand side gives also a lateral component of motion towards the left. As the nail strikes the opposite side of the notch the stick is knocked down again, this motion relieves somewhat the oblique pressure from the right hand side, and, the reaction from the holding (left) hand moves the stick to the right slightly, so that it is back in the old position for the next upward motion. Thus a circular or elliptic motion is repeated for each notch, and the direction of this motion is the same whether the nail be rubbed forward or back. For oblique side pressure from the right (notches assumed upward), the motion of the stick and hence of the revolving piece will be counterclockwise; if the pressure is from the left, it will be clockwise.
That the motion of the revolving piece is due to a swinging action, and not to friction of the pin in the hole, is proved by experiments 3 and 4. --Contributed by M. G. Lloyd, Ph.D., Washington, D. C.