A Pneumatic Puzzle

For the very simple apparatus illustrated by Fig. 147 one needs only half a cotton reel, three pins, and a piece of glass or metal tubing which fits the hole in the reel. Adjust a halfpenny centrally over the hole and stick the pins into the reel at three equidistant points, so that they do not quite touch the coin, and with their ends sloping slightly outwards to allow the halfpenny to fall away.

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 140. a greenish blue, those nearest the centre a dark red, and the intermediate groups yellow and green. A reversal of the motion reverses the order of the colours, the red lines now being farthest from the centre. The experiment is generally most successful by artificial light, which contains a larger proportion of red and yellow rays than does sunlight. The speed at which the top revolves affects the result considerably. It should be kept moderate, any excess tending to neutralize the colours.

Press the coin against the reel and blow hard through the tube. One would expect the coin to fall; but, on the contrary, the harder you blow the tighter will it stick, even if the reel be pointed downwards. Only when you stop blowing will it fall to the floor.

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 141.

This is a very interesting experiment, and will mystify onlookers who do not understand the reason for the apparent paradox, which is this. The air blown through the reel strikes a very limited part of the nearer side of the halfpenny. In order to escape, it has to make a right-angle turn and pass between coin and reel, and, while travelling in this direction, loses most of its repulsive force. The result is that the total pressure on the underside of the coin, plus the effect of gravity, is exactly balanced by the atmospheric pressure on the outside, and the coin remains at that distance from the reel which gives equilibrium of forces. When one stops blowing, the air pressure on both sides is the same, and gravity makes the coin fall away.

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 142.

The function of the pins is merely to keep the halfpenny centred on the hole. If steam is used instead of human breath, a considerable weight may be hung from the disc without dislodging it.

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 143.

The Magic Swingers

The easily made toy illustrated on p. 321 is much more interesting than would appear from the mere picture, as it demonstrates a very striking physical phenomenon, the transference of energy. If two pendulums are hung close together from a flexible support and swung, their movements influence one another in a somewhat remarkable way--the swing of the one increasing as that of the other dies down, until a certain point is reached, after which the process is reversed, and the "dying" or "dead" pendulum commences to come to life again at the expense of the other. This alternation is repeated over and over again, until all the energy of both pendulums is exhausted.

To make the experiment more attractive, we substitute for the simplest possible pendulums--weights at the end of strings--small swings, each containing a figure sitting or standing on a seat, to the underside of which is attached a quarter of a pound of lead. To prevent the swings twisting, they are best made of strong wire bent as shown in Fig. 148,

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 144.

care being taken that the sides are of equal length, so that both hooks may press equally on the strings. Eighteen inches is a good length. The longer the swing, and the heavier the weight, the longer will the experiment last.

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 145.

The swings are hung, six inches apart, from a stout string stretched tightly between two well-weighted chairs or between two fixed points. The string should be at least 4 feet long.

With two equally long and equally weighted pendulums, the three following experiments may be carried out:--

XXVI Apparatus For Simple Scientific Experiments

Fig. 146.

Apparatus for illustrating an apparent scientific paradox

Fig. 147. Apparatus for illustrating an apparent scientific paradox.

Magic pendulums

Fig. 148. Magic pendulums.

1. Let one, A, start from rest. The other, B will gradually die, and A swing to and fro more and more violently, till B at last comes to a dead stop. Then A will die and B in turn get up speed. The energy originally imparted to B is thus transferred through the string from one pendulum to the other an indefinite number of times, with a slight loss at every alternation, until it is finally exhausted by friction.

2. Swing them in opposite directions, but start A from a higher point than B. They will each alternately lose and gain motion, but will never come to rest, and will continue to swing in opposite directions--that is, while A swings north or east B will be swinging south or west, and vice versa.

3. Start them both in the same direction, but one from a higher point than the other. There will be the same transference of energy as in (2), but neither will come to rest between alternations, and they will always swing in the same direction.

Unequal Lengths

If for one of the original pendulums we substitute one a couple of inches longer than the other, but of the same weight, the same set of three experiments will provide six variations among them, as in each case either the longer or the shorter may be started first or given the longer initial swing, as the case may be. The results are interesting throughout, and should be noted.

Three Or More Pendulums

If the number of pendulums be increased to three or more, the length of all being the same, a fresh field for observation is opened. With an increase of number a decrease in the individual weighting is advisable, to prevent an undue sagging of the string.

In conclusion, we may remark that a strong chain stretched between two trees and a suitable supply of rope will enable the reader and his friends to carry out all the experiments on a life-size scale.

A Smoke-Ring Apparatus

Get a large tin of the self-opening kind and cut a hole 2 inches across in the bottom. Then make a neat circular hole 1-1/4 inches in diameter in the centre of a paper disc somewhat smaller than the bottom of the tin, to which it is pasted firmly on the outside.

The other end--from which the lid is removed--must be covered with a piece of sheet rubber stretched fairly tight and secured to the tin by string passed over it behind the rim. An old cycle or motor car air tube, according to the size of the tin, will furnish the rubber needed; but new material, will cost only a few pence (Fig. 149).

A dense smoke is produced by putting in the tin two small rolls of blotting paper, one soaked in hydrochloric acid, the other in strong ammonia. The rolls should not touch. To reduce corrosion of the tin by the acid, the inside should be lined with thin card.

A ring of smoke is projected from the hole in the card if the rubber diaphragm is pushed inwards. A slow, steady push makes a fat, lazy ring come out; a smart tap a thinner one, moving much faster. Absolutely still air is needed for the best effects, as draughts make the rings lose shape very quickly and move erratically. Given good conditions, a lot of fun can be got out of the rings by shooting one through another which has expanded somewhat, or by destroying one by striking it with another, or by extinguishing a candle set up at a distance, and so on. The experimenter should notice how a vortex ring rotates in itself while moving forward, like a rubber ring being rolled along a stick.

A continuous supply of smoke can be provided by the apparatus shown in Fig. 150. The bulb of a scent spray is needed to force ammonia gas through a box, made air-tight by a rubber band round the lid, in which is a pad soaked with hydrochloric acid. The smoke formed in this box is expelled through a pipe into the ring-making box.


When dealing with hydrochloric acid, take great care not to get it on your skin or clothes, as it is a very strong corrosive.

Smoke ring apparatus

Fig. 149. Smoke-ring apparatus.

Smoke making apparatus

Fig. 150. Smoke-making apparatus.