Mad Physics :: Experiments
Dehydrating Sugar with Acid

May 28, 2007

When acid is added to sugar, the result appears to be a smoldering tower of gunk. This classic classroom demonstration is an example of a dehydration reaction. The acid "steals" water from the sugar, turning it into pure carbon. This experiment has a video of the reaction--and explains where all that heat comes from!

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2006 Nobel Prize Celebration

October 03, 2006

Today the Nobel Committee announced the winners of the 2006 prize for physics. This year's laureates John C. Mather and George F. Smoot won "for their discovery of the blackbody form and anisotropy of the cosmic microwave background radiation." Both laureates are in some way associated with the University of California, Berkeley: Mather is an alumnus and Smoot is a professor. Therefore, it is Mad Physics's distinct pleasure to show you our pictures from Smoot's official Nobel Prize reception at the physics department!

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Hysteresis and Rubber Bands

April 13, 2006

At Mad Physics, we've already shown you the "classical" Hooke's Law Demonstration. Now, here’s an alternate take on the age-old experiment. Rubber bands behave similarly to springs, except that they do not assume their original shape after being stretched. This is because of a phenomenon called hysteresis. We can use this knowledge to calculate the energy lost by the band.

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Molten Magnesium

December 26, 2005
After a long and arduous exam period, what did we do? Almost set Joost's garage on fire! It wasn't our proudest moment, but it was indicative of magnesium's crazy heat output. Magnesium burns at 2200ºC, which produces an impressive white light.

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Esterification Reactions

December 05, 2005
This is one of the most technically-involved labs on Mad Physics. The experiment requires fancy laboratory equipment, but nonetheless, the principles behind the experiment are simple and it serves as a great tool to learn about equipment like condensers and distillation columns.

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Non Dairy Creamer Free Radicals

November 14, 2005
The graphic looks almost just like the one below... visually, it may just be another fireball, but the way we made it was completely different. These two labs are great for comparison because one is a more traditional explosion, while this one is hinged on the basics of free radicals.

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20 Foot Wax Fireball

September 12, 2005
Joost and I bought a few expensive pillar candles and we created a giant fireball that was >20 feet tall at its highest point. How did we do it? Well, you'll have to read all about it, or if the text bores you, just check out the amazing videos.

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How to Build a 6-Foot-Tall Rocket

August 15, 2005
In 2003, I built a giant rocket for a national competition. It was just under six feet tall, had two stages, and sported an onboard electronics set. The rocket was computer-designed and made from 100% custom parts. Relive the excitement.

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Building Wilson's Cloud Chamber

June 27, 2005
Have you ever wanted to detect ions from the comfort of your own home? Well, now you can! This lab investigates Wilson's original apparatus and suggests a model you can make at home.

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Dry Ice Explosions

May 31, 2005
This lab involved a great deal of plastic shrapnel! We took dry ice (CO2 in solid form) and let it sublime in a sealed plastic bottle. This sudden change of state, and more importantly, of volume, led to the container's eventual explosion!

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Methanol Bottle Rockets

May 16, 2005
This week we simulated the mechanics of a rocket motor running on liquid fuel. Though many rockets use composite solids, methanol is the official fuel of drag racing and remote-controlled airplane flying. Now you can see how these fire columns can launch a rocket!

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Red Beet pH Meter

May 09, 2005
Indicators are used everyday in labs to measure the pH of different substances. The universal indicator stands out among the others because of its wider scale. Today’s lab investigates the use of red beets as a pH indicator.

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Fire Extinguishers

May 02, 2005
We put our handy-dandy dry chemical extinguisher up against the backyard hose to see which one really did the best job. We tested with not only large wood fires, but also liquid fires using gas! Except for a couple mishaps, we were injury free. Great photos!

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Giant Hooke's Law Demonstration

April 25, 2005
Hooke's Law is commonly demonstrated with 100g weights and a small spring. We decided to keep the concepts but ditch the lab. In our version, the basic premise remains, but we demonstrate it with a GIANT garage-door spring and a 60 kg, 15-year-old Dutch boy!

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Science of Glowsticks

December 24, 2004
None of the light bulbs in your house are perfectly efficient. They act as resistors in your house's electrical circuit and generate light and heat. However, there ARE forms of light that emit light without any heat! To demonstrate this phenomenon, we made use of common party favors.

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