Electricity is one of the most useful discoveries of our relatively recent history. It lights the rooms we hang out in, give power to some vehicles and allows for communication across vast distances. In 1800, Italian physicist Alessandro Volta discovered that particular chemical reactions could produce electricity so he constructed the voltaic pile (an early electric battery) that produced a steady electric current.
Since then, electricity has been adapted to try to fit the needs of people better. In 1891, inventor Nikola Tesla wanted to make a way to transmit electricity without the use of wires, so that more people could have access to a cities source. He created the Tesla coil, a resonant transformer circuit to try to do just that.
However, with this new technology came challenges. It turns out that spraying electricity into the air is a waste. Whether the power would be used or not, it’ll eventually dissipate. It is also quite dangerous without the use of proper equipment. The large arcs of electricity that you see are about 650,000 volts! For comparison, the electricity that comes out of your wall is at about 120 volts, which is dangerous in it’s own right.
Today, Tesla coils are not used for free energy, or really anything useful. However, they are used far and wide in classrooms as scientific demonstrations! They are also, really fun to play with, as long as you do so safely. Faraday cages or grounding rods should always be used, and can even be used to control the flow of the electric discharge!
Fiber optics allow for the transmission of information, like the internet and cable TV. They carry information between two places using entirely light-based technology. In a cable, there can be as little as two fibers, or as many as several hundreds. Each fiber is about as thick as a human hair. But how does it work?
For the clearest example, a laser beam can be sent down the fiber. The laser is always one color of light that travels coherently. Coherence is when waves of light line up to be in phase. Two different colors of light can never be coherent because they have different wavelengths.
The light from a laser (Light Amplified by Stimulated Emission of Radiation) will also always travel in a straight line. So why can it bend around and through a fiber or stream of water?
The fibers being used are made of glass, plastic, or a combination of the two. These all have a higher index of refraction than the air, causing the light to bend from one medium to the next. If the angle that the light is being bent is less than 42˚, then the light will bounce backwards as if it hit a mirror. This is called total internal reflection.
The light waves are guided through the optical fibers due to this phenomenon of light bouncing back and forth down the cable. This allows the light information from the beginning to be able to make it all the way to the other side without losing much energy along the way.
If you think magnets are already like magic, wait until you get your hands on the newest technology from Polymagnets! This new science has opened minds and doors to applied sciences.
Polymagnets created the “maxel”, a magnetic pixel, if you will. It is in the same vein of ideas as 3D printing, but with a twist. Using maxels, you can impose a specific magnetic field onto a “blank” sheet of metal. You can create different magnetic fields on a single surface, whereas with a typical magnet, there is a single magnetic field associated with the entire magnet.
This technology can create incredibly strong magnets, showcasing that the strength of a magnet is independent of it’s size. It can also create unique patterns of magnetic fields.
A standard magnet has a north and south pole, with a single pattern of magnetic field lines. However, maxels allow for a strange ability of two of their magnets. At a certain distance away, they will be attracted to each other, but once they reach a critical closer distance, will repel. They call this a “spring”. But, they took it one step further. They made a lock, which is their spring design plus when you rotate the magnets to a certain point, the magnetic fields line up and snap into place. To undo the lock, you simply rotate the magnets back.
The idea that science and technology is constantly pushing forward is one that we love to instill in our students, parents of students, and teachers. There is no limit to new science, and not everything has been thought of. Let Polymagnets inspire you to create and push humanity forward in the never ending journey of seeking new knowledge.
Googol is a really really big number. It is a one followed by 100 zeroes. As big as that number is, it seems appropriate for its named counterpart, Google, which celebrates its 17th birthday since its incorporation today!
While Google has exploded to the point where it is both a noun and a verb, it has retained its fun roots. The main headquarters of the Googleplex, a play on the googolplex, and every holiday or anniversary is covered by a doodle. Below are some of our favorite Google easter eggs.
Zerg Rush: An homage to the incredibly popular Starcraft franchise from Blizzard Entertainment. Simply typing this into the search bar will have you fighting for your life! GG!
Atari Breakout: Searching this seems mundane until moving over the the image search, at which point the screen morphs into the famous arcade game!
Do A Barrel Roll! Straight out of Starfox!
Google Gravity! For a bunch of Physics people like us, this is oddly satisfying.
My favorite one doesn’t involve the internet at all. Google Chrome users will recognize the image below as a symbol of broken internet. I always thought this was a play on the T-Rex and his short arms not being able to reach the internet.
Lasers are awesome! We use them for medicine, science, and even entertainment. But one of the most practical uses for a laser is the transmission of information. The information can come in a variety of different forms, from music to television to internet. This idea of information transfer just using light shouldn’t come as much of a shock. Radio stations have been transmitting information using light waves for over a century. Lasers just take this technology to the next level, allowing more data to be transferred at a quicker rate. While radio waves can pass through most everyday objects, laser light would be blocked and the information lost. To solve this problem engineers have invented the fiber optic cable.
A fiber optic cable is constructed in such a way that laser light cannot escape it, even though the cable is transparent. We call this “total internal reflection”, meaning any light from inside the cable gets bounced back into the cable. Long strings of fiber optic cables allow laser information to travel very far with very little loss of information. If you have HD television or high speed internet, chances are that you are using a fiber optic cable and you don’t even know it. Yay technology!
CDs are dying. It’s an unfortunate but inescapable fact as the world transitions to digital downloading. But while the end may be in site for CDs and DVDs, it hasn’t come yet. Before that day actually comes, perhaps we should take a quick look at this awesome technology and how it works.
A CD’s base a a polycabonate plastic material that is transparent. It provides the structure and protection for the layers above it. Above the polycabonate is a thin layer of aluminum reflective coating followed by another thin layer of crylic and then the label. The most important part of a CD is that the polycabonate sheet is imprinted with a series of miniscule bumps. The details of the bumps is a code that is what stores the data on the disc. The bumps move outward from the center of the CD in a spiral pattern all the way to the edge. The CD reader move along this track using a precise laser to detect the changes in the bumps and decode the data stored on the CD.
As CDs become less and less useful, perhaps we need to find other uses for them. One entertaining DIY science trick we can do is to melt part of the polycarbonate sheet and blow it out to create a giant bubble. Make sure to scrape off the aluminum sheet or else it won’t expand to its full amount. Enjoy!
We would like to thank you for visiting our blog. AstroCamp is a hands-on physical science program with an emphasis on astronomy and space exploration. Our classes and activities are designed to inspire students toward future success in their academic and personal pursuits. This blog is intended to provide you with up-to-date news and information about our camp programs, as well as current science and astronomical happenings. This blog has been created by our staff who have at least a Bachelors Degree in Physics or Astronomy, however it is not uncommon for them to have a Masters Degree or PhD. We encourage you to also follow us on Facebook, Instagram, Google+, Twitter, and Vine to see even more of our interesting science, space and astronomy information. Feel free to leave comments, questions, or share our blog with others. Please visit www.astrocampschool.org for additional information. Happy Reading!