Math-Physics High School SMILE
IIT: [Latitude: 40o 50.3' ,Longitude: 87o 37.6']
06 April 1999
Prepared by Porter Johnson

Bill Blunk [Joliet Central HS]

This was a continuation of his work on the rotating top, with the following improvements:

The resultant system permitted the top to rotate literally for hours [at least until it mysteriously fell to the floor and smashed to smithereens].

Earl Zwicker [IIT, retired]

He produced a box postmarked 07 January 1982, sent to him by Harold Jensen, Professor of Physics from Lake Forest College and Chicago Area Physics Guru. Inside the box was a perpetual motion machine, in which a magnetic top would spin on a relatively rough surface, and run "for as long as you like" without stopping. [The device had been ordered from a Johnson-Smith Catalog; they are still being published!]

Earl raised the question "how does it work?". He also produced a similar device out of the SMILE office, in which a "whirly-gig" actually picked up speed as it rotated while moving along a track. How can you disprove that these devices are true perpetual motion machines without taking them apart?

Earl also announced a lecture on "the electric car of the present": [All are welcome!]

16 April 1999 [Friday] 12-2 pm
HUB Ballroom, IIT
Don Kanner [Lane Tech HS]

Richard Feynman once said "Electrons, in many ways, are like balls". He presented a view of molecular bonds developed by a structural organic chemist some time ago, in which you visualize the bonds themselves as being like little balls; in fact you can made models of these bonds out of styrofoam balls. He began with BENZENE, [aromatic hydrocarbon, petroleum additive, and seriously carcinogenic] which has the chemical formula C6H6 and plane hexagonal structure:

    H           H                  This picture cannot be correct, since
\ / every other Carbon bond is a double
C = C bond, and yet the molecule must have
/ \ six-fold [hexagonal] symmetry Thus,
H -- C C -- H bonds "time share" at the various
\\ // sites, according to the miracle of
C -- C the Quantum Theory. Simple to
/ \ explain, but hard to draw!

Each carbon atom has four "tetrahedral" bonds, as if the C atom were at the center of a regular tetrahedron and the bonds extend to the four vertices. The angle between the directions are all given by A = cos-1[-1/3] = 109.471o

The usual approach is to make the C and H atoms out of little balls of different colors and sizes [OK; gum drops will work just as well], connected by toothpicks. Don pointed out the bonds are large, whereas the core atoms are rather small, and will fit almost anywhere. Thus, you should represent the bonds by styrofoam balls, and forget about the location of the atom. [Gum drops are actually better to use, because you can eat them as you go along; especially when the teacher is not looking!] Then, benzene has 24 bonds, in relevant tetrahedral directions, each represented a styrofoam ball. So it goes!

He also demonstrated the following molecules:

C2H4 ethene [or ethylene for old-fashioned types]
C2H6 ethane
H2O water
CO2 carbon dioxide

This is an absurdly non-conventional viewpoint concerning organic structure [in the words of the Physicist Wolfgang Pauli, "it may not even be wrong!"]. Perhaps we should revise the statement by Feynman to read "bonds, in many ways, are like little balls".

Bill Shanks [Joliet Junior College; quasi-retired from Joliet Central HS]

Bill handed copies of an article entitled "Quantum Sound", which appeared in Electronic Magazine recently. It not only explained phonons as sound quanta, but introduced the concepts of the "photino" or "microphonon?, as well as "polyphonons", "telephonons", and the important work of the Bolognese residents Dr Leonardo Da Capo and Enrico Fermata, who finance their work by selling T-shirts with the slogan Hooked on Phonons. Bill then demonstrated his remarkable musical skills on a toy saxophone presumably purloined from a small child.

John Bozovsky [Bowen HS]

According to him, the seriousness of the fabled Y2K problem pales in comparison with the difficulties in facing the Y1K problem, as evidenced by an article from a London newspaper circa 999 AD/CE. In fact, many people predicted the end of the world at the end of the first millenium. They may have been correct!

Karlene Joseph [Lane Tech HS]

She asked the question: How do you get a balloon completely inside a 500 cc Florence Flask? The students in her class had various opinions, which were interesting to consider from the viewpoint of basic physics and "common sense". She then got a balloon to go inside by putting a little water [" 50 cc] inside the flask, and boiling away most of it. Then, she took the flask off the heating element and put the balloon around the lip of the flask. After a few seconds the balloon was pulled inside the flask, and as more of the water vapor condensed the balloon filled up with air. Verrrrrrry interesting!

Next she demonstrated an OCARINA, which she had obtained from the craft store at Berea College in Berea, Kentucky [Latitude: 37o 34.2', Longitude: 84o 17.6']. She played on octave on the instrument, and then asked how to explain the sounds from the size and shape of the holes. Of course, nobody knew!

Addition information has been obtained by Lilla Green [Hartigan School]

I was in TN for some years and know a little about the Ocarina. It is sometimes referred to as a "globular flute." I think it is actually a very ancient instrument, although many cultures have embraced it and put their own touches to it. I think it originated with Native Americans, who made them out of clay. Now, they are made from wood or Terra Cotta or even plastic. They are made in all kinds of shapes, like animals or faces. The "sweet potato" Ocarina is also common (It's just shaped like a blob basically). I have seen them in antique stores and little gift shops, but I have never heard one played. If I were to guess, though I would say the physics is very similar to the flute or recorder, where you blow in and change the frequency that comes out by obstructing various outlets.

--Aubrey T. Hanbicki; The James Franck Insitute; University of Chicago

Also, see the following website:

Another riddle from Lilla Green

The first digit was your original number [# times you want to eat out each week]. The second two digits are your age.

Why? Will this work next year? Why or why not?