By Anupum Pant

Here’s an image of a contraption. It is basically a long stick hinged at one end and is free to move about the other. At the end of it rests a ball. Near the ball there’s also a cup fastened to the stick. The big stick is lifted up high and is temporarily supported by a small stick.

Now, what do you think would happen when the temporary support is removed? Normally, it would be very intuitive to think that the cup and the ball would fall at the same speed. In other words, nothing fascinating would happen. Both would fall and the ball would roll away…no?

However, something very unexpected happens when the support is removed. Something that, in a jiffy demonstrates some very important concepts of physics like centre of mass, torque and acceleration.

The big wooden stick (with the fastened cup) falls and it falls faster than the ball. Actually it falls and also rotates. As a result of the swing, the cup comes under the ball just before ball reaches it and the ball ends up inside it.

Under the influence of the same gravitational force, irrespective of the mass, the cup and the ball must have fallen at the same rate, as predicted by Galileo? What really happens? The video explains…

The Landolt Clock Reaction

By Anupum Pant

Steve Spangler Never ceases to amaze me. Once again I found this old video of him on the Ellen show. These are a few experiments he does on the stage…

• Lights a tube light with his bare hands and Ellen’s.
• A transparent liquid suddenly instantly changes colour.
• Blows the hydrogen and oxygen mixture on Ellen’s hand.
• And makes someone from the audience walk across the table on a non newtonian fluid.

Steve doesn’t exactly explains what happens there, but the second experiment is my favourite. It is the one in which he asks Ellen to pour two transparent liquids into each other and mix them well. Then Ellen waits for a few seconds and the liquid instantly turns into an ink like colour.

The magical effect is actually a chemical reaction known as the Landolt Clock Reaction. It actually involves 3 different solutions (read about them). The reaction happens quicker once the mixing starts and leads to a third reaction which happens immeasurably fast. It’s totally instantaneous and thus the transparent solutions turn into a bluish black iodine starch complex. As steve’s website puts it…

The sudden change from a colorless solution to the blue-black solution is the result of four sequential reactions. First, the bisulfite ions (HSO3-) reduce some of the iodate ions (IO3-) to form iodide ions (I-). Next, the iodide ions (I-) are oxidized by the remaining iodate ions (IO3-) to form triiodide ions (I3-). The solution now consists of triiodide ions (I3-) and soluble starch. In the third reaction, the triiodide ions (I3-) get reduced by the bisulfite ions (HSO3-) to become iodide ions (I-). That continues until all of the bisulfite has been consumed. Finally, the triiodide ions and starch combine to form the dark blue-black starch complex that looks like ink.

See more at: SteveSpanglerScience

A Fun Way to Multiply Numbers

By Anupum Pant

Please note, in the heading I said, a fun way to multiply numbers, not necessarily a quick way. Widely touted as an “amazingly quick Japanese method to multiply”, I think firstly, it really is not a very quick method. Secondly, I couldn’t find any sources confirming that it is a method developed by the Japanese. In fact, I’m not even sure if there’s anything Japanese about it. Nevertheless, the method sure is fun and should work great for people who don’t remember the multiplication tables well.

Another great thing about it is that it is a multiplication problem turned into a visual counting  problem. Since multiplication exercises don’t really make kids happy, they’d definitely love to count intersections instead (multiplication disguised intelligently).

Of course the counting can be used for single digit numbers too, but that won’t be too useful. For slightly more complex problems involving 2 digits like 32 X 42, it could be a life saver. It’s a fairly simple 3-step process. Here’s how you do 32 X 42 with it…

Step 1: The best way to go about it is by starting from the top left. First, you draw the 3 lines for the 3 of the number 32. And then you make 2 lines for the number 2, as shown.

Step 2: Next make 4 lines and 2 lines intersecting the previously made lines as shown. Clearly, 4 lines for the 4 of 42 and 2 lines for the units place of 42.

Step 3: Count the number of intersections in the far left (a), centre (b), and the far right (c). (a), (b) and (c) are 12, 14 and 4 respectively, for this problem.

The 1 from 14 gets carried to the number just at the right of it – 12 of (a), and (a) becomes 13. A similar carrying of the ten’s place to the immediate right column happens if there are any 2 digit numbers. So you are left with 13, 4 and 4 now. 1344 is the answer to 32 X 42.

This can be done for 3 digits too and more…
If there’s a zero, you could make a line and not count any intersections with it. As it has been shown in the video below…