Tell Us About The Best Science Experiment You Ever Did!

Illustration for article titled Tell Us About The Best Science Experiment You Ever Did!

Whether your last experiment involved combining baking soda and vinegar and calling it a volcano or you took your DIY science efforts pro in a lab, we want to hear about the best experiment you ever did.


Share the story in the comments, and tell us what you were looking for, what you did, and what you learned. Pictures, visualizations, models, or illustrations, too, please!

Image: Chris Hadfield finds out what happens when you wring water out of a cloth, in space! From this classic video.


Corpore Metal


Ballistic motion analysis, first year physics lab, University of Washington, 1983. I had just turned 20.

Our lab group was given the task to test the validity of the kinematics equations of ballistic motion. To do this we have inclined air hockey tables, pucks, rubber band launchers and a stroboscopic camera to take millisecond repeated exposures of the pucks parabolic path.

With the resulting photo we could measure the position of the puck and height of the parabola it traced out as it landed on the opposite side of the table. If our numbers added up we'd find that that ballistic motion equations, first worked out by Galileo and others 500 years ago, were valid. Nice and straightforward.

It was really an exercise to get us used to lab apparatus and confirm for ourselves that our professors weren't lying to us.

Only my numbers weren't adding up. Energy was being lost somewhere and my equation wouldn't balance with expected predictions. Something was wrong. My partner and I were going to fail this assignment.

Then like a jolt something occurred to me that solved our problem. I notice that the puck was rotating as it traced out it's arc. The rubber band launcher was causing it to spin. With the stroboscopic photo we could work out how fast it was spinning because we knew how fast the strobe was flaring.

We then pulled in some rotational kinematics equations, worked out how much energy was lost to spin and BANG the numbers we plugged into the ballastics equation balanced.

Problem solved.

But mostly what I remember was the jolt that came to me when I figured out what was actually happening.

It was like I stole a secret from the universe. That's really the only way I can describe it.