Physics Experiments: Simon builds a Periscope

How does a periscope work? How does light travel through a periscope? How can you make a periscope yourself? Simon answers these questions in the video:

Also tried to trace the motion of light inside the periscope using a laser beam:

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Chemistry Experiments: Colors (surface active agents and pH indicator)

Our new MEL Chemistry box arrived, containing tons of color fun! We have already tried two experiments. In the Color changing milk experiment, the soap touches the milk creating a very thin film of soap on the milk’s surface and causing the colors to spread along with it, producing a mesmerising effect. Molecules of soap and other similar substances lower the surface tension of different liquids and thus are called surface-active agents (SAA). Simon took it a notch further and created antibubbles that glide on the film of soap:

 

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We thought this one looked like a nuclear explosion:

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The second experiment we did was called Magic Liquid and felt like performing a magic trick: a yellowish liquid poured in five different cups turned five different colors, almost all the colors of the rainbow! The secret was putting a tiny bit of a different chemical substance on the bottom of every cup beforehand. The yellowish stuff was actually Thymol blue, also known as thymolsulfonephthalein (chemical formula C27H30O5S ), a pH indicator, and changed color according the acidity of the substances that were already in the cups. The larger the quantity of protons H+, the higher the acidity of the medium, while the OH ions are responsible for the basic medium:

 

Thymol blue molecule visible on the iPad screen:

We also checked the pH of the substances using indicator standard teststrips:

The pH rainbow:

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Simon had already been busy with colors for a few days, revisiting his Magformers collection to build this gorgeous color wheel:

 

The Sky Track

Simon got a belated birthday present from his Russian grandparents, something he had dreamed about for months: the Magformers Sky Track set, sort of a monorail that allows Simon the shuttle to ride vertically and upside down, seemingly defying gravity:

 

Combining the Sky Track with a domino chain reaction:

Simon building the AND logic gate with dominos:

Simon took the Sky Track along when visiting an older friend in Amsterdam and it had great success. We generally see Simon open up more to playing together and just having genuine childlike fun instead of having continuous scruples about waisting time and the need to be working on his science and programming projects without interruption.

Rational Approximations for Phi

“If I get the next two digits right, I’ll be ecstatic!” Simon says, as he hurries on with a φ (Phi) approximation algorithm using Fibonacci numbers. He keeps dividing every following Fibonacci number by the previous one and eventually gets quite a good Phi approximation a precision of 6 digits! This experiment is inspired by Mathologer, who applied this algorithm to approximate both Pi and Phi and show how “wildly less irrational Pi is than Phi”, Simon says. Simon calculated more terms for Phi though.