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What are some of the most elegant/complex/sophisticated physics experiments one could perform in his garage, if he has enough spare time and technical/theoretical know-how, but a relatively limited budget? Say, a retired emeritus physics professor?

These could be either novel or reproductions of known experiments, either qualitative or quantitative demonstrations.

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You can do cold fusion. Make a list is discouraged, so I am voting to close. –  Ron Maimon Nov 8 '12 at 19:51
    
Well I heard from Michio Kaku on TV that in High School, he build a particle accelerator in his garage. –  QEntanglement Nov 8 '12 at 19:55
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List questions may be discouraged, but we could do with more discussion of experiment around here. –  user1504 Nov 8 '12 at 20:23
    
Ok, you're right, can't take back my vote, but +1. –  Ron Maimon Nov 8 '12 at 20:39
    
We could indeed do with more experimental questions, but not discussion as such. –  dmckee Nov 9 '12 at 3:35
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closed as not constructive by Ron Maimon, Qmechanic, dmckee Nov 9 '12 at 3:26

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2 Answers

There's a guy named Fred Niell who won the ISEF back in the '90s by building a working particle accelerator in his garage. Kaku's story is superficially similar, but there's an important difference: Kaku built the magnet, but didn't do his EE homework, so when he turned on his accelerator, he blew the fuses in his parents' house. Niell, by contrast, built his own power supply, and actually managed to observe some resonances.

Remember, kids, it's not a science experiment if you don't measure something.

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Fluid dynamics is easily and inexpensively obtained in a garage. The author is not a fluids, or even physics person, but an exercise physiologist.

That white paper is for a low-speed wind tunnel, but you could easily build a supersonic wind tunnel if you are okay having a giant, high pressure tank. If that's not okay, then you can make a shock tube. The one we used in undergraduate fluids lab was two PVC pipes bolted together so you can put a diaphragm between them and a vacuum pump.

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I did the dependence of Karmen vortex street formation on Reynolds number in my garage when I was in 5th grade. Build a flow channel from lumber and acrylic; 80 gallon (~225 liters) garbage can fed from a garden hose as a water reservoir connected with big piece of PVC pipe and a lot of 5 minute epoxy; flow established with a 2 gallon bucket and a stop watch; food coloring injected with a piece of drip irrigation tube; data recording with a 35 mm camera and scaling established by taping a yard stick to the bottom of acrylic wall. Fun times. Wet, too. –  dmckee Nov 9 '12 at 3:32
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