questions concerning measurements, experiments, and activities that demonstrate physics and are safe to do at home, require at most one tool or ingredient not readily available, and can be interpreted or analyzed on one sheet of paper with accessible math.

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485
votes
19answers
183k views

Cooling a cup of coffee with help of a spoon

During the breakfast with my colleagues, a question popped into my head: What is the fastest method to cool a cup of coffee, if your only available instrument is a spoon? A qualitative answer would ...
292
votes
4answers
43k views

Can I compute the mass of a coin based on the sound of its fall?

Other day, I bumped my bookshelf and a coin fell down. This gave me an idea. Is it possible to compute the mass of a coin, based on the sound emitted when it falls? I think that there should be a ...
102
votes
24answers
15k views

How can you weigh your own head in an accurate way?

I read some methods but they're not accurate. They use the Archimedes principle and they assume uniform body density which of course is far from true. Others are silly like this one: Take a knife ...
56
votes
3answers
6k views

How to measure the wavelength of a laser pointer?

I'm working on something and I need to know the wavelength of the laser pointer that I'm using. Can you suggest me a way, using some optics formulae, or anything else to calculate the wavelength?
50
votes
5answers
17k views

Why does a candle blow out when we blow on it? Our breath is 16% oxygen and only 4% CO2

Don't say that a layer of carbon dioxide covers the flame, because our breath has more oxygen than carbon dioxide. Also, our breath does not cool the flame as it is itself warm. So what is happening ...
47
votes
4answers
87k views

Why do grapes in a microwave oven produce plasma?

Some of you may know this experience (Grape + Microwave oven = Plasma video link): take a grape that you almost split in two parts, letting just a tiny piece of skin making a link between each ...
44
votes
12answers
11k views

Home experiments to derive the speed of light?

Are there any experiments I can do to derive the speed of light with only common household tools?
42
votes
5answers
3k views

What causes this pattern of sunlight reflected off a table leg?

My friend noticed an interference-like pattern around the table leg. However, we do know that interference patterns of sunlight produces rainbow colours. What seems to be happening here?
38
votes
10answers
6k views

Classic home experiments for an 8-year-old child

My 8-year-old daughter's school report says that she's good at understanding the basic science she's doing, but she's having trouble seeing how experimental results lead to conclusions. Specifically, ...
31
votes
3answers
3k views

Floating a ping pong ball in the air just using a pen!

Caution: Apparently this problem is harder than it seems! There is a well known phenomena, which I first learnt about when I was a 10 years old kid. You can levitate a ping pong(or whatever ...
28
votes
6answers
10k views

Is this kids experiment a legitimate way to show that air has mass?

Consider the experiment in this link. The experiment includes using a ruler as a lever, with an inflated balloon on one side and a balloon which is not inflated on the other. The aim of the ...
27
votes
2answers
989 views

Why does laser light not affect glowing materials?

I have this childrens rubber ball which glows in the dark after it's exposed to light. I "charge" it with a flash light then play with my dogs at night. I thought to try a very intense green laser, ...
26
votes
6answers
13k views

How do whisky stones keep your drink cold?

From a discussion in the DMZ (security stack exchange's chat room - a place where food and drink are important topics) we began to question the difference between how ice and whisky stones work to ...
23
votes
1answer
7k views

Energy in bolognese reduction - lid on or off?

Generally, to let my bolognese thicken, I leave the lid off in order to "let water vapor escape." I am however distracted from enjoying the taste because I'm having doubts that my physical reasoning ...
23
votes
3answers
25k views

Why does the water rise?

It's a very popular experiment (eg), from elementary school : put a burning candle on a dish filled with water, cover the candle with an inverted glass: after a little while, the candle flame goes ...
22
votes
11answers
3k views

Backyard experiments to falsify the Flat Earth theory [duplicate]

I recently became aware that the flat Earth theory still exists in the 21st century, and has colored the views of a friend of mine. Roughly speaking, the tenets are: The Earth is a flat disk, with ...
22
votes
4answers
4k views

Why does a cork float to the side of a glass?

What is this physical phenomenon and when it's happen ? Please take a look at this picture: Notice: This is a cork ball attracted to sides of a glass of water
21
votes
3answers
5k views

Why does the sound pitch increase on every consecutive tick at the bottom of a filled cup of coffee?

Since I don't know the proper physical terms for this, I describe it in everyday English. The following has kept me wondering for quite some time and so far I haven't found a reasonable explanation. ...
19
votes
4answers
2k views

Home experiment to estimate Avogadro's number?

How to get an approximation of Avogadro or Boltzmann constant through experimental means accessible by an hobbyist ?
19
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does the note played by a flute not change in this case when the air column is interrupted?

I play the flute as a hobby, and I've noticed that when playing middle D or E flat, one can interrupt the air column by releasing a certain key (which is near the middle of the air column), and yet ...
19
votes
3answers
4k views

How does paper make sound when it is torn?

We know that from our experience when we tear up a piece of paper, we can hear a characteristic sound. What is the underlying mechanism behind it? What do the dominant frequencies (edit: I don't mean ...
18
votes
2answers
2k views

Why does blowing on a candle put it out but sucking doesn't?

Alternatively, why does the force created by blowing out air feel so much stronger than the force created by sucking in air? Ok, so forget the human factor involved in blowing out candles. Consider a ...
18
votes
5answers
3k views

Home experiments using wireless LAN or mobile phones about electromagnetism?

Are there any nice experiments using wireless LAN access points or routers or mobile phones to demonstrate physical features of electromagnetic fields, especially em-waves? More precisely I am ...
17
votes
4answers
3k views

How can I measure the mass of the Earth at home?

How can I measure the mass of the Earth at home? How was the mass of the Earth first measured?
16
votes
4answers
7k views

Tried to do the double slit experiment, failed. Why?

I tried, and failed, to do the double-slit experiment. I thought I had a good experiment setup, but obviously I was wrong. Can anyone offer some insight in what I might have done wrong? Most of ...
15
votes
3answers
8k views

Home experiments to measure the RPM of a pedestal fan without special equipment?

Is it possible to determine to an approximate degree, the revolutions per minute of a fan, for example a pedesal fan pictured below, without using some electronic/mechanical measuring device? One ...
15
votes
1answer
854 views

Which hemisphere am I on?

Inspired by this answer to a question on Puzzling.SE (which contains the old but wrong idea that the Coriolis force determines the direction in which a bathroom vortex rotates, and also an approach ...
15
votes
9answers
2k views

What are good mechanics experiments for 10 year olds? [closed]

I'm trying to explain elementary mechanics - without the benefits of calculus or even algebra - and struggling. I'd like to find reasonable ways to demonstrate Newton's laws, minimally, and possibly ...
13
votes
3answers
14k views

Is it possible to reproduce Double-slit experiment by myself at home?

I want to reproduce this experiment by myself. What I need for this. What parameters of slits and laser/another light source it needs? Is it possible to make DIY-detector?
12
votes
2answers
772 views

Sun spectroscopy - Home experiment

We let the sun light run through a 5x3x3cm triangular glass prism and we examined the formed 'rainbow' in search of Fraunhofer lines. However, even though we looked close enough (even with a ...
12
votes
3answers
503 views

Is it really possible to “discover” the speed of light with a microwave oven?

I've seen a number of sites/videos online that describe a method for measuring the speed of light, using a microwave oven and a chocolate bar. For example, this video on youtube. The basic idea is to ...
12
votes
3answers
264 views

Self Stirring Boiling Liquid

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I were brewing a new batch of beer. We boil our wort in a turkey fryer. Pretty standard setup for beginners. Anyway, our wort was getting pretty close to boiling ...
11
votes
6answers
21k views

How to measure resistance of a piece of wire?

My son is doing a science experiment on how varying temperature and diameter of wire impacts the resistance. We are assuming we can accomplish this by using different gauge wires, a home thermometer, ...
11
votes
3answers
19k views

Why do lightbulbs continue to glow after the light is turned off?

I've noticed that whenever I turn the lamp off in my room at night, the lightbulb seems to continue to glow for a minute or so after that. It's not bright though; the only way I even notice it is if ...
11
votes
3answers
1k views

Best way to chill a cup of coffee with cold water and 5 minutes [duplicate]

Initial data 1 x 3/4 full cup of hot coffee / tea / your favorite morning beverage cold water 5 minutes Considering that it's starting to get hot outside, and we all want to drink reasonably cold ...
11
votes
3answers
7k views

Homemade particle accelerator

Watching a documentary, I heard Michio Kaku telling that when he was young, he built a home-made particle accelerator. What I would like to know is if I, myself can do so? And how?
11
votes
2answers
813 views

The secret behind the spinning, asymmetrically weighted, 2D disk-shaped top?

When you spin an asymmetrically weighted, 2D disk-shaped top, the heavy part actually rises to the top. Why is this? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h0SZZTBQmEs ...
11
votes
2answers
1k views

How can I explain or demonstrate the Lorentz Force to a 12 year old?

I'm a space physicist. I've been working with a group of school students (aged between around 10 and 12) exploring the Sun, the Earth and the solar system. We've talked about some basics of magnetism ...
10
votes
3answers
2k views

How accurately can I expect to measure the gravitational constant with a club of college students?

I am a math instructor with almost no experimental physics background, but I run a math and engineering club that is interested in doing some experiments. I have read up a bit and see some obvious ...
10
votes
3answers
928 views

How hot is the water in the pot?

Question: How hot is the water in the pot? More precisely speaking, how can I get a temperature of the water as a function of time a priori? Background & My attempt: Recently I started spend ...
10
votes
5answers
2k views

Milk or sugar first to maximize temperature of a hot cup of tea?

If there is a hot cup of tea and we were asked to add milk and sugar, which mixing order would make the hottest tea? I personally think that the order doesn't matter, since sugar wouldn't change the ...
10
votes
3answers
1k views

How can I weigh liquid in a sealed container?

How do you measure the mass and volume of alcohol if it is in a sealed container? Are there clever ways of achieving this? The weight of the container is not known. I can't open the container, I ...
10
votes
2answers
9k views

Does tea stay hotter with the milk in it?

A little thought experiment, similar to this one: Imagine you are making a cup of tea when the door bell rings. You've poured the boiling water into a cup with a teabag in it. As you're just about to ...
10
votes
5answers
11k views

Is coherent light required for interference in Young's double slit experiment?

In this Veritasium video, a home experiment is presented which appears to produce a very good double-slit interference pattern with normal sunlight. The experiment is an empty cardboard box with a ...
10
votes
3answers
7k views

Is it viable or possible to make your own transistor?

Just wondering if it is possible/viable to construct your own transistor, not small like todays, but the same scale as the one created at Bell Labs.
10
votes
3answers
14k views

Rough, easy DIY method of measuring magnetic field strength

How to easily, using standard DIY equipment measure the strength of magnetic field generated by a permanent magnet? Narrowing down the "loose language" of the above: strength of magnetic field: ...
10
votes
1answer
2k views

What are the specific requirements for a do-it-yourself quantum double-slit experiment?

I was shocked to recently learn that the double-slit experiment is not only possible to do with completely ordinary equipment (with photons of course), but it actually looks rather easy. This is from ...
10
votes
1answer
412 views

Why does finely cut paper curl?

When paper is cut to a small width, it curls up like this. Why does this happen?
9
votes
8answers
22k views

Why does hot oil explode when pouring water on it?

What is the reason that hot oil makes sound and explodes when water is poured on it?
9
votes
8answers
10k views

Why is a 1mW laser dangerous?

In our Physics lab we have a 1 milliwatt (0.001W) helium neon laser. Despite the low power, we were cautioned not to even look at reflections of the beam as it could cause permanent eye damage - why ...