Spectra: Turbulent Times (2013)

Follow Spectra in her next adventure. It’s wintertime, and the swim team of Tesla Junior high has gone to Pasadena, CA for their yearly winter training camp. The state championship meet is coming up, where they will face the unbeaten Edison Middle School Wizards of Menlo Park, IN. Coach Henri Toueaux will stop at nothing to secure a new trophy for his office and he doesn’t care who he leaves in his wake, including his team. Follow Spectra and her gang as they use her laser powers and their knowledge of fluid flow to stop H. Toueaux from crossing the line from motivating coach to evil villain.

Come help Spectra and her friends stop H. Toueaux before he destroys his team and the school in his quest to win. Students will learn about fluid motion. Why do Brazil nuts always rise to the top and the toy in the cereal box is always at the bottom? Why does ketchup flow faster when you hit the bottle? Why are smoke rings always in a circle?  Find out the answers in this year's PhysicsQuest. PhysicsQuest kits include everything you will need on your adventures.

Activity 1, Go with the Flow:
What was your ranking of most hydrodynamic to least hydrodynamic

Answer: 1. Wing, circle, triangle, square

Water flows more easily around shapes without corners such as wings and circles, Moving water around a corner causes turbulence. This is why really fast cars just as Corvettes are rounded. A Honda Element with its boxy shape can’t go as fast.

Activity 2, Shaken, Not Stirred:
What happens when the container is shaken?

Answer: 3. The metal spheres sink and the wooden spheres rise.

As the container is shaken, the small spheres scoot under the large spheres and they get stuck, slowly rising to the top. The metal spheres are so heavy that when the container is shaken very fast it acts like a liquid and the metal falls right through like it would if you put cannon balls in the ocean.

Activity 3, Vortex Cannon:
Which shape will allow air to go the farthest?

When air is pushed through a shape with edges, it can’t form a vortex. A vortex can keep its shape and travel much farther than a simple puff of air.

Activity 4, Do You Want Ketchup with Your Physics?:
How doe the viscosity of the ketchup and the oobleck change when they are stirred?

Answer: 2. Ketchup is shear-thinning, and oobleck is shear-thickening.

When oobleck is stirred it is difficult for the tiny spheres to move past each other so the flow stops. Ketchup is shear-thinning but scientists cannot agree one why.  Perhaps you can grow up to solve this tasty mystery!

Corrections

Activity 4: Do You Want Ketchup With Your Physics?

The materials list references "sand" made of small green beads. It should actually say “small glass beads.” The small glass beads are labeled in your kit. I’m sorry if there was any confusion.

Having trouble making a vortex cannon in activity 3? Watch this video to see how.

As students help Spectra and her gang they will learn about topics in modern physics including  what’s hidden in a rainbow, why physicists sometimes claim there are 10 dimensions and why Wint-O-Green lifesavers spark in the dark. Though modern physics may seem like an odd thing to teach middle schoolers, it ecompasses some of the coolest stuff in physics. Kids will be engaged and inspired by these unique and awesome experiments.