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Flying Coffee Cups

 

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Subject: 
Science
Math
Type: 
Activity Ideas
Demonstrations
Grade: 
6-8
9-12
What do I need?: 
  • Two coffee cups (8oz - 12oz)
  • Five rubber bands
  • Tape
What do I do?: 

Make a cylinder with coffee cups:

  • Tape the ends of the coffee cups together

Create a rubber band string:

  • Pass one rubber band through another rubber band, making a "T"
  • Take one end of the top of the "T" and pass it through the loop made by the other end of the top of the "T"
  • Tighten the rubber band string together
  • Repeat three more times
What's going on?: 

The count is 3 and 2. The ballgame is on the line when the pitcher throws a baseball that heads straight for the plate. At the last moment, just as the ball appears to pass through the strike zone, the ball veers to the side, fooling the batter as he wiffs and strikes out for the final out of the game. How did the pitcher throw this gravity-deying pitch? The ball's path altered mid-throw, as if the pitcher maniputed the ball on a string as it approached the batter. 

This pitch, and similar maneuvers like those found in soccer, billards and bowling, all rely on a science principal called the Magnus Effect

Simply put, a ball or cylinder that spins exhibits interesting characteristics. A spinning cylinder can even be used to fly!