How do you crack nuts with a piece of string? Reverse gravity? Cobble together a clock out of a coffee cup, a soda bottle, and some water? Use a vacuum cleaner and nineteenth-century railroad technology to fashion a makeshift bazooka that can launch paper projectiles? Create a rainbow in a block of Jello? This is a one-volume romp through a whole array of counterintuitive science experiments that require little more than common household items and a sense of curiosity. Prepare to have your surprise sensors on overload as Neil Downie stretches math, physics, and chemistry to do what they have never done before.
This book describes twenty-nine unusual but practical experiments, detailing how they are done and the math and physics behind them. It will delight both casual and inveterate tinkerers. Of varying levels of complexity, the experiments are grouped in sections covering a wide field of physics and the borders of chemistry, ranging from dynamic mechanics (''Kinetic Curiosities'') to electricity (''Antediluvian Electronics'') and combustion (''Infernal Inventions''). The chapters are titillatingly titled, from ''Twisted Sinews'' and ''Mole Radio'' to ''A Symphony of Siphons'' and ''Tornado Transistor.'' More-detailed explanations, along with simple mathematical models using high-school level math, are given in boxes accompanying each experiment.
Armchair scientists will welcome this edifying and entertaining alternative to idleness, not least for the buoyant prose, enriched by historical and literary anecdotes introducing each topic. With this book in hand, tinkerers, whether dabblers in science or devotees, students or teachers, need never again wonder how to impress friends, the judges at the science fair, and, not least, themselves.
"This is great interactive stuff, amusingly written by a British scientist who honed his skills conducting a Saturday activity center for kids. . . . As well as the fun there is science too, equations and all."--Douglas Palmer, New Scientist
"A fertile and funny idea-book for the Erector set crowd."--Booklist
"A fascinating new book. . . . The style is eclectic and interesting. . . . It brings together practical, accessible physics with a gentle amount of theory in an entertaining and educational manner. There is much here that will both stimulate a curiosity about physics and help with good--if not inspirational--physics teaching."--Physics World
"Definitely a significant contribution to the field. There are few books that contain both interesting experiments and their physical explanations--most leave them somewhat mysterious, with no logical solutions. Being among those special few, this book will be of interest to general readers with inquiring minds."--Ronald D. Edge, University of South Carolina
"Downie writes well--with clear, crisp prose, and with a sense of humor I find delightful."--Paul J. Nahin, University of New Hampshire
"The most important aspect of this book is that it allows the reader to come up with non-intuitive practical results. Why make a toy that does something predictable? Why invest time in something that everybody else expects? But if you learn how to do something that will impress your friends, then you will do it."--Florin Diacu, University of Victoria
Table of Contents
Another Princeton book authored or coauthored by Neil A. Downie: