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Physics and Astronomy Demonstrations



Geometrical Optics


Speed of Light Laser Disk {C19}

PIRA: 6A01.11


Blackboard Optics (Plane Mirror)

PIRA: 6A10.10


Laser & Plane Mirror

PIRA: 6A10.15

Description: The incidence of light such as a thin beam of light from a laser is reflected off the plane mirror at an angle identical from the normal of the mirror. The equal angles of incidence and reflection in relation to the normal of the mirror follow the law of reflection.


Refraction Tank, Laser & Mirror

PIRA: 6A10.16


Corner Cube

PIRA: 6A10.30


Corner Mirror

PIRA: 6A10.41

Description: Place a light between two mirrors hinged together and standing vertically. Place a sheet of clear glass between the mirrors forming as isosceles triangle. There are other variations.


Full View Mirror

PIRA: 6A10.50


Parabolic Reflectors

PIRA: 6A20.05


Blackboard Optics (Curved Mirrors)

PIRA: 6A20.10


Spherical Mirror

PIRA: 6A20.21


Disappearing Light Bulb

PIRA: 6A20.36

Description: A light bulb socket is mounted upside down inside a box. Outside the box, directly above the socket, another light bulb socket is mounted. Only the socket inside the box has a bulb and power connected to it. By using a concave mirror, the bulb inside the box appears to be outside the box when the bulb is lit. When the power is turned off the bulb seems to disappear.


Concave Mirror

PIRA: 6A20.46

Description: This type of mirror is called concave if the reflecting surface is on the inner surface of the sphere so that the center part of the mirror bulges out from the viewer, like a cave. A converging mirror is used to project the image of a light bulb filament onto a screen. Masks can be used to stop down the mirror.


Convex Mirror

PIRA: 6A20.47


Newton’s Rings

PIRA: 6A30.10


Birefringent Crystal

PIRA: 6A35.50


Blackboard Optics (Refraction)

PIRA: 6A42.10

Description: Blackboard optics with a single beam and a large rectangle and prism of plexiglass.


Refraction Tank

PIRA: 6A42.20


Ripple Tank Refraction Laser Disk {C62}

PIRA: 6A42.36


Meter Stick in Water

PIRA: 6A42.45

Description: A stick appears bent when inserted into water at an angle.


Brewster’s Angle Apparatus

PIRA: 6A42.48


Brewster’s Angle Overhead

PIRA: 6A42.49


Total Internal Reflection

PIRA: 6A44.20

Description: Refraction tank


Laser & Fiber Optics

PIRA: 6A44.40

Description: A laser is used with a bundle of fiber optics, a curled Plexiglas rod, and a 1″ square lean rod. As light passes through, the laser light is seen at the other end of the Plexiglas rod.


Penlight & Karo Syrup (Total Internal Reflection)

PIRA: 6A44.43

Description: The penlight bounces around the thick walls of Karo syrup due to total internal reflection.


Fiber Optics Tree

PIRA: 6A44.44


Blackboard Optics (Thin Lens)

PIRA: 6A60.10

Description: Thin lenses form images of objects whether they are in the concave, convex, or plane. Parallel rays that are incident on a thin lens will be focused to the focal point on the other side of the lens. The thin lens is very thin compared to its diameter.


Parallel Lasers & Lenses

PIRA: 6A60.20

Description: Parallel lasers are used with chalk dust to show the path of light rays through a lens and combinations of lenses.


Projected Filament with a Lens

PIRA: 6A60.30

Description: A large simple lens can focus the filament of an aircraft landing light onto the wall. Try to project an image with a thin concave lens.


Broken Lens

PIRA: 6A60.33

Description: The broken lens can be used to show a whole image of an object even though there is only one-half of a lens. The image is complete and less intense than a full lens of the same size and focal length.


Pinhole Camera

PIRA: 6A61.20

Description: Project a lamp filament onto a screen. Vary the size of the pinhole and the distance of the screen.


Large Lens

PIRA: 6A65.10


Spherical Aberration Model

PIRA: 6A65.40

Description: A flat piece of plastic that has been made into a large convex type lens by cutting grooves in the surface. The sample is from an overhead projector.


Fresnel Lens

PIRA: 6A65.70


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Inverse Square Model

PIRA: 6B10.15

Description: A wire frame pyramid connects areas of 1,4 and 16 units.



PIRA: 6B30.11

Description: Focus a beam of light intermittently on a vein of the quartz fiber radiometer at the frequency of oscillation.


Variac & Light Bulb

PIRA: 6B40.10

Description: Vary the voltage to a 1KW light bulb with a variac to show color change with temperature.


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Ripple Tank Diffraction Laser Disk {D21}

PIRA: 6C10.05


Single Slit & Laser

PIRA: 6C10.10

Description: Shine a laser beam through single slits of varying sizes onto a wall.


Adjustable Slit & Laser

PIRA: 6C10.15

Description: Shine a laser through an adjustable slit.


Knife Edge Diffraction

PIRA: 6C20.15

Description: Slowly move a knife edge into a laser beam.


Thin Wire Diffraction

PIRA: 6C20.20

Description: Place a small diameter wire in a laser, for example a .22 mm diameter wire, and measure the diameter by the diffraction pattern.


Pinhole Diffraction

PIRA: 6C20.30


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Double Slit & Laser

PIRA: 6D10.10

Description: Shine a laser beam through double slits of different widths and spacing.


Modulated Laser

PIRA: 6D10.40


Gratings & Laser

PIRA: 6D20.15


Diffraction in Air & Water

PIRA: 6D20.16


Diffraction Gratings on Overhead

PIRA: 6D20.20


Screen & Laser

PIRA: 6D20.51


Newton’s Rings

PIRA: 6D30.10

Description: Newton’s rings will show interference patterns in the form of rings when placed on the overhead projector. The rings can be moved by adjusting the tension screws on the outer rim of the metal frame.


Soap Film Interference

PIRA: 6D30.20

Description: Reflect white light off a soap film onto a screen.


Air Wedge

PIRA: 6D30.30

Description: Reflect an extended monochromatic source off two large pieces of plate glass held together.


Sodium Lamp Thin Film Interference

PIRA: 6D30.31


Moire Patterns Kit

PIRA: 6D30.32


Mercury Lamp & Thin Film

PIRA: 6D30.41


Slide Projector (White Light & Thin Film)

PIRA: 6D30.42


Michelson Interferometer

PIRA: 6D40.10

Description: Use a Michelson interferometer with either laser or white light. Pass the light onto a wall.


Microwave Interferometer

PIRA: 6D40.20

Description: Thorough discussion of the microwave interferometer including using it to calibrate a meter stick. By using a microwave emitter and a detector, an interferometer can be fashioned. When the apparatus is configured as an interferometer, the wavelength of the emitted microwave signal can be determined. A speaker connected to the receiver will audibly indicate the intensity of the signal from the emitter.


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Color Filters

PIRA: 6F10.20

Description: Cyan, magenta, and yellow filters are available as loose squares or fixed in a Plexiglas holder for use on the overhead projector.

Color Filters & Slide Projectors

PIRA: 6F10.21

Description: Take the colored filters and place them on the overhead so that the light shines through them.


Sunset on the Overhead

PIRA: 6F40.10

Description: The sunset demo shows Raleigh scattering by using a 4L beaker, sodium-thiosulfate, and a catalyst. A particulate is created when the catalyst is added to the water / sodium-thiosulfate solution. The light that is projected to the wall changes from blue to orange red as the particulate increases.


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Polaroids on the Overhead

PIRA: 6H10.10

Description: Show polarization with two sheets of Polaroid and a pair of sunglasses on an overhead projector.


Karo Syrup Polarization

PIRA: 6H10.40


Brewster’s Angle Polarizers

PIRA: 6H20.10

Description: Rotate a Polaroid filter in a beam that reflects at Brewster’s angle off a glass onto a screen.


Two Calcite Crystals

PIRA: 6H35.10

Description: Use a second calcite crystal to show the polarization of the ordinary and extraordinary rays.


Cellophane Between Polarizers

PIRA: 6H35.55


Sunset with Polarizers

PIRA: 6H50.10

Description: The sunset demo shows Rayleigh scattering by using a fish tank, thiosodiumsulfate, a catalyst, and a carbon arc lamp. A particulate is created when the catalyst is added to the water / thio solution. The light that is projected to the wall changes from blue to orangish red as the particulate increases. A rotating polarizer can be placed in front of the tank to show polarization by scattering.


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The Eye


Eye Model

PIRA: 6J10.10


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Modern Optics



PIRA: 6Q10.10


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