[time-nuts] Anybody have suggestions for time related science fair projects?

jimlux jimlux at earthlink.net
Mon May 14 19:06:08 EDT 2018

On 5/14/18 1:00 PM, ed breya wrote:
> I don't know what sort of scientific level this contest is geared for, 
> but would guess that for middle-school level, extreme numbers-oriented 
> analysis of esoteric, time-nutty things may not dazzle, but bore the 
> participants, judges, and audience.

Even at the middle school level, science fairs can be quite competitive 
- The California Science Fair draws hundreds of projects at that grade 
level (Grade 6-9) selected from fairs at the county level, which in turn 
draw from school fairs.

The standard of judging is quite rigorous - a "demo" won't generally be 
competitive at the state level, although it could make it through the 
county level - depending on the county.

> It may be best to relate to more hands-on, everyday experience and 
> observations of "normal" people. I like the suggestions about GPS and 
> stroboscopic and lasery stuff, where one can maybe appreciate how modern 
> everyday things work (like GPS, or how it's possible to talk to or send 
> a picture to anyone in the world on your cell phone, and how these could 
> not happen without precise time), or something visual and physical.

Virtually all science fairs prohibit lasers in a display - too many "bad 
things" happening with remarkably high powered lasers available online. 
You'll need to show it cannot be operated, or that it cannot present a 
hazard (i.e. if it's built into a piece of hardware that cannot be 
modified on site to allow exposure).

Even laser pointers are not allowed (because how is the display review 
committee to know whether it's 1 mW or 100 mW)

> Some of the props should be "ordinary" things, like the a cell phone or 
> GPS receiver, for example. Lasers are always good as long as there's a 
> direct visual component to the observation. Strobe type stuff is 
> particularly easy, because it's doable with mechanical and acoustical 
> props, and signal measurement times are in reach of common lab equipment 
> like generators, scopes, and counters, and of course there's a big 
> visual experience component.
> Small power visible lasers are common nowadays, so easy to use. Strobe 
> lights are fairly common too, but maybe not so much as the other items. 
> You can build (or buy) quite a nice strobe light nowadays using 
> high-powered LEDs - the kind used for replacing incandescent and other 
> illumination. This is quite easy and much safer than dealing with flash 
> tubes, and is much more versatile. In fact, maybe this could even be a 
> science fair project. The time element is in the stroboscopic effects 
> and ability to slow or freeze apparent motion - almost everyone has 
> observed this and can relate.

A strobe is a fine display, and there's probably interesting time-nuts 
kinds of experiments one can do using it - the combination of a short 
duration strobe with a modern cellphone camera running at, say, 240 fps, 
might be a good way to instrumentally measure a mechanical vibration.

But you need to have some set of experiments designed to confirm or 
reject a hypothesis. You could have a hypothesis about synchronization 
of vibrating rods on a common base, for instance.

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