Here They Are, Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments.
September 24, 2002 10:20 AM   Subscribe

Here They Are, Science's 10 Most Beautiful Experiments. My fave? Foucault's pendulum. The one in Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry always fascinated me (NYTimes link).
posted by o2b (11 comments total)
Here in D.C., at what is now known as the Smithsonian Museum of American History, there used to be a Foucault's Pendulum in the lobby. (The museum was called the Museum of History and Technology back then.) They removed it several years ago, much to my dismay. Coolest demonstration of physics I've ever seen...
posted by tommyspoon at 10:37 AM on September 24, 2002

Smithsonian Museum of American History

I grew up in Northern Virginia and used to spend hours and hours at the Smithsonian (all of the building on the mall). What a great resource to inspire wonder and curiosity that I experience still to this day. In fact, things have gone full circle in that one of my professional roles is as exhibit designer.

Imagine my surprise when I left the area, that you had to actually pay to get into a museum. I was shocked, having grown up on the free, supple teat of the Smithsonian. And, now having been in the museum business for some years, working at them and for them, it's amazing how tight funding and money is for so many of them.

Isn't there some museum you should be supporting today? Some place that has brought you smile and joy? Some place that has opened your eyes to new things in the world? Some place that has made you question your ideas and philosophies?

Go, and donate something to your local museums. Time, money, anything. They'll appreciate it.

posted by warhol at 10:47 AM on September 24, 2002

The original Physics World article includes some other contenders.
posted by liam at 10:59 AM on September 24, 2002

I'm surprised the pendulum came in last, even if last is relative here. Although, come to think of it, I'd be surprised at whichever one was graded "last", no matter what it was. They're all demonstrations of pure, beautiful reason. I'd be pretty hard pressed to say that splitting light as more beautifull than the pendulum was more beautifull than rolling the spheres down a plank.
posted by kavasa at 3:12 PM on September 24, 2002

Would've been a lot cooler if they actually had pictures of these experiments...
posted by zekinskia at 4:04 PM on September 24, 2002

These are all great, but the glowing pickle can't be beat for science experiments. What's prettier than a glowing pickle?
posted by Salmonberry at 4:09 PM on September 24, 2002

salmon: an exploding glowing pickle, nothing like pieces of brine-soaked vegetable matter flying through the air to make your heart sing..
posted by Pink Fuzzy Bunny at 10:50 PM on September 24, 2002

tommyspoon, they say the Smithsonian's Foucault pendulum is 'off view' during the restoration of the original Star Spangled Banner, which required construction of a special conservation laboratory. Good trade, I say.

And apparently many of the pendulums around the world were manufactured by a California Academy of Sciences contractor. Talk about your niche products.

Personally, I like Eratosthene's stick for simple elegance, Galileo's ball drop for venue, and interference card for prosaic materials. But you can't beat Foucault's for the awesome demonstration that the solid floor on which we stand ... is moving. Shiver.
posted by dhartung at 2:04 AM on September 25, 2002

Oh, I don't know. I sort of think Young's light-interference experiment, with the quantum solution, is more thought provoking than the pendulum.
posted by crunchland at 5:22 AM on September 25, 2002

I'm an oil drop man, myself.
posted by moss at 1:44 PM on September 25, 2002

from liam's link: One of the [slashdot] contributors described watching small plastic bags circulating in wind pockets, commenting that "sometimes there's so much beauty in the world, I just can't take it". eurekeke! :)
posted by kliuless at 2:17 PM on September 25, 2002

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