Monday, 21 March 2011

Slinky Spring Science 'Speriment

BFTF is a big fan of science. All the wonders of the modern age, all out comforts, our medicines, our transportation, our communications. . . are built on the scientific endeavours of the last few hundred years.

Maybe it's just me, but whenever I use the word "scientific" I feel a little like Yul Brenner in "The King and I" - not in a good way!

Unfortunately, it can be hard to easily demonstrate the key elements of scientific enquiry in a domestic setting - or so BFTF thought until it found itself helping a pint sized relation with a small science project on springs.

We taped up the top half of a slinky spring, and taped some paper over the bottom of the slinky to act as a base where we could add weights.

We then measured the length of the slinky (measuring from the bottom of the taped section to the paper base) which was 14cm.

Next, we progressively added pound coins to the paper base, measuring the length of the spring each time (24, 34, 44cm with 1,2,3 coins respectively)

Once we got to three coins we plotted the data on a graph and drew a "best fit" line thought the points.

We then - get this - predicted what the extension would be for 4 coins and for 5 coins and checked to see what actually happened.

Well, my gob was truly smacked when it turned out that our prediction for the length of the slinky with 4 pound coins was absolutely spot on and the prediction for the length with 5 pound coins was accurate to within 1cm !!!.

We had performed an experiment, plotted the data, made a prediction for what would happen next, tested our prediction and found that it was quite accurate. It doesn't get any better than this!

So, gentle reader, there you go. A science experiment that ticks all the boxes and can easily be performed at home (no bunsun burner required!).

If you know of any easy science experiments, particularly any that allow you to make predictions about future behaviour, why not describe them in the comments section below.

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