Dot Physics

New Game: What is this item?

Let’s play a game. I think this will be fun. So, a couple of years ago I had the duty of organizing the physics demo room (well, “demo” is maybe not the best term). This room is quite large and there is a whole bunch of stuff in here, some of the items are very old.

There were lots of items that I knew exactly what they were. But, there were other items that made me go ‘huh?’. So, here I will post an item. You post a comment regarding what you think it is and what it is used for. Some of these items I know the answer to, some I do not. Some of these pictures might just be part of a larger demo or it might be missing some pieces. Let me start with one that I think is rather simple.


Let the game begin.

Quick camera note

All of these pictures were taken with a Nokia N97 mini that the good folks at WOMWorld/Nokia let me borrow for a while. I have never really been a big phone person – you know, cuz I don’t move around too much. However, I have found that if I carry this, I have a very nice camera and a not so bad video camera with me. Very nice for those pop-up blogging ideas. Some other things about the N97.

  • Like I said, I don’t really use phones that much – especially not smart phones. This N97 mini is nice in that it has gps, and a camera. The only thing I really have experience with is the iPod touch. The user interface for the iPod is super simple to get used to. With the N97, at first it took me some time to figure things out. After using it for a few weeks, I am getting more used to it.
  • The camera is really nice. It takes good enough pictures that I wouldn’t need to crank out my wife’s nicer camera.
  • Built in keyboard. This could be a huge deal for some people. The learning curve on the iPod virtual keyboard takes some time – but after 2 years, I am super-fast. Actually (because of my experience) I can type faster on the iPod than the N97.
  • Python. Yes, I said it. I saw somewhere that you can run python on the N97. Haven’t played with that yet, but this could be awesome.

That is it. Going back to physics instead of a tech blog.


  1. #1 jim
    August 21, 2010

    It certainly appears to be some sort of trigger. To what end I have no idea. Pinball comes to mind.

  2. #2 ed4342
    August 21, 2010

    That is the thingy they installed the grease cups on the side of Frankenstein’s head with.

  3. #3 Brian
    August 21, 2010

    I have one of these in my classroom. It’s a device used to demo the claim that a ball bearing fired horizontally and one dropped from rest will strike the ground simultaneously.

    The two round holes in the base are for the ball bearings. One has a hole in it. When the bar is pulled back and latched in place, a portion of it sticks out the right side. The ball bearing with the hole slides on it. The other rests on the left side where there is now room. Releasing the bar propels the one on the left and removes the bar from the one on the right, dropping it to the ground.

    I can’t seem to find a link to one online.

  4. #4 Gastineau
    August 21, 2010

    It’s a device to drop one ball vertically, while projecting the other horizontally. If the thing is horizontal, both balls hit the floor at the same time. The point of the demo is to show the independence of horizontal and vertical motion.

    I pinched my finger rather badly on one of these, long ago.

  5. #5 Brian
    August 21, 2010

    I should have looked harder. Here’s good old Paul Hewitt demoing one:

    Projectile Motion – You Tube

  6. #6 Rhett Allain
    August 21, 2010

    Ok, I admit it. This one wasn’t too hard. The next one will be a doozy – trust me.

  7. #7 feralboy12
    August 21, 2010

    Will they all look like torture devices? This might be more fun than I thought.

  8. #8 Rhett Allain
    August 21, 2010


    If you have a creative imagination, then yes – they will all look like torture devices.

  9. #9 CCPhysicist
    August 22, 2010

    That one is REALLY old!

  10. #10 Kevin Reid
    August 22, 2010

    If you want more “what is this antique object” puzzles, see (I’m not associated in any way, just read it). It also has a mix of known and unknown items. Be warned: sometimes the objects have text on them erased to make the guessing nontrivial.

  11. #11 Sunny James
    April 3, 2011

    I would never have guessed what this thing was

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