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Blow Spinning Towers of Patagonia

- a new (December 2012) amazing MAGNETISM experiment
- illustrating the power and properties of MAGNETIC FIELDS
- with REAL MAGNETIC COINS from around the world

- for all ages and experiences
- fascinating, absorbing, challenging
- safe, clean
- inexpensive, accessible.

- a must-do for every school
- an open-ended challenging student research project
- a refreshing executive toy
- an enjoyable, exhilirating measure of dexterity and creativity.

MAGNETIC FIELDS are EVERYWHERE
and PROBABLY HAVE BEEN SINCE THE BEGINNING of TIME

Describing what Magnetic Fields are, however, has never been easy, even for experienced scientists.
Hopefully the Spinning Towers will help illustrate some of their properties.

Requirements (lengths approximate):

  •  Real Magnetic Coins
  • 1 plastic or wooden ruler (30cm long)
  • 2 columns (books, cans, blocks, plastic bottles etc 15 cm high)
  • 2 ceramic block magnets (20x20x50 mm.)

Suggested Approach

1. Make a bridge with columns 10-12 cm high, 20 cm apart, and the ruler on top.

2. Hold one magnet under the centre of the ruler with its pole faces up and down

3. Place the other magnet on top of the ruler with its pole faces pointing in the same direction as the magnet below.

4. Adjust the magnets so they remain gripped to the centre of the ruler.

5. Attach a magnetic coin by its rim to the underside of the lower magnet.

6. Attach 2 further coins by their rims to this coin, so forming a suspended chain.

7. Grip the middle coin with the thumbs and forefingers of both hands.

8. Pull downwards slowly. Hopefully, the top and bottom coins will remain sticking to the middle coin and a gap will form between the top coin and the magnet.

9. Keep pulling downwards until the rim of the bottom coin touches the surface directly under the magnets.

10. Release the coins.

The coins will either:

a) leap back up to the magnet.
b) fall on to the surface
c) remain standing as a vertical tower

11. If a) try again with :
  • coins in a different order
  • one or more coins of a smaller size
  • the height of the bridge columns increased
If b) try again with :
  • coins in a different order
  • one or more coins of a larger size
  • the height of the bridge columns decreased
Eventually, by experiment, a particular height of the magnets above the surface will be found that enables a tower of a particular combination of coins to remain standing. (All the coin faces will lie in the same plane - in line with the long axis of the magnet.)

The height for a particular coin combination will only apply to the particular magnets used.
This height will depend mainly on the strength and shape of the magnets and on the thickness of the ruler.
Sometimes a change in height of less than 1 mm will make a difference as to whether balance is achieved or not.

By further experiment the height can be adjusted to a position where the friction between the bottom coin and the surface is very small.
With this height, the tower of coins can easily be rotated slightly when pushed with a finger.

Towers can also be rotated by blowing (blow spinning), through a straw or directly, in a similar way that suspended coins can be blow spun.

However, spinning towers of coins is more difficult than spinning suspended coins.
With towers, blowing must be started slowly in gentle puffs.
In the beginning the coin will rotate away and then rotate back .
By timing the puffs, in a similar manner to pushing a child on a swing, the tower of coins will eventually pass through 90 degrees and begin to rotate.

Gentle steady blowing will then keep the tower rotating.
When blowing stops, the tower will continue to rotate, then probably oscillate back and foward and eventually stop.
The planes of the coin faces will lie in the same direction as originally. The faces of the coins, however, may be reversed.

When completed details of the coin combination (type and order), magnets, ruler and towers can be recorded. With such information, similar Spinning Towers can be easily obtained again.

Further experiments can also be undertaken, with different numbers of coins. Coins might also be added to the sides of the Towers forming different shapes as exhibited at the recent photographic exhibition "Magnetic Coins in Patagonia".

The first published video of Spinning Towers was of 4 coins from Argentina.
Other 1 minute videos of 4 coin towers from the European Union, the UK and the US.are also available.

   

tower of 1p,2p,5p,10p UK coins balanced on a strawberry-Robin Linhope Willson
Tower of magnetic real 1p,2p,5p,10p UK coins balanced on a strawberry - Puerto Madryn, Patagonia, Argentina 2012.

Blow spinning -Carol Vorderman, Edinburgh 1993 by Robin Linhope Willson
SUSPENDED 1993 -Blow Spinning a Suspended Magnetic Coin (UK 2p) - Carol Vorderman, Edinburgh Science Festival 1993
blowspinning Tower of Patagonia, Argentina 2013
TOWER 2013 - Blowspinning a Tower of Patagonia of 4 Argentina 10 centavo coins, Puerto Madryn, Patagonia, Argentina, January 2013.

blow spinning Towers of Patagonia, Argentina, Euro, UK, US - Robin Linhope Willson
VIDEOS Blow Spinning Towers of Patagonia, Argentina, Euro, UK, US

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© Marķa Victoria Canullo
Robin Linhope Willson 2008-2013 Sponsored by The Magic Penny Trust