Five Videos to Show Your Physics Students (with Bonus Follow-Up Videos Too!)

I’ve collected more than 70 Physics-related videos to use in my classes throughout the year (all linked for you on my Physics Video Collection site here!) Some of the videos use to drive problem solving, some I use to motivate or inspire a class discussion, some I use to teach content, and some I don’t end up using at all. Below, I’ve collected 5 of my favorites to show to my classes, each with a brief explanation of how I use it and why I love it, and a follow-up video you can use to extend/expand your lesson:

1) World Record Blob Jump (Above) A great demonstration of conservation of energy: three guys jump on to the blob, one gets launched off. Great “strobe” diagram/image and numerical data displayed at the end make this video useful for both qualitative and quantitative use. (Follow-up video: “Rich & Kate do the Human Sandbag” Extremely dangerous bungee jump with a "human sandbag" allows the jumper to bounce to nearly the same height he started from.)

2) Boeing 747 Performs a Rejected Takeoff This video brilliantly captures the transformation of mechanical energy to thermal energy–a transformation that is often very hard to depict. Show this video to your students to drive home the idea that friction generates heat, or play it (on mute) and challenge them to explain what’s happening. (Follow-up video: fiction welding.)

3) Shopping Cart Fail A normally bland topic--inertia--becomes a humorous and engaging conversation starter with this video of shopping carts falling out the back of a truck. I love the fact that the shopping carts really stay put, shadowing the place where the truck had been parked. And I love showing students early on in the year that Physics can be spotted in all sorts of places. (Follow-up video: the reverse: unloading a truck with Newton’s 1st Law.)

4) Floating a Tinfoil Boat in Mid “Air” The “air” is actually sulfur hexaflouride, a gas so dense (about 5 times denser than air) that it can float a small tinfoil boat. This video can drive home the point that gas has mass or initiate discussions about buoyancy and density. (Follow-up video: Adam Savage, formerly of the Mythbusters, inhales both helium and sulfur hexaflouride.)

5) What Does Sound Look Like?

Sound is NOT an invisible phenomenon! This video utilizes Schlieren Flow Visualization and a high-speed camera to allow your students to see compression waves of sound. There no better way to help students begin to understand the nature of sound than showing them this video. (Follow-up videos: This demonstration of a Reuben's Tube, this explanation of the theory behind Ruben's Tubes, and this 2-D "pyroboard" from Veritasium are all great.)

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