Newton’s Tower


Newton's Tower (3)

Yesterday, Travis and I marveled at some good old laws of physics and inertia, making pennies fall into a cup. We wanted a repeat of this magic today, so made this tower named in honor of Isaac Newton and his first law of motion: that an object will stay at rest unless acted upon by an external force.

The idea here is to hit only the bottom box in a tower of boxes. The bottom box is moved by an external force, but not so the others. So what would happen to these higher boxes?

You’ll want to use small boxes for this experiment. I had some old gift boxes that were probably about as big as you want to go; smaller would be even better.

Newton's Tower (1)

To make them pretty, I wrapped each in a separate shade of construction paper.

Newton's Tower (2)

To start, Travis and I tested if we could make the experiment work only three levels high. Zoom! The orange got whacked away with a dowel, and the red and yellow stayed put.

Newton's Tower (4)

Could we make it work with four? It worked perfectly – not the orange box off to the side, now.

Newton's Tower (6)

Notice the orange off to the side there.

Newton's Tower (7)

Needless to say, Travis loved a science experiment that involved whacking things with a stick. I taught him that the secret is to whack the bottom box as hard and as fast as you can. Finally, we challenged ourselves with all 5 boxes.

Newton's Tower (8)


Newton's Tower (10)

As always, there’s something a bit magical about this every time it works.

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