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Spin Lab Manual

Welcome to the Spin Lab, where we ask questions about spinning, play games and simulations on spinning, and even win prizes that have to do with spinning. Nobody likes to read lab manuals, but there're a lot of things to do here, so you'll have a lot more fun if you actually know what's going on!

Things to Check Out:

Activity 1:

Question: How does a skater get spinning so fast?

Our first question at the Spin Lab is from Lexi Bicos, a 6th grader from Huntington Beach. To see what Dr. Leila had to say about this, read the Los Angeles Times article. It's available right here in Whyville, at the Times Building just down the street.

Discover the answer to this question yourself by playing with the skater simulation here in the Spin Lab. Don't forget to try out Dr. Leila's other suggestions at home or in your classroom, too!

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Activity 2:

Question: Which way should you spin an object to make it go the fastest?

Have you ever spun a coin on a table with a smooth surface? It can get going pretty fast -- if you're spinning it on its edge. Spinning a coin on its face wouldn't work nearly as well. Why do you think that is? What if you were spinning a hard boiled egg? Would it spin faster on its top? Bottom? Side?

Instead of spinning something on a surface like a table, you could also skewer it (well, sometimes!) with a stick, and spin your object by rotating the stick. Some ways of skewering an object works better than others. What does that depend on? Check out our "Spin It" simulation, and see if you get any ideas. That's the spinning nose on the floor of the lab. Yes, you can skewer and spin a nose too - but only when it's just a simulation!

There's more on what makes things spin and keep on spinning in Dr. Leila's second article on spinning. It has to do with conservation of momentum, and there are fun things you can do at home to experience this first hand.

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Activity 3:

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Activity 4:

Question: What happens inside a spinning can?

A lot of kids wrote in and said that the frozen can rolled down the ramp faster than the unfrozen one. But why is that?

Maybe we'll be able to figure out the answer if we can actually see inside a can while it rolls. Instead of using fruit cocktail, we used jelly beans because they were easier to see. And instead of rolling the can down a ramp, we spun it with a record play because this was easier to film. Check out the video!

Does the video give you any ideas? Do you think using jelly beans and a record player was a good idea?

It might help to get a little technical about angular momentum and rotational inertia. Check out Dr. Leila's article on these two serious-sounding terms. If you're in the mood for some serious geek notes, this is what Richard Feynman, a Nobel Prize Winner in Physics had to say.

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Activity 5:

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The Skater Simulation

This is the ice skater doll that is on the floor of the lab. Click on it to go to the simulation. Your goal is to make the skater spin as fast as possible. Go for an Olympic Medal!

To play, drag the colored dots on the skater (on the left-hand side of your screen) to move her limbs. Watch the right-hand image carefully to see how this affects her speed in competition (the judges in the back will rank her performance). Be careful -- if you move her into unstable positions, she'll fall!

When you have the fastest skater you can make, write down the Secret Code number and click "QUIT" to come back into the lab. When you enter your Secret Code into the Data Machine, you just might get a prize!

For more instructions on the Skater Simulation, look for the "Click here for instructions" link underneath the simulation ap plet.

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Spin It!

Play this game by clicking on the skewered nose on the floor of the lab. There are 5 objects for you to play with. Your goal is to skewer each object in the direction that will make it spin the fastest. There's a clock to beat, so don't waste any time!

When you've worked your way through all 5 objects, be sure you write down the Secret Code and click "QUIT" to come back into the lab. Enter the Secret Code into the Data Machine, together with your thoughts and observations, and hold your breath to see if you win a prize.

For more instructions for the Spin It! game, look for the "Click here for instructions " link underneath the applet.

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Hall of Brains

Think you're doing pretty well? Find out if you made it into the Hall of Brains! You just might be surprised at the size of your brain.

Click on the door to the Hall of Brains to enter, and beware -- it just might make your head spin!

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Geek Speak Lounge

Here in the Geek Speak Lounge is where you can chat, post messages on the bulletin board, as well as get detailed information on topics addressed in this lab.

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Click here to return to lobby.