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I need a challenging physics project to work on

  1. Oct 16, 2012 #1

    I want to have a project to work on. Not a simple project (hands-on) that'll take a few weeks, but an in-depth project that could take me several years. This is not necessary, but I need something that could really teach me something, not something that is simple and rather miscellaneous. I am also looking projects that are equivalent in difficulty of building a fusor reactor - but with even more background in physics and slightly less in chemistry.

    I have a decent background in electrics. In the theoretical sense, I have completed AP Physics and I am taking Calculus III. I am also looking for something to build - not a science project related thing. I am willing to spend a lot of time and effort into this if it is something that fascinates me.

    Thank You.

    P.S. Something unique would also be nice - not something that hundreds of people have already done.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 16, 2012 #2
    Try this first (Cloud Chamber)
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 25, 2014
  4. Oct 16, 2012 #3
    How about a rocket?

    I've been wanting to work on that for a long time. Might even end up starting a Hybrid rocket club at my university.

    Solids are easy, not quiet what you're looking for.

    A Hybrid rocket, that's really hard.

    A liquid-fueled rocket, that's up there on Fusor level, if not harder.

    Make sure to be super-safe, though. Generally speaking, when blowing things up in closed containers with huge amounts of dynamic stress and thermal stress and extremely complex flow patterns and heat transfer, then, it's best to do things from a rather gratuitous distance ;)

    (of course, I'm implying you start lots of research into it, first. There's quiet a few books available.)

    I also know someone who makes airplanes. That's an interesting project, to be sure. I don't mean RC ones. I mean actual airplanes. He uses kits, though, and I can imagine it'd be especially expensive with custom parts. And, that's probably even more dangerous than the rocket, lol (unless you have a parachute, maybe?)
  5. Oct 17, 2012 #4

    Thank you for the results - but these are not probable. For the rocket, I would need several rocketry licenses. Since I am only twelve, the authorities are probably not going to be too keen on giving a license to some kid so he can go and blast stuff into the sky. Building a hybrid rocket did sound fun though.

    As for the cloud chamber - it looks a bit too easy. Maybe I'm thinking of something else - but it appears that it would only take me a couple day to build at the very max. Either way - these suggestions were helpful, but not exactly what I might be looking for.
  6. Oct 17, 2012 #5


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    It is nearly impossible to supply you with specific project suggestions based only on information in your post #1 and # 4. There might be some opportunity that corresponds to your requirements in the following areas of science:

    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Microbiology
    • Biochemistry
    • Medicine Health
    • Environmental Science
    • Mathematics and Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Earth Science
    • Behavioral Science
    • Others

    Some inventors have admitted being motivated to solve some existing problem. Diagnosing heart disease, for example, relies in part on doctors listening to the patient’s heart using a stethoscope. The field of Cardiac Auscultation teaches clinicians how to “listen” and discover heart problems. For instance, if you visit http://www.easyauscultation.com/heart-sounds.aspx you can listen to examples of about one hundred different heart sounds used for this training. But a human doctor may miss something important, resulting in the patient’s disorder going undiagnosed. If someone (like you) would improve the chances of finding a heart problem using, say, a neural network to help analyze the acoustic signatures, then perhaps many lives could be saved.

    Let all of us here know if you run into doubts or have some questions about the science during your work on your project. Members here on Physics Forums are always ready and willing to assist a true searcher on his or her path to more scientific understanding.

  7. Oct 17, 2012 #6
    As for a project, I am interested in accelerator physics and engineering. Unfortunately, projects related to accelerator physics often are related to building a particle accelerator, and there are threads all over the PF stating how dangerous this can be. I really would like to build a real particle accelerator - but its far to dangerous, especially for a person of my age (I'm 12). I would prefer something that is not related to biology. To put things simply, biology/ medicine is not my......forte.

    An engineering project sounds like fun, but something that requires a lot of physics background - so I can get the best of both fields as I create the project. If I haven't mentioned this before - I was thinking of actually building something, not just conducting an experiment.This where I am stuck. Some of the more challenging projects are often too dangerous, and the rest just seem a little easy (short one-month projects).

    Some may argue that "just building" something can be pointless and a waste of time. However, I disagree. If I am doing something truly challenging, and something that I really enjoy, I could learn a lot, and it could set the foundation to more.

    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  8. Oct 17, 2012 #7


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    In your other thread I told you to make sure you have the basics down, and I still support that. One of the reasons is that if you know the basics, you can choose what you do or don't do instead of being bottlenecked into one specific projects because that's all you know. Plus, you can actively work on real problems that don't have solutions yet, such as inventing new products or techniques. But the key lies in understanding the basics and how everything fits together.

    I can almost guarantee you that doing a big "flashy" project is much less of a benefit than doing simpler projects, many of which force you to learn and use your skills just as much as anything.

    You say that a cloud chamber is "too easy" and will only take you a few days to build. Well, that's nothing but support for doing it in my opinion! If it only takes you a few days, then you have little to lose and so much to gain. This also leaves you plenty of time for other projects. Plus, the ability to simply do a project, no matter what it is, is important in itself. Being able to start AND finish a project on your own is a phenomenal step for most people and says a lot about you.

    So, in short, while you may want to do those big flashy time consuming projects, the smaller, easier, less time consuming ones will probably be of MUCH greater benefit to you. If anything they will develop your "project skills" further and actually allow you to start and finish your big project in the future. Finally, there is no reason you cannot continue to look for and prepare for a much larger project as you do these smaller ones. Heck, you may figure out a project you want to do based on these smaller ones.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  9. Oct 17, 2012 #8
    True - once again thank you for the tip. I think I'm aiming to high to start with. Maybe its the "simple" projects that I should be looking for. I will try the cloud chamber - it is not too challenging - but it is still a fun project to do. I may try making the Cathode Ray tube that you mentioned in the other forum - but I think that can be dangerous.

    Thank You.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  10. Oct 18, 2012 #9


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    Instead of particles, what about accelerating more massive objects? Not the big thing, of course, but it might be possible to build a track on a small scale.
  11. Oct 18, 2012 #10


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  12. Oct 18, 2012 #11

    Vanadium 50

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    Sadly, having a twelve-year old working on cold fusion would probably improve the quality of the science.
  13. Oct 18, 2012 #12
    It's not exactly electrical engineering, but what about building a vacuum aerostat?

    At least it's spectacular, not extremely difficult but certainly difficult enough, doesn't need huge amounts of theory, and to my knowledge it hasn't succeeded up to now.

    Instead of filling at atmospheric pressure a deformable balloon with a gas lighter than air, it would make vacuum in a vessel resisting the pressure difference but still light enough to float in air... Which is the serious difficulty.

    Fortunately, I've made the first estimations and believe to have working ideas, described there:

    Maybe you can assemble it from a truss of carbon-fibre tubes sold for kites, to make a dodecahedron resembling a sphere, plus skins of light film, for instance space blanket, reinforced with very little mesh of carbon fibres and epoxy. If it helps, the pentagons can be subdivided into triangles with the central node protruding.

    It does need computations of mechanical strength and of mass. But among projects that haven't still been made, this one needs very little theory. I feel it fun and highly demonstrative of your skills.
  14. Oct 18, 2012 #13
    You could also make a smaller-scale prototype of flywheels that store electricity efficiently and cheaply at the size of the power grid.

    I describe them there:
    you can build them with 0.5m diametre instead of 5m

    Commercial roller bearings are efficient, as computed there
    and they're simpler than the axial hydrostatic bearing and the magnetic bearing I suggest elsewhere in the same thread.

    Vacuum operation is simpler than the flow calmer I describe there
    with roller bearings and vacuum, a reduced prototype is accessible to a single person.

    You won't store 10MWh over 10h with 2% losses in a downscaled prototype, but if you show that your losses are as low as they should, it's a perfect demo.

    You have to dig the prototype in the soil as a protection and make a vacuum chamber - or find one. That's already more than complicated enough.

    These flywheels can have a commercial future.
  15. Oct 18, 2012 #14
    You could build a prototype of the Pelton-Schaefer pump :biggrin: I describe there
    is still doesn't exist as far as I know and would be really useful to pump liquid hydrogen to rocket engines for instance.

    You see? It works like scooping ice cream with a spoon. Or making a water jet with your curved hand at the surface of a swimming pool.

    You can prototype it a low speed with water. It seems to need access to a milling machine, but maybe you find a way to assemble existing parts to make the function. You'll need a low voltage motor.

    I suppose the regulated injection of liquid isn't necessary. You could inject it by hand with a syringe or a foot pump.

    What is interesting to proove here is that the ejection speed is twice the mechanical speed. Or even better, that you achieve the resulting pressure - this can be a second step - for instance because water reaches some height.

    Just a demo prototype would be enough. And useful! It's technology Mankind needs, but all sources wrongly allege is impossible because they didn't imagine this pump can use cavitation.
  16. Oct 18, 2012 #15
    The reactor I describe there may be new and useful, certainly easy to build - you need chemistry knowledge to assess if it performs properly:
    (log in to see the drawings)

    Very similar, the distillation apparatus I describe there:
    (log in to see the drawings)
    easy to build, and I hope it's more efficient than existing ones.

    Also seems to be new and better, my way to produce quickly water ice, bubble-free:
    Use an existing air chilling compound, from a fridge.
  17. Oct 18, 2012 #16
    Tesla coil perhaps?

    Actually why not restore an old car. You'll learn chemistry as it applies to adhesives, paint, rust prevention, and fluid compatability. Electricity as it applies to lighting circuits, high voltage ignition circuits, and computer controls if you use a newer engine. You'll learn hands-on fabrication skills like welding that you'll use for anything you build later. You'll learn how to diagnose and repair electrical, mechanical, and hydraulic faults. And, you'll have a sweet ride ready for you when you turn 16. ;-)
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2012
  18. Oct 18, 2012 #17

    All of the tips were really helpful. Most of the proposed ideas look interesting - I probably won't get into cold fusion, as it simply confuses me. Its fascinating, but when people don't even know if it exists in the first place, it is even less likely that I would understand. Several of the ideas proposed by Enthalpy seem interesting, but I would have to look more into it, to see how they really work. (I get the concepts, not so much the actual mechanics - with the exception of the vacuum aerostat).

    These are very interesting, but since I am currently busy with school, I may attempt to make the CRT. As my knowledge expands, I will probably start some of the projects that are listed on this forum - maybe when I am thirteen. I hope to get several more suggestions, so I would have an even wider variety of projects to look into. And maybe, as Drakkith said, I might find a project that fascinates me on my own.

    Thank You.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  19. Oct 18, 2012 #18


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    Whatever you do, make sure your parents know about it and are ok with it. I'm serious.
  20. Oct 18, 2012 #19
    Certainly - It would be very foolhardy of me to do otherwise. However, as I may have mentioned before, I probably start by making both a Cathode Ray tube and a cloud chamber (Wilson). However, what are some of the dangers associated with both projects so that both of my parents know.

    THank You.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 1, 2013
  21. Oct 19, 2012 #20
    Only if they can understand what he does.:tongue:
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