Puzzles for the Mind

# Fun Novelty Toy or Science Principle, You Decide?

Have you ever played the floating ball game? A simple game, that involves a wooden pipe, a ball and a ring. You blow through the tube and the ball rises in the air. Tilt the pipe 15% and the ball still floats. It’s magic right. No it’s science.

Bernoulli an 18th-century Swiss mathematician discovered that as air moves around an object at different air speeds it creates different air pressures.  He outlines that faster moving air produces less pressure on an object and slower air caused more.

In our floating ball example, the ball is pushed up by the air blown through the pipe. As the air blown through the pipe hits the ball the surrounding air pressure drops, and the ball moves in an upward direction.  The air pressure in the surrounding area has a higher pressure causing the ball to move back towards the low pressure area.  Hence the ball floats between the two conflicting pockets of pressure.

The force of the air blown through the pipe can also overcome gravity if the flow of air is strong enough. Get your budding scientists (or kids having fun) to turn the base of the pipe 15-20 degrees and the ball will remain suspended in the air flow even though it is not directly above it.

It’s the same principles applied to the flight of planes and helicopters, a pitcher throwing a curve ball and another fun toy the frisbees.

So if you plan on giving this as a gift, take some time to share Bernoulli’s story and give the gift of knowledge.