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2012 BFY Abstract Detail Page

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Abstract Title: W01 - Statistical/Nonlinear Physics with Subwoofers
Abstract: The least expensive experiment in the University of Toronto Advanced Physics Lab has one of the largest phase spaces for student exploration. We originally set out to just develop an experiment to study the unknotting and entropy of chains, but soon realized even more fun is possible with a subwoofer, an amplifier, and a frequency generator. In addition to the physics of chains, which are models for polymers, DNA, and other interesting biomolecules, versions of the system can be used to observe nonlinear waves in liquids and particulates, to study chaotic bouncing balls, and to try to create experimental models of fluids and crystallization.

Workshop participants will play with two different systems: one has a basic subwoofer that is capable of knotting and bouncing ball experiments, and one with a modified subwoofer that can be used for more varied explorations. A picture of the latter system can be found at, along with more information on our basic chain experiment. Information on a Faraday waves experiment using a more powerful and linear shaker can found at

The basic experiment only requires a stopwatch and notebook for data acquisition, and basic fitting software for analysis, but the workshop may also demonstrate Python/ vPython video, analysis, and simulation tools that are under development.
Abstract Type: Workshop

Workshop Documents

Workshop Document: Download the Workshop Document
Workshop Document (2): Download the Workshop Document (2)
Workshop Document (3): Download the Workshop Document (3)

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: David Bailey
Univ. of Toronto