Science with Shields: Episode #79 – Levitating Ball

Science with Shields

ALTOONA, Pa. (WTAJ) — In this episode of Science with Shields, Christy Shields shows you how air pressure works by levitating a ball.

What you need: 

  1. Ping Pong Ball
  2. Straw
  3. Small funnel
  4. Blow dryer

Instructions:

First, connect the straw to the funnel. Now, place the ball into the funnel. Blow air into the other side of the straw. Watch the ball levitate! If you do not have enough lung power to get the ball to levitate, turn on a blow dryer and point it towards the ceiling. Next, stick the ping pong ball over the air that is coming out of the air dryer and watch it levitate!

Science

You are blowing faster moving air through the straw. This fast air blows around the sides of the ball at a lower air pressure compared to the stationary air around it. Creating this column of low pressure keeps the ball floating in air. The ball will wobble because it wants to leave the area of low pressure but the higher air pressure surrounding it pushes it back into the column of low pressure. This also works the same way with the blow dryer keeping the ball floating too. Once you turn the blow dryer off, watch the ball fall into the area of high pressure.

This is showing an example of Bernoulli’s Principle. Bernoulli found that when faster moving air flows over the surface of something, the less that the air pushes on that object. This means that the air pressure on the object is lower compared to the air around it.

Air pressure depends on the temperature of the air and the density of the air molecules.

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