Levitation by Air Pressure
Hosted by: UT Austin Physics Circus
Visit our Booth: Sunday, March 7, 2021, 12 p.m. - 4 p.m.
Watch our live show on "Air Pressure Adventure" from 12 - 12:30 p.m. on Sunday, February 21, 2021.
Recommended Grades: 1st, 2nd, 3rd
The Challenge: Take your ping pong ball and hold it out in front of you at arm's length. With your other hand, or help from an adult, turn on a hair dryer and aim it at the top of the ping pong ball, about 6-12 inches away. Try to see if you can get the angle just right to levitate the ball in midair.
- Ping pong ball
- Hair dryer
How does this activity connect to STEM and today's Girl Day theme of Imagining Beyond: Sky and Space? Before we took off for the moon in a space ship, we had to master how to fly an airplane on Earth first. Heavy objects like airplanes are no match for Bernoulli's principle, which uses low and high pressure areas to generate lift.
The fast air coming out of the hair dryer creates an area of low pressure above the ping pong ball. This means that all the high pressure air surrounding it will want to rush in to equalize the pressure, pushing the ping pong ball into that space. This is the same way that airplanes are able to fly, and that's why they have to fly really fast to stay afloat.
Follow along with us as we levitate a ping pong ball into midair using only a hair dryer!
About the UT Austin Physics Circus
In normal times, we are a traveling physics show that brings exciting and educational science demonstrations to the classroom. In covid times, we host a live broadcast of our demonstrations that you can follow along with at home. Our mission is to make science a fun and interactive experience for all, regardless of economic background, race, or gender. This is why we offer the show at no cost to the school. Our program is proudly driven by the enthusiasm of physics graduate students at UT who are passionate about science outreach to the Austin community.
Please visit our website if you'd like to read more about the Physics Circus, view our promotional video, or inquire about shows.