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Al Tobias (wat4y) - Office: Gibson S123 & Physics 218, (434) 924-0538

Physics Demo Manual

Demonstrations are cataloged according to PIRA Bibliography


Due to Physics Building renovations, the lead time to set up demo requests has increased due to the need to transport equipment across campus. Please be kind and let me know well ahead of time what you need.

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 Geometrical Optics
  video  - Polarization of Light
  video  - Polarization of Microwaves
 Polarization by Reflection
 Brewster's angle
 Optical Activity in Corn Syrup
 Polarization by Scattering
 The Eye

Optical Activity in Corn Syrup


To show that a household item such as corn syrup exhibits optical activity.


Optical activity refers to the property where polarized light is rotated when passing through some solid or liquid materials.

Take a cardboard sheet with a 1 inch hole in the center and place it on the overhead. Place a polarizer over the hole and the cylinder full of corn syrup on the polarizer. As the polarized light passes through the corn syrup, the polarization direction is rotated. The light is also scattered, when viewed at an angle of 90 degrees to the direction of propagation (from the side), only light that is polarized perpendicular to the scattering plane will be seen. Since the rate of rotation of the polarization is frequency dependent, different colors are rotated by different amounts as the light travels up the tube and a rainbow of colors is seen emanating from the cylinder.


Turn out the lights!


  • Overhead Projector
  • 8.5x11 paper with a hole in the middle
  • Glass Cylinder filled with corn syrup