Explaining The Bead-Chain Experiment

My partner Ryan send around the following awesome video about a bead-chain experience. It’s a fascinating phenomenon. Beautiful, actually.

Now, while the experiment, especially in slow motion, is beautiful, I especially enjoyed the discussion around trying to explain what was going on. I’m in conversations like this all the time – where someone is trying to explain how or why something happens based on observation.

This is in stark contrast to my experience at MIT. I call this experience “the engineer brain” where you immediately start going to the underlying mathematic model. The qualitative description is definitely useful, but what’s the underlying set of equations that describes what is going on.

I’m a huge believer in the five whys and use them all the time to try to understand something. I love both qualitative and quantitative explanations. And the underlying experimentation that helps surface the phenomenon.

And it’s a bonus when what you observe is fascinating and beautiful. For example, the following hits on both of those.

  • Peter karceski

    Reminds me of sine wave experiments in physics lab, the first video anyway…

  • The bead experiment is cool, but I can’t imagine what that screaming must do to the little girl’s vocal chords and throat.

  • NickN

    The bead slo-mo was cool, but the second video provided a much needed laugh (and not just because I could see my youngest doing something like that)…

  • Ponnuchamy Varatharaj

    When those beads change direction it seems like the centrifugal force is pulling the beads outwards.

  • screendoor

    The effects you get when you put stress on the source of a wave are really cool. Amazing video. And oh yeah, the bead video was pretty good, too. 😉

  • wow! first thing i thought was : syphon

  • second vid blew my mind