A playground ball finds stability in a saddle when the saddle is rotating at the proper speed.
Mechanical analog of a “Paul Trap” particle confinement—a ball is trapped in a time-varying quadrupole gravitational potential. A large saddle shape (attached to a plywood disk) is mounted on a multi-purpose turntable. The saddle shape is essentially a quadrupole gravitational potential. Rotation of this potential subjects the ball to an alternating repulsive and attractive potential, much like the time-varying electric quadrupole potential of a Paul Trap used in trapping single ions or electrons.
The plastic ball used here is about 25 cm in diameter and was purchased at a toy store. The saddle consists of many layers of fiberglass and was hand-made with help from Justin Georgi. The turntable is driven at about 110 rpm with a DC motor. We have observed this ball at this speed remaining stable for over 2 hours.
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It’s not magic, kiddo. It’s science!
Sulfur hexafluoride (SF6) is a colorless, odorless gas that is more dense than air at 6.12 g/L (at sea level). This density is why you can pour it into a glass container and float a light-weight aluminum “boat” on its gas “sea.” Watch this demonstration at the Physikshow of the University of Bonn!