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Jun 18

Why do rattlesnake egg magnets rattle?

rattlesnake egg magnet questions resizedHold two dark, egg-shaped magnets in your hand, separate them with your thumb, and throw them in the air.  As they arc in the air, they crash together and rattle.  How? Why?

We played with them, watched them in the air, watched them on a carpet, listened to them, recorded 120 FPS video, and noted questions and observations to guide our exploration.

Video of magnets colliding freely:

Video of magnets colliding with one held in place:

Video of magnets rocking together:

We observed that one type of sound coincides with the collision and bouncing of magnets against each other.  A second sound coincides with the magnets in constant contact, but rocking rapidly against each other.  While we are tempted to say “caused by” instead of “coincides with” we have yet to devise experiments to distinguish these.

One magnet was too weak to hold another in the air, but still produced the familiar rattling when allowed to collide.

I had thought that the rattling came entirely from collision and bouncing, so the slow-motion video showing that most of it came from rocking surprised me.  We have only just begun exploring how this works.

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