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Final Experiment

Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden

Design Experiment

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Bacchus Experiment

National Museum of American History
This model of a child on a barrel—often termed a “Bacchus in Vacuo”—demonstrated the effects of increasing and decreasing air pressure. Ref: N. B. & D. Chamberlain, A Catalogue of Pneumatic Instruments (Boston, 1844), p. 30. Alfred White Sprague, The Elements of Natural Philosophy (Boston, 1856), p. 116.

Design Experiment

Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

Bulletin / Kentucky Agricultural Experiment Station

Smithsonian Libraries
Bibliography of agriculture 0006-1530

Bulletin - Maine Agricultural Experiment Station

Smithsonian Libraries
Each volume has also as a distinctive title.

Model of the Magdeburg Experiment

National Museum of American History

Neophobia experiment, control

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
By analyzing which kinds of duck feed first, and how long it takes them to feed, it is hoped that we will gain a better understanding of the impacts humans have on wild populations of ducks.

Neophobia experiment, test

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
By analyzing which kinds of duck feed first, and how long it takes them to feed, it is hoped that we will gain a better understanding of the impacts humans have on wild populations of ducks.

A Peep Experiment

Smithsonian Magazine

This year, several of us at the magazine (including my colleague Amanda from Food and Think) got together to create an entry for this year’s Peeps Diorama contest from the Washington Post. Our entry, “Ye Olde Peep Joust,” was inspired by a more modern form of Peep jousting that involves two Peeps, armed with toothpicks, battling it out in a microwave. 

When we finished our diorama and I looked at our leftover supplies, which included several open and unopened boxes of Peeps, I realized that I had the makings of a perfect Peep jousting experiment, one that would answer the question: Are fresh or stale Peeps better jousters? 

Peeps diorama by Sarah Zielinski, Amanda Bensen and Jamie Simon (Photo: Molly Roberts)

Peep jousting rules, according to the Urban Dictionary, are as follows:

Each Peep has a toothpick sticking out of the front of it, like a lance. Two Peeps, so armed, are placed in a microwave facing each other. As they are heated, they expand, until one Peep's toothpick makes contact with the other.

Under these rules, the first Peep to pop is the loser. I hypothesized that given a joust between a fresh and a stale Peep, the stale Peep would not expand, or at least not expand as fast as the fresh Peep, and the fresh Peep would be the winner.

Methods

Two packages of Peeps brand marshmallow chicks were obtained from local vendors. The green Peeps were left exposed to the air and stored in the same drawer as the yellow unopened Peeps for approximately two weeks.

Peeps were separated using a standard razor blade. Each Peep was armed with a plain wooden toothpick, which was inserted at an approximately 45 to 50 degree angle in the belly of the Peep with 47 mm of toothpick exposed. The Peeps were then placed on paper plates, available in the Smithsonian Enterprises kitchen, facing each other and about 35 mm apart. The plate was placed in the middle of a GE Spacemaker II Sensor microwave in the SE kitchen. The microwave was set to run at full power for two minutes and was shut off when one Peep’s toothpick touched the losing Peep. If it appeared there would be no winner to a joust, the experiment was terminated when the scent of burning Peep was detected.

The experiment was run five times, and the results were recorded and tabulated.

Results

Round 1 was terminated after 24 seconds. The fresh Peep quickly expanded and knocked the jousting lance into a position where it was unlikely to hit the stale Peep. The stale Peep did not change in size or appearance. There was no declared winner.

Round 2 was terminated after 33 seconds when the fresh Peep's toothpick touched the stale Peep.

Round 3 was terminated after 24 seconds when the fresh Peep "self destructed" as an onlooker termed its explosion. There was no change to the stale Peep.

Round 4 was terminated after 35 seconds. The fresh Peep became huge in size but its toothpick did not touch the stale Peep. The stale Peep underwent a small amount of puffage.

Round 5 was terminated after 26 seconds when the fresh Peep's toothpick touched the stale Peep.

Discussion

Only two of the five runs had a winner as determined by the Urban Dictionary definition. However, it was clear that fresh Peeps more quickly puffed in the microwave tests and made better jousters than stale Peeps.

Three of the five runs did not have any winner because the toothpick of the fresh Peep was knocked well out of jousting position when the Peep began to puff. It is uncertain whether this was a result of faulty placement of the jousting lance; this is an area for additional study.

A secondary experiment (data not included here) in which the five stale  Peeps were all run in the microwave together showed that they will puff,  and thus can joust, but the time required is upwards of twice the  length of jousting with fresh Peeps.

In conclusion, it is possible to joust with both fresh and stale Peeps. However, when jousting stale Peeps against fresh, the fresh Peeps make for better jousters.

Experiment, Spartan 101

National Air and Space Museum
Also known as Spartan A, Spartan 1, and Spartan 101-F1, this is the flight model of the Shuttle Pointed Autonomous Research Tool for Astronomy (SPARTAN). First flown on June 17, 1985, aboard STS 64, Spartan was deployed from the Shuttle bay and recovered some 45.5 hours later. Two X-ray proportional counters were mounted on the first Spartan flight, built by Gilbert Fritz from the Naval Research Laboratory. Consistent with Spartan's mission to provide low-cost short duration payload capacities to replace NASA's suborbital space science program, this payload was flown previously on a sounding rocket. Spartan provided on-board internal tape recording for data and 3-axis stabilization accurate to +/- 3 arc minutes, as well as aspect cameras and elecrtronics on a single optical bench. Observations during this mission resulted in a series of research papers on the Perseus Cluster of galaxies as well as on the nature of the X-ray source at the center of our galaxy,

Experiment, Human Research Facility, PuFF Experiment Pressure Kit

National Air and Space Museum
The Pulmonary Function in Flight (PuFF) experiment was part of the Human Research Facility on the International Space Station. It included a manual breathing valve, flow meter, pressure-flow hoses, and syringes used by astronauts to test their breathing pressure and volume. As crew members breathed cabin air, their lung muscle strength and lung function were measured and computer-recorded to detect any changes in microgravity. Spacewalking astronauts also did the PuFF experiment before and after spending time outside in the lower-pressure spacesuits. The PuFF tests were designed to learn more about how the lungs may be affected by long stays in space and about the effects of gravity on lungs in general.

NASA transferred this experiment kit to the Museum in 2011.

Artists experiment with glassblowing

Archives of American Art
Clipping : 1 p. ; 38 x 24 cm.

Clipping concerning Littleton's glass-blowing ventures at the University of Wisconsin at Madison.

Surface Electrical Properties Experiment

National Air and Space Museum
The Surface Electrical Properties Experiment was flown on Apollo 17. The experiment was used to explore the subsurface material of the Apollo 17 landing site by means of electromagnetic radiation. The experiment was designed to detect electrical layering, discrete scattering bodies, and the possible presence of water. n flight it was mounted on a specially designed pallet along with eight explosive charges for the separate lunar seismic profiling experiment.

This duplicate pallet was used by the Apollo 17 astronauts for training, and was transferred to the Smithsonian from NASA - Johnson Space Center in 1974.

Blackbird Neophobia Study - Experiment

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Resident blackbirds, such as grackles, cowbirds, and red-wings and Brewer's in California; were compared to migratory species, such as rusty and tricolored blackbirds, and Brewer's in Mississippi to see how they reacted to change in their environment. To test the birds' fear response, seed was placed on the ground in a variety of habitats. This clip is the experient (see other video for control). Blue plastic windmills have been placed to surround the food. The birds take much longer to feed although they are quite aware of the food. They are reluctant to pass by the objects to get to it and spend less time feeding.

Crystal Growth Experiment, Skylab

National Air and Space Museum
This case of small chambers may have been a training unit for a Skylab crystal growth experiment. It is marked "Non-Flight," and it includes a small wrench. Crystal growth experiments have been a staple of microgravity research. Without the influence of gravity, crystals form more flawlessly in space, making them desirable for electronics and pharmaceutical uses.

Transferred from NASA to the Museum in 1982.

Passive Seismic Experiment, Apollo

National Air and Space Museum
A device like this deployed on the lunar surface by the Apollo 11 crew in 1969 contained four seismometers powered by two panels of solar cells, which converted solar energy into electricity. The experiment measured lunar shock waves caused by moonquakes or impacts of meteoroids or of manmade objects on the surface. Data regarding the strength, duration, and approximate direction of the seismic event were relayed to receiving stations on Earth. The seismic instrument package continued sending data for about a month after the Apollo 11 landing. The seismic experiments left on the surface by the crews of Apollo 11 and four later Apollo missions continued to return valuable information even after the end of the Moon landings; the last one was shut off in 1981.

This unit was the Qualification Model for the unit deployed during the Apollo 11 mission. It was donated to the Museum by the Bendix Corporation in 1972.

Ladder-walking locust experiment

Office of Public Affairs
A paper by Jeremy Niven and colleagues in the Jan. 12, 2010 issue of Current Biology provides evidence that locusts use vision to guide the placement of their front and middle legs when crossing gaps in uneven terrain. This video shows that, when a desert locust walks along a horizontal ladder, it makes directed movements to specific rungs in the absence of any previous contact with that rung. The video reveals a role for visual information in the placement of their front legs. For more information see http://smithsonianscience.org/2010/01/for-first-time-scientists-prove-locusts-use-vision-to-place-their-legs-when-walking/ (Video courtesy Dr. Jeremy Niven, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge and the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute, Panama.)

Biomedical Experiment, Microscope Slides

National Air and Space Museum
These two microscope slides probably represent the earliest artifacts that relate to space medical research. They comprise thin sections of brain and lung tissue taken from mice subjected to 212g's in a centrifuge in the laboratory of Professeor Milian in Paris in 1932. The slides show considerable tissue damage from the high acceleration forces. These experiments were a follow-on of a series started in 1931 by Wernher von Braun when he was a student at the ETH in Zurich.

The slides were donated to the Smithsonian Institution in October 1968 by Constantine D.J. Generales Jr., MD, D.Phil.

Cue Card, PuFF Experiment

National Air and Space Museum
This card reminds the crew how to set up and operate the PuFF pulmonary function experiment, which flew on several Space Shuttle and early International Space Station missions as part of the Human Research Facility (HRF).

NASA transferred the experiment equipment and this instruction card to the Museum in 2013.

Solar Wind Composition Experiment

National Air and Space Museum
Solar Wind Composition Experiment, for which this artifact was a test article, collected samples of the solar wind for analysis on Earth. This experiment was performed on Apollo 11, 12, 14, 15, and 16. It consisted of an aluminum foil sheet, 1.4 meters by 0.3 meters, that was deployed on a pole facing the sun. At the conclusion of the mission astronauts returned the foil to scientists for analysis of the chemical composition of the embedded solar wind.

Glassware, Nucleotide Experiment, Ponnamperuma

National Air and Space Museum
Chemical apparatus built for experiments in the late 1960's by Cyril Ponnamperuma to investigate the synthesis of one of the sets of building blocks of life, the nuceotide bases, from gases thought to be present in the Earth's primordial atmosphere. The provenance of this artifact is uncertain. The amino acids as well as the bases that make up DNA and RNA are essential to life as we know it. It was proposed as early as the middle 1930's that the amino acids could have arisen from gases present in the Earth's early atmosphere. In 1952, Stanley Miller, a graduate student working with Harold Urey, circulated a mixture of water vapor, ammonia and methane gases thought to mimic that early atmosphere, past an electric discharge. At the end of a week he analyzed the product and found it to contain small amounts of the two simplest amino acids. Cyril Ponnamperuma and his group conducted a similar experiment in 1963 using electron beams as the source of energy. They observed the presence of adenine, one of the bases in DNA and RNA in the reaction mixture.

First Gene Therapy Experiment

National Museum of American History

Bulletin of the Maryland Agricultural Experiment Station

Smithsonian Libraries
Some issues called: Bulletin or B.

Each issue has also a distictive title.
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