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How to Build a Newtonian Demonstrator

Ms. Inglish has 30 years experience in medicine, psychology, STEM instruction, history, and aerospace education for USAF Civil Air Patrol.

You may have seen this configuration on someone's desk - or in a science fiction movie.

You may have seen this configuration on someone's desk - or in a science fiction movie.

A Newton's Cradle or Newtonian Demonstrator

A Newton's Cradle or Newtonian Demonstrator

Why is This Toy Important?

A Newtonian Demonstrator is a fancy name for a device that is also called the Newton's Cradle and is sold by the second name as an office desk toy.

You may have seen it at home, in an office, or in a movie and wondered what it was.

The concept was demonstrated centuries ago in France and Sir Isaac Newton later developed laws of physics that are illustrated by the device.

The Newton's Cradle has sold very well as an executive desktop toy since it was first manufactured in the late 1960s. It was reportedly prototyped by the actor Simon Prebble. At first, a wooden cradle version of the device was sold by the famous department store, Harrods of London.

Soon after this, manufacturers fashioned a metal cradle of chrome based on the work of a sculptor. This sculptor is the film and TV director, Richard Loncraine. Thus, actors and other film people contributed the largest part of the idea propelling this scientific device and toy item into the marketplace.

The largest Newton's Cradle so far was designed by Chris Boden.

The huge construct is located at The Geek Group home base in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

This nonprofit company is a cross between a Center of Science and Industry and Mad Science. The huge Newtonian contraption is made with bowling balls and is on public display from Monday through Saturday from 10am - 8pm. It is often used for demonstrations in science, various technology presentations, and for educational groups.

The monster Newtonian demonstrator is made up of 7 bowling balls of equal weight, 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms) each. The bowling balls are attached securely to metal cables and hung from metal trusses in the ceiling of a warehouse at The Geek Group. The suspension cables are 20 feet long (6.1m) and the bowling balls hang 3 feet from the floor (1m).

DIY Desktop Version

This colorful desktop model is made completely of metal.

This colorful desktop model is made completely of metal.

Construction of the Large Version

Hanging from metal beams in a sturdy warehouse ceiling, this Newton's Cradle does not need a frame.

The parts needed for this large project include 7 bowling balls of equal weight, a substantial amount of metal cabling, hardware to attached the cables to the bowling balls and the ceiling, and the proper metal working tools for the job.

The requirements likely include tape measures and other measuring devices, welding gear and materials, metal couplings, metal saws, hammers, Philips head screw drivers, and metal screws.

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What makes the Newtonian Demonstrator perform? Physics! -- Newton's 3rd Law Of Motion.

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

— Newton's 3rd Law Of Motion

The Geek Group

The Geek Group is an expanding and fascinating place to visit, because there is always something added to enjoy and learn. It is ideal for after-school classes, summer sessions, science demonstrations, presentations for private groups, project work space, and workshops on any of the following topics and new subjects added regularly:

  • Newtonian and non-Newtonian Physics
  • High Energy Physics
  • High Voltage Physics
  • Astronomy - This is extremely useful with our new aerospace projects, both public and private in America and in association with Japan and other nations.
  • Electro-Magnetism
  • Biology
  • Rocketry
  • Sound and Acoustics
  • Geology and Mineralogy
  • Environment
  • Alternative Energy
  • Meteorology
  • Robotics

These individuals teach science, technology, engineering, math, and arts education. That's the hard sciences of STEM, plus art! They really understand that science and art go together.

If you are ever near Grand Rapids, Michigan, stop in:

The Geek Group

  • 902 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504
  • Phone:(616) 466-4335
  • Call for a tour! Tours are usually provided on Saturdays from Noon - 3:00 PM.

The Geek Group in Michigan

Additional Topics in Physics and Mathematics

  • Einstein's Refrigerator - A Forgotten Invention and Green Comeback
    Albert Einstein worked as a clerk in a patent office in his earliest career and was well informed about the procedures of invention and patenting. In 1926, he patented his own invention, in addition to formulating and developing theories in physics..
  • Particle Physics Up Close and Tiny
    Outer space is a location of fascinating quantum effects too great in number to count. These effects seem to create subatomic particles and antiparticles from out of sheer nothingness. Once they appear, they cease to exist again instantly. The power
  • What Is a Triangular Number?
    Triangular Numbers do not need to cause confusion! Come in and see some of them.

© 2007 Patty Inglish MS


TheMonk from Brazil on July 09, 2011:

Nice weekend project there! Now I just need a BIG room away from my wife´s eyes! muahahahhaha!

julie brandis on December 01, 2009:

cool netons BALLs

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on June 27, 2009:

dipless - Thanks for the comment and congratulations on HubNugget victories.

Tom - That sounds like an awesome project. You students should have a lot of fun. If you take pictures, I could post one for you on this page. Or the class could do a page of their own. Great lesson!

Tom on June 27, 2009:

I am a science teacher in Houston TX. I am currently building one of these using an old set of croquet balls. They are very solid and should work very well. Remember playing croquet and blasting your opponents ball across the yard by standing on your ball and striking it with a mallet? I am thinking they will work very well for this appilcation. I will use saltwater fishing high test line for suspension and fashion the frame out of either hardword or perhaps welded metal tubing. I think my students will enjoy seeing and playing with it in the classroom.

dipless from Manchester on June 13, 2009:

I've always loved newtons cradle, in fact it was the thing my dad used to introduce me to the wonderful world of physics. Good hub enjoyed reading :)

me on February 19, 2009:

hi peoples who i don't know

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on February 17, 2009:

Hi Tyskk... - I love the work you and your coworkers do at the Geek Group. I've changed the address so people can find you anmd will also attempt to get a map for it. I look forward to your new exhibits and will definitely visit.

tyskkvinna from Kalamazoo, Michigan on February 17, 2009:

Hi Patty -- I also work at The Geek Group and stumbled across this page today in a random Google search. I wanted to let you know that we have moved, and we'd sure appreciate it if you could update the information in this article! Our new address is 2309 N Burdick Street, Kalamazoo MI 49007. We are presently not keeping standard hours, but are available any day by appointment. Phone and email are the same. :-) We are currently working on a fancy new iteration of the Cradle and I'll definitely let you know when it's up and running! We're quite flattered to be featured here.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on December 30, 2008:

Try the one with rubberbands wrapped around rubber balls in the cardboard box. OR, email The Geek Group (end of article) and see if they can send you a schematic. Happy New Year!

Pheobie3888 on December 30, 2008:

This is the most amazing thing ever...! i could sit and watch this all day long. i am so interested in it that i am ready to build one! i just need some help though! i don't even know where to get started. PLEASE HELP!

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on April 29, 2008:

I bet it IS frightening. And pretty loud, but fun. Thanks commenting, johnr54.

Joanie Ruppel from Texas on April 29, 2008:

I always loved these. I used to have one on my desk, but it got destroyed by a toddler. I'll have to put in on my wish list.

I am impressed by the scale of some of these demonstrations. I imagine the ones with the bowling balls is almost frightening up close.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on January 31, 2008:

Please do build one and give us a Hub with a picture of it. You can buy a kit or do the whole thing yourself. have a good time doing it! Bowling balls or ping pong balls - all of it's good.

Peter M. Lopez from Sweetwater, TX on January 31, 2008:

"Newtonian Demonstrator", huh? Wow, I have got to build me one of these. Always something interesting, Patty.

Patty Inglish on November 19, 2007:

Thanks so much for the information Chris! I look forward to coming to visit your installation in the future. You all have the perfect jobs, I think!

Chris Boden on November 19, 2007:

Actually the pictures there don't tell the whole story ;) What you see there is the second prototype. We finished the cradle shortly after that and when fully assembled it has 20 balls of 15lbs each.

We have moved to a new building over the past couple months (no more renting YAY!) and the cradle is currently dissassembled while we get ready to install it in our new facility. It should be operational and on public display again within a few months.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on November 04, 2007:

Hi teeray, thanks for stopping by. I've just visited your Hubs!

teeray from Canada on November 04, 2007:

Thank you for the interesting article. I also didn't know the name of this apparatus.

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 31, 2007:

Sybille - it's fun, isn't it?

fabioce - physics was fun, and I liked astronomy best. :)

Thanks for the comments! Who wants to go visit The Geek Group with me?

fabioce from Pozzuoli on October 31, 2007:

Ahhhhh i remember my phisics study

Sybille Yates on October 31, 2007:

Love it! SY

Patty Inglish MS (author) from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation on October 31, 2007:

Thanks for the nice comments! I was really fascinated by The Geek Group in Michigan. They have student internships and offer work space for projects. Working there muat be like going to a science fair every day.

Ther eare so many versions of the demonstrator, it is mind boggling! Someone did one with children's potty chairs - on Youtube somewhere, I believe!

M. Beck from Parts Unknown on October 31, 2007:

Excellent hub Patty!

I had no idea the familiar desktop toy was called a "Newtonian Demonstrator" - it has such an ominous sounding name!

Great job gathering all those tidbits of info too.

Kiz Robinson from New Orleans, Louisiana on October 30, 2007:

Absolutely brilliant article. Now I want to use my garage to make one of these!

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