I’ve been talking about science toys and science experiments lately (see my posts on the Heron’s Fountain and Kaleidoscope) and wanted to share some tips on how to use the Tornado Tube. This is about the least expensive science toy out there, it’s fun and you can use it to demonstrate a really important scientific principle. The littlest ones will be amazed and older kids can use it as a launching pad to learn more about vortex action. We’ve even had colleges use the Tornado Tube. It’s a great educational toy and it’s made in the USA!
What the Tornado Tube Does
Your Tornado Tube demonstrates a vortex action. Examples of vortexes are tornadoes, whirlpools, waterspouts – really any similar fluid motion that happens when liquid or air drops through an opening. You can see it in the bathtub as the water drains, too.
How to Make the Tornado
- 2 empty 2-liter plastic soda bottles
- a Tornado Tube
- food coloring (optional)
- glitter (optional)
- a drop or two of liquid dishwashing soap (optional)
Ready, set, go!
- Partially fill (2/3 full) one of the 2-liter plastic soda bottles with water.
- Add food coloring, glitter, soap or whatever you want.
- Screw the bottles into opposite ends of the connector tube.
- Tip the bottle so that the full bottle is on top. Give the end of the full bottle a swirling rotational movement until you get the vortex going.
Call it a tornado if you’re a meteorologist, or a whirlpool if you’re into oceanography.
The science behind the Tornado Tube
The inventors of the Tornado Tube describe it this way:
The action is the concentration of kinetic energy (motion). In the atmosphere, wind shear and thermals are the source of the energy which produces the vortex. In liquids, such as water, the potential energy (mass) is converted to kinetic energy as it descends, pulled by gravity through an opening. A small initial rotation about the opening becomes more violent (higher rotational velocity) as the molecules come closer to the center. The resulting outward force tends to keep the liquid out of the exact center, maintaining a “hole” in the remaining liquid.
What vortexes in nature have you seen?