Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Tornado in a Box

1: Cut a hole in a box
2: Put your.....no

1: Make a large, square(ish), cardboard tube. Mine is about a meter high and maybe .25 m x .25 m at the base. This is actually two boxes taped together. They aren't even the same size--I just blocked the holes with cardboard and duct tape.

2: On each side, make a slit near the right edge. Or the left edge. But the same for all 4 sides. It doesn't matter which you pick, since you can reverse it by flipping the tube end for end.

The exact width and distance from the edge don't matter too much and you can see I wandered all over the place. Hey, cutting cardboard is kind of hard!

3: Boil some water inside. I went to WalMart for a hotplate but the cheapest one was $20. I tried it on the stove, but that's dangerous and it was hard to see. Then I thought of the bottom of the rice steamer.

Position the tornado box under a light to maximize the reflection from the droplets.

We found that when the steamer was going full....steam, there was too much steam in there swirling around (steam steam steam). So if you turn it on and off every few minutes it might work better. Also, we tried using a steam humidifier but we got nothing at all. I think the steam jet might be coming out too fast and hot. (An ultrasonic humidifier probably has better visibility, but since it isn't hot you'd be missing another vital ingredient.)

The payoff at the end: I asked the Numbers, now that they'd seen a tornado being made, when and where would hurricanes be most likely? In the winter at the North Pole or in the summer at the equator. Ooooooooh, I get it! they said.


  1. Some seriously awful formatting going on here. Why doesn't Blogger have a preview that shows what the post will actually look like? And why is CSS so. damn. hard?

  2. Ha ha to first 1 & 2.

    Also, it's too bad they don't make a special tool for cutting boxes. Some sort of BOXCUTTER thing.

  3. I would be more than happy to ramp up Project Tool Acquisition once I get the go-ahead from Accounting. Do I have buy-in?

  4. Excellent!

    You should do some sort of video blog with these experiments. Kind of like This Old House, only call it This, uh, er, Old Experimet, or something along those lines.

    Also, I think you should have coupled this with a safety lesson. I.e, as soon as the numbers saw the tornado they should have been instructed to run and dive in the nearest ditch.

  5. That would require all kinds of preparation and time. Or maybe the Collaborative Media Foundation would pay me to do it as a full-time thing....?

    Tornado safety--good tip. Anyone doing this project should be careful because the high winds generated can drive a cardboard box right through a tree.

  6. Second the box cutter suggestion. I vow to get one every time I find myself cutting cardboard. It dulls the hell out of your scissors too. :(

  7. I actually used my pocketknife. Like, you know, A MAN. The cutting problem wasn't so much a sharpness issue as a lack-of-support issue (i.e. it's a hollow tube).


  8. Step 2 made me laugh for a while.