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ERIC Number: EJ873692
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2010-Mar
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0143-0807
"In Situ" Observation of a Soap-Film Catenoid--A Simple Educational Physics Experiment
Ito, Masato; Sato, Taku
European Journal of Physics, v31 n2 p357-365 Mar 2010
The solution to the Euler-Lagrange equation is an extremal functional. To understand that the functional is stationary at local extrema (maxima or minima), we propose a physics experiment that involves using a soap film to form a catenoid. A catenoid is a surface that is formed between two coaxial circular rings and is classified mathematically as a minimal surface. Using the soap film, we create catenoids between two rings and characterize the catenoid "in situ" while varying the distance between the rings. The shape of the soap film is very interesting and can be explained using dynamic mechanics. By observing the catenoid, physics students can observe local extrema phenomena. We stress that "in situ" observation of soap-film catenoids is an appropriate physics experiment that combines theory and experimentation. (Contains 9 figures.)
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: N/A
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A