Bad Hair Day

What It Is

Dark powder that can have a bad hair day, just like people.
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What You Do
Pick up the two bottles and turn them upside down. To get the bad hair look, place the bottles on the base. Without the base, the powder falls normally.
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What You Learn

The powder inside the bottles is iron and iron is magnetic. The metal base is also magnetic. In magnetism, when two magnets are in close proximity, they will interact in a certain way. In this experiment, the iron powder repels the base magnet, causing it to “stand” in weird ways. The shape of the iron powder depicts the magnetic field created by the magnet. Every magnet has a magnetic field and the shape of the magnet changes that field.

How You Make It

You will need powdered iron and two bottles. Put the iron powder into one of the bottles and attach the two bottles at they’re openings. The thin neck of the bottles allows the powder to fall slower, giving you better results.

What We've Learned


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What to Do: Two pop bottles are connected together, with some dark pow- der inside. Turn the bottles over so that the powder flows, and set them on the base unit. Look at how the powder piles up; can you see why we call this one “Bad Hair Day?”
What is Happening: The powder inside the bottles is powdered iron - which is magnetic. (It’s like iron filings, but finer.) And the base unit is - as you may have noticed - a magnet. When the powder hits the bottom of the bottle near the base, it gets magnetized, and so will all the powder that piles up on the base. The powder will actually make a temporary magnet as it piles up. The pattern shows the pattern of the magnetic field due to the magnet.

Related Projects

Levitating Magnets, Magnawave, Ferrofluid

Learn More About Us

We are the Little Shop of Physics, a hands on science outreach program at Colorado State University. Check us out!