Here's a quick way to generate some completely genuine "zero gravity,"
same as on the Space Station. Actually, this is
just a way to create freefall weightlessness. "Zero-G" means zero
acceleration or no G-force, not "zero gravity."
The space shuttle orbits at about 300 miles above the earth. Did you know
that, at 300 miles altitude, the gravity is only about 15% less
than gravity at the surface? Gravity inside the space shuttle is 85%
normal. It only appears to be zero. This happens because the space
shuttle is falling, and the astronauts are falling as well. Whenever any
container is falling free, the contents of the container will appear to be
weightless. Of course the shuttle and its contents are also moving
sideways as they fall, so they never hit the earth.
Our "zero gravity" generator is simply a TV camera in a well-lit box. By
our point of view to the inside of a movable box, we can create genuine
"weightlessness", exactly the same as within any orbiting space craft.
FIRST CRUDE VIDEO TEST: FLOATING OBJECTS
Camcorder or small TV camera (or mpeg cam)
Long narrow cardboard box
Light fixture and floodlight
| ___|/| _________________________________
| <___ | . |
| ______ . | | TOP
| | |__- . | | VIEW
| | |__ . | |
| |______| - . | |
TV camera on a board . |
Cut the cardboard box so that one side is missing, which gives a good
into the long narrow box. Attach the board to the side of the box, and
attach the camera to the board. The camera lens should face into the box.
(For convienence, build this with duct tape at first, use screws and bolts
later on.) Affix a small flood light adjacent to the camera, and aim it
into the box so that the camera has enough light to "see."
Connect power to the camera and flood light, and connect the camera to the
TV or video monitor so that your audience can see into the box. Adjust
the camera's zoom and focus to give the proper view of the interior (you
may have to use the camera's "macro" mode.) For best depth of focus, make
sure the interior of the box is brightly lit, then adjust the camera's
f-stop for a high number.
Place some objects inside the box. I just grabbed a spool of tape, some
magic marker caps, and a bottle of white-out, and dropped them in there.
Watch the image on the TV screen, and carefully rotate the entire box
assembly until it is upside-down. Your audience will probably break out
in laughter, because the image of the box on the TV monitor will remain
still, but the objects in the box will crawl up the wall and roll around
on the ceiling! Violently shake the box, and the objects will seem to be
flung about invisible forces.
To generate free-fall, suddenly lift/jerk the box so that the objects are
launched off the "floor" of the box, then try to move the box to follow
the objects so they momentarily stay centered in the middle of the box.
Don't let the box go, or you might damage your camera! Your audience will
see genuine ( and very brief ) free fall effects. The objects will leap
into the air, then will drift around spinning, then will suddenly fall
hard onto the floor.
IMPROVED VERSION WITH ONBOARD FLOODLIGHT
If you have some ambition, you might wish to decorate the inside of your
box. Paint it and add extra shapes to convert it into the inside of a
space station. Add some small human figures (Barbie, etc.) dressed
appropriately. Or, maybe decorate the interior so it looks like the
padded cylindrical interior of NASA's "vomit comet" free-fall airplane.
Dress your action figures in orange jumpsuits, and provide some
air-sickness bags for the Senator!
If you have a sick sense of humor, build the inside of a commercial
airliner into your box. Add passengers and steward/stewardesses, luggage
racks, etc., then simulate what would happen if the 747 pilots decided to
do loop-the-loops! Fear of flying? Or, you can fill your box with
doll-house furniture, then show what a moving van looks like as it bounces
and rolls down a steep hill. An "adventure in moving!"
This box/camera device duplicates the workings of NASA's free-fall
simulator plane. Rather than climbing into a full sized aircraft, we use
the video camera to shrink ourselves down and take a Virtual Reality ride
inside the box. To generate free fall, the NASA plane flys in a
parabola-shaped trajectory. Why? Well, imagine what would happen if the
crew was inside of a box which was shot out of a huge cannon. Both the
people and the box would fly along similar paths. The box would take a
long, curved, up and down path, and so would the people inside. The people
inside could not see the box move, so they couldn't know they were
falling, instead would think that they were weightless (at least until the
box struck the ground.) So, if an airplane flys in exactly the same path
as a fired cannonball, everyone in the plane will seem to be floating.
NASA free-fall aircraft: http://www.nasa.gov/missions/research/kc135.html
SIMPLE NON-VIDEO VERSION
If you obtain a small box, a shoe box or large cereal box, open up one
end, and stick your face in, you will have the "poor man's version" of the
video camera box. Stick some small toys or coins into the box. To
generate momentary free fall, simply jump up and down. The objects inside
the box will float for a moment. ( Be aware that jumping up and down
a box on your face looks really stupid. This demo is a great excuse to
convince OTHER people to jump around with boxes on their faces, while you
stand back and watch the fun!)
Of course, always try to protect your camera. If you never let the box
out of your control, then you'll only have yourself to blame for any
mishap. Perhaps it would be wise to attach a hook to the ceiling, and
attach the camera box to a rope to prevent accidental contact with the
floor. A suggestion: use the tiny $80 video cameras sold by Herbach and
Rademan, or by Marlin P. Jones. These things are a couple inches
and can take lots more punishment than a camcorder. And if you drop it
and break it, it was an $80 camera, not a $1200 camcorder.