Prince Rupert’s Drop

I have been a science teacher for more than thirty years and believe that, at this point, I know a little something about communicating the nuances of the discipline. The other day my students were studying cnidarian tentacles for views of the stinging cells characteristic of that phylum. Later in the day I received an email from a student who sent a link to a fascinating video of nematocyst dischange recorded at an astonishing 130,000 frames per second. After viewing the video, one of a series entitled Smarter Every Day, a number of other video selections flashed up on my monitor and, among them, one in particular caught my attention. If you’ve got six minutes and thirty-eight seconds to spare I highly recommend that you take a look at the video entitled The Mystery of Prince Rupert’s Drop. Although it is not my intention that this post should be the first in a series which critiques similar videos, I could not resist posting this one. It is extremely well done. If I had interest and patience enough to watch this clip, several times, then it must be good.

By the way, Prince Rupert is the Prince Rupert (Rupert, Count Palatine of the Rhine, Duke of Bavaria, 1st Duke of Cumberland, 1st Earl of Holderness, 1619 – 1682) and, although not a scientist himself, he played an important role in the history of the namesake drops by being the first to bring them to Britain in 1660. He gave them to King Charles II who, in turn, delivered them to the Royal Society for scientific examination in 1661.

13 thoughts on “Prince Rupert’s Drop

    • I thought of you today! I received an email from someone looking for students to sign up as Fisheries Inspectors out of Alaska! I smiled and then promptly pressed the delete key. D

  1. Wow a picture really is worth a thousand words! The little tap in just the right place and the result is spectacular! I wish I’d had science lessons like THAT when I was a kid. Yes, having a camera that’s able to capture the process in slow motion is also a must because then you can really see the detail and understand the process.

  2. Totally enjoyable and educational! How do they even figure out these are wonders to investigate? Without all the special equipment of our day, they would still be mysteries. Now I am doubly afraid of jelly fish! But their venom isn’t toxic, right?

    • Toxins are toxins … period … and are dangerous to varying degrees. Even the animals you see in Hull and other places can inject toxins … but they are very weak and you are very BIG … large enough to not feel the influence. There are jelly fish in Australia and New Zealand however (the Box Jellyfish or Sea Wasps) the sting of which can be fatal to humans. So, I’d be careful where I went to take a swim in the southern hemisphere.

  3. Those guys get to have entirely too much fun. They get to break stuff AND record what happens with the coolest cameras. I was quite fascinated by the breaking mechanism – I would have figured that the extreme compression from the hammer would have been more than sufficient and would NEVER have given it a moment’s thought beyond that. It’s amazing how clearly this video shows that the technology – in this case a camera – so clearly augments our ability to determine the nature of problems as well as to investigate them.

    • Absolutely. In the high-speed analysis of nematocyst discharge (which I linked) the operator of the microscope laughs with excitement. He says something like … sure this is serious science but it’s really, really, really FUN as well! Lucky.

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