Parabola

A large yellow parabola disc sits flat on a black.

Parabolas reflect objects towards their focus.

How it works

Drop a ball anywhere onto a parabola-shaped dish and notice how the ball rebounds, then lands each time against a disc suspended above the dish (the focal point).

Things to try or ask around the exhibit

  • Let's try dropping the ball on different areas of the dish.
  • Does the ball always hit the same spot?
  • What things at home are parabola-shaped like this dish?

Background

The parabola-shaped dish causes balls to rebound at the correct angle and hit the disc (which is located at the focus above the dish).

Parabolic mirrors are used in telescopes and satellite dishes to collect light waves, radio waves and microwaves at their focus. Torches and car headlights use parabolic dishes in the opposite way. Their light bulb is at the focus, which means the light is concentrated Parabolas reflect objects into a beam.