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Magic Tray Experiment – Virtual Science Space

Magic or Science?!

Have you ever wondered how showmen are able to pull a tablecloth from underneath a stack of glasses or plates? Is it magic? NO! It’s science, my friends. It is all thanks to our friend inertia. Check out this video to see our scientific magic in action and be sure to try this at home with your favourite adult.

The principle of inertia states that an object at rest (one that isn’t moving, like the plates) stays at rest unless another force acts on that object. In this case, the plates trays SHOULD stay at rest because the force of you pulling down on the tablecloth isn’t enough to move them. Let’s see what happens…..

What you need:

  • 4 Trays (or as many as you dare)
  • Tablecloth
  • Plastic cups
  • Courage!



[ADEN] Hey guys, my name’s Aden, I’m an ambassador here at Science Space and I have this really cool experiment for you guys to try out maybe at home. It basically involves a bunch of trays and plastic cups, and we also have a tablecloth here. And what I’m gonna do is I’m gonna try and pull it out really quickly so that it doesn’t fall down everywhere. So let’s see if I can do that. So can I have a countdown everyone, from five please.
[OFF CAMERA] Alrighty, you guys ready? In 5,4,3,2,1!
[ADEN] So that worked out quite well, basically all it took were these plastic cups here. What we’ve done here is we’ve gotten some light trays, out of some light material, and what we’ve done is we’ve stacked the trays and the cups, there’s four trays here and a bunch of plastic cups. All we do is we stack them all up and we have the cloth underneath and what we do is we position it and pull it down in a way that allows the least amount of friction with the tablecloth here and the cups. Because we want to keep them so that they don’t fall over or fall down off the bench here. It all involves the friction from the tablecloth and the smooth surface of the bench and also the tray here at the very bottom. Yeah, it’s a really easy thing to do, get your favourite family member or parent and they can do it with you to help supervise. And we don’t wanna use any glass cups, anything that can shatter and hurt yourself. So basically use light materials, plastic cups and stuff like that. Thanks guys, hope you enjoyed it, I’ll see you next time.