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Science Outreach Catalyst Kits (SOCKs)
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2012 SOCK: The Fabric of the Cosmos

2008 SOCKIn 2011, SPS joined with NOVA to bring SPS-sponsored science cafes - Cosmic Cafes - in an effort to engage non-scientists in a conversation about some very big ideas presented in the Brian Green book The Fabric of the Cosmos and its adaptation to a 4 part NOVA series. The idea for the 2012 SOCK (Science Outreach Catalyst Kit) stems from this partnership.

The idea of "invisible fields" is one of the most abstract concepts in physics. The 2012 SOCK addresses two main lessons: gravity and magnetism. These main ideas are deconstructed into small, tangible activities developed by the SPS SOCK interns and tried out with a variety of age groups. The manual (available for download) has guidance about which activities are most appropriate for different age groups.

If you were not among the lucky few to receive a SOCK this year, consider putting together your own! The manual and all information to support the activities are available for download on the right, and the materials are listed below. The actual costs of materials for the kit are not prohibitive, and we include a complete list to save you time.

The following schools will be receiving SOCK kits:

  • Angelo State University, San Angelo, TX
  • College of Charleston, Charleston, SC
  • College of William and Mary, Akron, OH
  • Drury University, Springfield, MO
  • Green River Community College, Auburn, WA
  • Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA
  • Manchester University, North Manchester, IN
  • Portland State University, Portland, OR
  • University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
  • University of Wisconsin - River Falls, River Falls, WI
  • College of Wooster, Wooster, OH

Contents of the 2012 SOCK:

Magnetism Lessons:
Understanding what is a magnetic field and what is not? • Exploring Magnetism • Viewing magnetic fields using iron filings and a clear plastic box • "Magnetic Hide and Seek" Net magnetic field game • Floating ring magnets • Defelcting compass • Ferrofluid - a magnetic liquid demonstration




Price (approximate)

Iron Filings

The Chemical Store

$11 for 12 oz.

Floating Magnet Set

Office Playground or Think Geek


(ordinary plastic rulers with cm and mm marks)

Office Supply Stores


Brass Washers

Bolt Depot

$24.23/set of 100

Multipole Magnets

Arbor Scientific


Disk Magnets



Ferrofluid Kit
(comes with MSDS sheet)



Neodymium Magnets


$5.25/set of 10

Magnetic field viewing film




a1 Components


Faraday Flashlight

Ali Express

$18.26/set of 10

Horseshoe Magnets


$15.15/set of 25

Bar Magnets


$23.91/set of 100

Jewelry Bead Organizer
(clear plastic 8” x 6” Magnetic Field Viewing boxes)

JoAnn Fabrics


Shelf Liner
(the rubbery kind for keeping magnets in place under viewer)



Shakers for iron filings

Glitter shaker bottles from a
craft supply store work best

Under $5.00

Saftey items for handling ferro fluid

Vinyl gloves, empty plastic
containers, eye dropper


Gravity Lessons:
Using Spandex as a model for SpaceTime • Modeling gravitational attraction due to a single point mass • Modeling gravitational attraction due to a Binary System • Modeling the density gradient • Modeling the formation of the Solar System • Modeling tides • Modeling the Roche limit • Activities to understand the concept of "Big G" - The Gravitational Constant






Spandex House, or general craft and fabric stores


8 Fiberglass Tent Poles connected with elastic cord


$10.56 for 5 poles

7 Wooden Balls 1"

General craft store

$9.95 for 100

10 Glass Marbles 1"

or any discount or toy store

$28.12 for 125

12 Binder Clips

Office Supply Stores

$1.69/box of 12

100 Glass Marbles 5/8"

Dollar store

$1 per bag

7 Steel Ball Bearings 1”

Any hardware or machine supply store


2 small wire hooks

Self-fabricated from coat hanger wire


Other Resource Materials:
  • User/Instructor Manual
  • User manual and resource DVD
    • Contents of DVD available for download
    • Worksheets
    • Videos
  • Fabric of the Cosmos DVD - available from any video supplier or directly from NOVA
  • Graviton plus toy - available from the Particle Zoo

…and much more!

How to get a SOCK:

To be eligible for a SOCK, Chapters must send an email to SPS with the following information:
1. School
2. Chapter Advisor
3. Primary student contact and his/her email address
4. Mailing address at which you will receive the SOCK
5. When, where, and with whom your chapter plans to use the SOCK

6. The SPS Chapter Advisor or President needs to send an email to SPS confirming plans to use the SOCK and giving the name of the student who is responsible for submitting the SOCK summary by May 1, 2013.

Contributions by: Melissa Hoffman & Meredith Woy, 2012 SPS SOCK Interns

2012 SOCK interns

The 2012 SPS Sock Interns Meredith Woy (left) and Melissa Hoffman (right).


This YouTube playlist is meant to accompany the SOCK and includes videos on:

Operation Spandex

Assembling Spacetime

Creation of the Solar System on Spandex

Modeling a Single Point Mass on Spandex

Modeling Tides, Rings, and Roche Limits

Magnetic Field Viewer Demonstration

Follow this link to see the videos at full size on YouTube.

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