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When your head turns, thick fluid moves within the semicircular canals in your inner ear, bending a cluster of hairs located at the base of each canal. The bending of these hairs transmits signals to your brain, giving you a sense of balance. A second organ, the utricle uses a similar system of fluid and hairs to give us the ability to sense acceleration.
The homemade accelerometer works on the same principle these organs use to sense acceleration. The water inside the container is just like your ear fluid, the cork just like that cluster of hairs.
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Video transcript available here: http://ow.ly/mOOld
Teacher's notes available here: http://ow.ly/mOWal
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Music by Kevin McLeod (http://incompetech.com) Riptide