Yes, this one is a lot of fun, and it's something that real scientists are out doing in the real world:
Make a tsunami caused by a landslide into the ocean. Do a little research on this if you have to write a paper. Geologists have ample evidence that this has happened many times on volcanic islands like Hawaii, and also large landslides off of "dry land" and into the ocean that made a big tsunami. It has actually happened on a large scale during an earthquake a few decades ago in Alaska, so we know that it really does happen.
This is what to do, and it doesn't have to cost a lot of money (you might even be able to do it nearly completely free if you're good at scrounging). The bigger you make it, the more impressive it will be (and the project more obvious), but it works at fairly small scales too; just if you get too small, you won't really be able to see it.
So anyway -->
Get a transparent rectangular tank, like a long fish tank, and at least 8 inches high, and bigger is better.
Take a piece of wood (or whatever other flat surface you have), and cut it so that it fits flush against one of the small ends of the tank, tight from side to side (flat side of the narrow end meets flat side of the wood, then flush across). Now tweak the wood so that it's lying between a 45 and 60 degree angle (don't fix the wood permanent yet, because you're going to change it a little later on to make the project perfect), and lay it up against the flat side again so that it looks like a ramp going onto the bottom.
About halfway up your piece of wood (or whatever it is), build a barrier (like a fence) that sticks straight out from the wood (so if the wood is flat, the barrier goes straight up), make sure that the fence is just as wide as the wood, make the barrier about 1 inch high (it doesn't hurt to go higher, and you should definitely go higher the larger the tank). You also need to have some kind of little trigger that will make the barrier snap downward against the wood when you want it to move. (you can do this with a spring, and if you don't have anything else, you can drill a hole out the back of the tank and just feed some string through it so that you can pull it down by hand).
Alright, now... let's just say that your tank is 12" high. Fill it up with water about 5" (you don't actually need to do this yet, but it will help you visualize things). If the tank is bigger, make the water deeper. If the tank is bigger, also make your barrier taller. You will need to fool around with these variables before the science fair to see what makes the best "splash."
If you can find some natural rocks, try to find a bunch that will fill the "top" of your wood (above the fence) as high as they can go, which will be dependent on the exact rocks and height of the fence. But the rocks should probably start about around the size of a nickel and a 1/4 inch high, and then get smaller and smaller rocks down to the size of a pea. If you don't have access to rocks like that (since well all live in suburbs, who does?) you can go to the sporting goods store, or camping store and get BBs and 00 buck shot. It doesn't cost much, but get as much as your fence will be able to hold - note that real rock - smooth rock, not jagged - is better, because the BBs and such will roll over each other, and you won't hold much.
Now, if your tank is filled, and your rocks are ready, just snap the fence down. The rocks/etc. should roll into the water, which will displace water, which will cause a landslide-driven wave. A tsunami.
Now that you know that it's working, try changing the depth of the water, the amount of rocks that you can hold, the height that the rocks are dropping from (this doesn't need to change much), and the angle of your wood. It's very fast to change all of these variables to make the experiment work at its best.
If you want to have even more fun, then put in another piece of wood on the other end, that would like like the edge of a continental shelf, or an island, or whatever a tsunami might run into, and demonstrate how the tsunami will react to the terrain.
Also, incidentally, a tsunami will have a greater effect on a point that narrows inland (like a good harbor, where many people call it a tidal wave, which is the incorrect term).
This is a very fun project. You should see it when the pool is 100 feet across, the rocks are as big as your fist and your head, and the other end of the pool is shaped (both above and below the water) like a real piece of coastline!
Good luck, I hope that this works for you.
Experienced geologist who does stuff like this on a regular basis.
· 10 years ago