Thursday, December 31, 2009

The Jan 2010 stories at the FCP site: (1) On the old televsion show Knight Rider, Michael Knight would drive his futuristic car KITT up a ramp and into the interior of a moving semi-trailor truck. Is that really possible? The hosts of the television show Mythbusters recreates the situation. (2) When the cork is loosened on a champagne bottle, it can be ejected so quickly by the high internal pressure that it can hurt someone, especially if it hits the person in the eye. I have a number of links that are either fun or sad, depending on your perspective. Another in the series of physics of getting hurt. (3) I also have a number of links to videos where people play songs on a variety of musical instruments made from vegetables, fruits, and eggs. Ok, this is neat, but I worry about the person who first decided, "Hey, I don't have anything to do right now. So, I tell you what, I'll make a musical instrument out of brocolli!" (4) Why do pictures hung on a wall commonly become crooked with time? Here is the physics of crooked pictures. (5) The old article of the month is the one I wrote in 1979 about the fracture patterns of pencil points and toppling tall smokestacks. Ok, this too is neat, but now I worry about myself and why I sat around for a full day breaking pencil points one after another and examining the broken pieces. I must not have had anything to do that day.
To see all this and more, come to and check out the "Spotlight Story" and the "News/Updates."

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

The December stories at the Flying Circus of Physics website:
1. Human dominos --- how to liven up a party and maybe go after the Guinness record for the most number of people to be knocked over in a line of human dominos. Plus some domino effects with shoes, vacuum cleaners, toasts, and nearly anything else around the house.
2. Electrostatics and the miniature art of Willard Wigan. The image here (from Henry Frederic Humbert ( shows an example, on the head of a pin. Wigan, who is famous for his tiny sculptures, must be careful about the art becoming charged or it will disappear, which apparently happened to his sculpture of Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz.
3. Fall of a window cleaner is shown in a dramatic video. By chance and two good reasons of physics, he survived a fall from eight stories.
4. When a bullet is shot through an empty glass, the glass just shatters, but when the bullet is shot through a water-filled container, some of the liquid is propelled back toward the weapon. Some slow-motion videos reveal that many other objects (for example, an apple and a banana) have such reverse propulsion when shot. And, more tragic, so do humans, a fact that played into the discussion about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
5. Pub trick of the month: when cream is placed on top of the liqueur Tia Maria, the surface can develop wormy, tubular motion, which you can see in a video link. Anyone in a bar can set up the motion, but can you explain it? That is the real trick.
6. The article of the month is my article from 1986 about Nitinol, a shape-memory alloy. If you distort a wire of Nitinol and then heat the wire, it springs back to its original shape. This feature allows you to make a small engine out of Nitinol wire.
To see all this stuff, visit and click on the spotlight story or the News/Updates. And, as always, there are hundreds of stories in the archives, thousands of video links, and over 11,000 citations to scientific and technical literature.