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 (http://www.rugby-pioneers.com/) 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 http://www.flyingcircusofphysics.com/ 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.


Blogger Vincent Waitzkin said...

Enjoyed watching the second video. Electrostatic phenomena include many examples as simple as the attraction of the plastic wrap to your hand after you remove it from a package, to the apparently spontaneous explosion of grain silos, to damage of electronic components during manufacturing, to the operation of photocopiers. Electrostatics involves the buildup of charge on the surface of objects due to contact with other surfaces. Although charge exchange happens whenever any two surfaces contact and separate, the effects of charge exchange are usually only noticed when at least one of the surfaces has a high resistance to electrical flow. This is because the charges that transfer to or from the highly resistive surface are more or less trapped there for a long enough time for their effects to be observed. These charges then remain on the object until they either bleed off to ground or are quickly neutralized by a discharge: e.g., the familiar phenomenon of a static 'shock' is caused by the neutralization of charge built up in the body from contact with nonconductive surfaces. I am a college sophomore with a dual major in Physics and Mathematics @ University of California, Santa Barbara. By the way, i came across these excellent physics flash cards. Its also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!

4:15 AM  

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