I guess some people will do anything to get on television. In the media blitz last week, nobody seemed to pause to wonder whether the escaped helium-filled contraption would in fact have sufficient buoyancy to carry a 40-pound boy to a height of 7000 feet. Let's apply some physics to the case.
Now that looks like fun. Of course we intuitively know it's completely fake, and involves the usual videographic sleight of hand, but let's apply some basic physics to the situation to check our intuition.
Getting married in apparent weightlessness looks like fun; it's the next best thing to getting married in space.
Keep in mind that I use the terms "apparent" or "simulated" weightlessness, because, as discussed in a previous article, we're not talking about actual weightlessness in these situations. Actual weightlessness requires the absence of a gravitational force.
Last week we were treated to the unusual story of a human-versus-meteorite collision.
According to the Daily Telegraph, the youth whose hand was in the path of the pea-sized meteor saw a "ball of light." The article also made the claim that the impact with the ground left a "foot-wide crater." Both of these assertions are highly unlikely, as we shall see by simply applying some basic physics to the situation.
Who isn't amused by the rare and impressive science-savvy party trick? One that involves the potential to risk death death by flinging yourself Superman-like at a bouncy training ball, only to have it pop you back up in an amazingly graceful backflip? Before you cry "Sir Isaac Newton!," here are the physics behind this seemingly impossible stunt.
Check out this demo reel of Levi Meeuwenberg doing some jaw-dropping "free running". Free running is very similar to Parkour in the athleticism required and specific techniques and movements used, but while Parkour is about getting from one place to another in as efficient a manner as possible, free running is less directed and more creative in nature.
As mentioned in that ancient post, when performing either of these activities, in addition to spending years developing a formidable set of technical skills, balance, physical strength, and kamikaze attitude, it's important to be cognizant of some basic physics.
Enter the two-handed bowler. Increasingly, we are seeing this novel technique cropping up in bowling alleys across the country. Notice the formidable hook you can generate with this type of delivery -- it looks like the ball is headed straight for the gutter, but then, seemingly at the last second, it cuts back into the pocket for another strike. It's this superior hooking ability that makes two-handed bowling a force to be reckoned with. In order to get some insight into the issue, let's examine some of the physics involved in tossing a 12- to 16-pound sphere down a lane of polished oily wood.
In order to get a strike you probably already know that the ball needs to strike the pins in one of the "pockets", which are the regions halfway between the head pin and the pins on either side of the head pin. But why do we need to hook the ball at all? Why not just throw it straight up the alley and directly into the pocket? The answer has to do with conservation of momentum.
For a beautiful demonstration of both magnetic force and gyroscopic motion, let's contemplate the Levitron. This novelty toy (which even now sits on my shelf waiting for a quick spin around the block) consists of a magnetic base upon which you spin a magnetic gyroscope. Both the bottom of the gyroscope and the top of the base contain magnetic north poles, and therefore they repel each other.
However, try as you might, you'll never be able to balance the magnet above the base without spinning the top. Why is this?