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Space Engine

I found this software a while ago called "Space Engine", which can only really be described as a universe exploring tool. It's just a simple thing that allows you to fly around in space, starting from Earth. You control the speed you go at, and I feel this is the only thing to ever really give me a feel for the perspective on how large the universe really is. At first impressions I thought everything I saw was based on reality, but I found out that by default anything outside of what we have observed is procedurally generated, meaning that it is made up randomly by software and clever programming. This random generation is especially impressive, because you can fly in between galaxies, slow down to find a star, and then explore the planets and whatever else may be orbiting that star. I did this over and over until I found a planet that was labeled as a "warm terra", so I looked further and found it had everything: oceans, mountains, valleys, plateaus, etc. I compiled a bunch of the things I found, which were all interesting in their own way.

Here's a video I put together of some pretty scenes I found:

Desert planet with 3 stars:


Another view of the same 3 star system:


Mountain range with planet's rings going over the horizon:


Gas Giant in front of a galaxy:


Trailing edge of a galaxy perpendicular to horizon of a desert planet:


All of these formations were completely randomly generated, which is hard to believe considering how realistic they look.

Space engine is a free software, currently in a beta form that is being worked on slowly. You can download it here:


The kid's movie UP, while serving it's purpose as a kid's movie, isn't exactly known for being accurate in the physics department. In the movie, an entire house is lifted up by nothing more than balloons. This iconic scene is pretty, but is it probable? Discovery channel's Mythbusters decided to test it harnessing a small girl into a ton of balloons, and seeing how many it would take to lift her. They estimated about 2000 fully inflated helium balloons would be enough to lift the young girl, but with a sandbag dummy they found they would need upwards of 3500 balloons. After tying up all 3500 balloons to the harness, she was lifted into the air purely by the power of balloons. If it took 3500 balloons to lift a small girl, it would likely take millions of balloons to lift a house off of it's foundation and then into the air.


Almost every device we use has a thermometer in it, even if we don't know it. They are used to determine whether or not different electronics have overheated, or if they are too cold. They work on a different principle than a typical mercury thermometer, using a resistor that is affected more by temperature than a normal resistor. The changes in resistivity are used to judge the temperature, which can be measured very accurately depending on the quality of the resistor, and the supporting electronics. Not only is this useful for preventing damage to electronics because of high temperatures, but it is also useful for making small thermometers that can measure temp from just about anywhere.


A lot of people have used the Kinect for Xbox, and at the time of it's release in 2010 it was a new take on motion control technology. It allowed for control without a controller, by using 3 seperate cameras, 1 of which is a color camera, the other 2 are infared. They are seperated a small amount, just like our eyes to allow for the cameras to get a 3d model of what is in front of it, matched with the color camera to get an idea of the position of the person in front if the camera. This, along with the decent refresh rate of the cameras, makes it possible for the player to use their body to control whatever the game allows.


I recently watched the movie "Passengers", and I noticed that on multiple occasions what happened was actually accurate. A lot of other sci-fi movies have huge innacuracies that detract from the overall movie, but Passengers showed one really good example of this, which is a large spoiler, so fair warning to anyone who wants to see it. Jim, the main character, is blown out into space with a makeshift shield he had made. When he was thrown out of the ship, his tether broke and he was heading straight toward the thruster on the ship which would have burned him alive. His reaction was to throw the shield at the thruster, which gave the shield a lot of forward momentum, and because momentum is conserved, it gave him backwards momentum. Because of this, he survived and was eventually pulled back inside the ship.


I was first discovered to be colorblind in kindergarten, when the teacher had us coloring, and I grabbed the wrong crayon multiple times. Many people don't fully understand what colorblindness is, how it affects someone, and what causes it. My type of colorblindness is known as "Protanopia". That means I struggle to identify differences between red and green, blue and purple, and sometimes light greens with yellow. Whenever someone finds out I'm colorblind, the question they usually ask is "What colors can't you see?". This isn't how being colorblind is, it doesn't make all color disappear, and it doesn't make certain colors disappear. This is due to the way our eyes work, which is trichromatic, meaning there are 3 different main colors it senses: red, green, and blue. Colorblindness occurs when one of these three separate sensors, called cones, partially mimics another one. This causes the information from both to cancel out, resulting in muted colors. Since there are tons of these cones in each eye, the amount of faulty cones determines the severity of the colorblindness. My case of colorblindness isn't overwhelming, but is about average. I don't struggle with traffic lights, which is another common misconception people have about red-green colorblindness. On the other hand, I can almost never tell the difference between blue and purple, I just assume it's all blue. While this color deficiency effects me during all my waking hours, it isn't overly limiting.


We use microphones all over the place, and most people have one or more on them at any point in time. Most work on a fairly simple concept, using 2 plates. One of them is much thinner than the other, and acts as the diaphragm, the part that moves as a result of sound. The other one is thicker, and works to make the 2 plates into a capacitor. The sound waves change the distance between the two plates slightly, and therefore changes the capacitance of the system. These changes in capacitance are measured and turned into sound via speakers. Speakers work on a principal that is similar but opposite. Instead of measuring, the diaphragm is moved by varying electric fields in a coil around a magnet. By charging the coil with the right amount of electricity at the right time, it allows for sound waves that mimic what the microphone recorded to be produced. This is a very analog system, meaning it isn't controlled by a system of 1's and 0's being interpreted by a processor, but rather the strength of the charge resulting from sound into the mic. Obviously this can be converted back and forth from digital, but the speaker will always be a very analog type of technology.


A new type of software development that is being used to create realistic looking water without having large processing times is based off of approximating almost everything. The basic principal is to use a bunch of small spheres, and calculate how they would react in whatever situation, say water pouring out of a pipe. This would look like a large amount of balls rolling out of a pipe, but the real magic happens in the approximations that are used. The software uses how the balls move to judge how the water would move, and make it look like water by making the balls invisible, and adding water where the balls are, and if one gets separated it simulates how surface tension would be broken, and the water would form a droplet. This type of approximation allows the software to render realistic looking water at a resource cost that is far less than a typical simulation. By adjusting certain parameters, the viscosity and surface tension of the apparent fluid can be changed, allowing for this to be used to render all different types of fluids, not only water. This can also be adjusted to model smoke and fog, although with a largely different set of rules on the physics of each particle.

Here's an example from NVIDIA's tech demo before:

Cereal milk2.jpg

And then after the approximations:

Cereal milk1.jpg


We spend many hours every day looking at some sort of display, whether it be attached to a computer, phone, TV, or maybe even a car. These displays work on a relatively simple concept of using liquid crystals that change the color of the light that is provided by the backlight, which is usually white. This tech has replaced the old CRT (cathode ray tube) technology that shot electrons at a screen over and over scanning across to form the image. The next innovation in display tech is hopefully something like what Iron Man has in his suit, a type of transparent display. The current tech used would work somewhat as a transparent display, but the colors would be affected by whatever light is behind them, as no light is being produced by the display, only altered. This is where OLED (organic light emitting diodes) come into play, as they are one of the newest type of display technology, and they create their own light. This means that the colors you see are being produced pixel by pixel, rather than a white light being altered pixel by pixel. This also allows for better contrast, as each individual pixel can turn off, making the display capable of having true black rather than a sort of blocked backlight. This tech also allows for flexible and more varieties of displays, which are already being used in some TV's today.


A "Clean Room" is what it sounds like, a room which is very clean. There are varying types of them, from the variety used to make watches to those used to produce satellites. The general idea is to prevent contamination of the air, which is typically dust. In order to enter a clean room, one typically has to wear a full body suit that is meant to contain everything within the suit, so no dust enters the room. No makeup is allowed inside, as those types of particles easily come off and float around in the air. The systems that filter what little dust gets into the air are full room air circulation, meaning that the clean room is inside another larger room, one that houses the filtration and air circulation. This allows for different types of air flow, such as air that only flows directly downward, through a grated floor and back into the system. This is effective because larger particles will fall into the filtration rather than staying in the room, possibly contaminating something. The reason these need to be so clean is dependent on what the room is being used for. For example, in one that mechanical watches are assembled in, it's necessary to keep out any kind of dust from the minuscule gears to prevent any kind of possible mechanical failure. Clean rooms are used all over the world, and in a variety of ways. One of the largest is NASA's cleanroom in the Goddard Space Center, which is about the size of a small warehouse. Each employee in the room also wears a wristband that discharges static electricity to a ground wire, preventing any electrical damage and even possible attraction to dust as a result.


Every computer has millions, if not billions, of transistors in it. These transistors have one use, to control the flow of electricity. They act as a switch, but without any physical moving parts. Their size is incredible, since they work to allow electricity through on the atomic level, rather than a larger scale. The physical makeup of a transistor allows it to prevent the flow of electricity in one state, but when a small positive voltage is applied to the side, it allows the electricity to flow freely through it. Because of how small we are capable of making these transistors, we are beginning to run into issues that don't make much sense, like electrons jumping through a closed transistor. This comes as a result of quantum physics, and its seemingly random nature. If this weren't the case, transistors would continue to decrease in size until they were mere atoms in length. Even now, we are capable of creating incredibly tiny circuits, so much so that a small processor about an inch and a half wide can house upwards of 7.5 billion of them. If we allowed them to get smaller, data would become corrupt, as a single change in a 1 or 0 in a binary code can have catastrophic results.


The first microchips didn't need any kind of cooling, they were cooled by just the air around it. Now, they produce enough heat that it needs to be transferred away in order for the chip to function properly. The solution was to create a heatsink, an array of spread out metal fins in contact with the chip to transfer the heat. Over the years, these have increased in efficiency and size. The heat is spread out to the fins using copper pipes, and then fans push air over the fins to move the air away. Current pc hardware is so heat efficient that with certain parts, the fans can stay off and can maintain a low temperature. When the chip is being used, it outputs more heat, so eventually the fans turn on to cool the chip. Another method of cooling is also used in cars, where water is brought into contact with the chip (thermal transfer, not fluid transfer. The chip doesn't get wet.) and is pumped away to be cooled in a radiator. This is considered a more efficient, and quieter way, to cool computer hardware. The advancements in tech allow for the possibility of completely silent pc's, such as the one featured here.




The trend of flipping a water bottle through the air to make it land upright again grew rapidly, and has some interesting physics behind it. The difficulty in the trick comes from the fact that when the bottle isn't full, it doesn't spin around the center. What happens is the center of mass goes toward the bottom as more of the liquid is drained, so to the average observer the bottle flips in a strange and unpredictable way. But the rotation of the bottle is predictible, because the axis of rotation is the center of mass of the bottle. If you know this, it makes it easier to predict the movement of the bottle. The easiest center of mass would be close to the bottom, at a point where the height if the liquid equals the diameter of the bottle. This seems to make the motion of the bottle very predictable, as it makes the bottle rotate around the bottom. 


Stage Physics

Almost every stage production uses a pulley system or some sort of rope system to suspend something. Whether it be a curtain, backdrop, or even an actor, using counter weights to hold something up is an old practice. Ropes are all brought down from the ceiling to a row along the wall, over pulleys. These ropes have a plate with vertical pipes on the bottom, and the weights rest on top of the plate. The other end is attached to a horizontal bar on the stage, which multiple things can be attached to. If the weight equals the weight of the bar and what it's carrying, then the pulley system won't move. The weights won't ever be exact, so a brake system to lock the ropes in place is used to ensure that the bar is held in place.


Physics in Games

Half Life 2 was the first game to have a proper 3d physics system implemented, and while it wasn't flawless, it worked. It allowed the player to grab specific items, and carry them around and throw them into other objects, which would react accordingly. This was shown off a lot throughout the game, since the developers were proud of it. Now, it has become commonplace for almost every game to have a physics engine, as it's called, although it doesn't have to be a main gameplay element.

The topic of physics is particularly interesting when you look at the most popular genre, first person shooters. Some games use a projectile to calculate where the bullet will go, while others just use a "hitscan" system. Hitscan is when the path of the bullet is determined as a ray, protruding directly from the player's gun. It could go perfectly straight where its being aimed but most of the time there is a small deviation. This method is simple but effective, as it allows for much faster calculations to be done by a multiplayer server. If the ray hits a player, do damage, if not it will either hit a wall or continue on to nothing. The projectile method actually launches the bullet and does all of the physics calculations for it, such as being affected by gravity and other such variables. This method is used by all of the games in the Battlefield franchise, and is an integral part of the gameplay. Because the fighting happens on such a massive scale, having the bullet travel realistically makes a big difference. Different weapons shoot with different initial velocities, and some have less gravity affecting them. This is used to make some of the weapons fair, such as being able to do more damage but having a much slower velocity makes leading and actually hitting the target much more difficult. The drawbacks of this system are that the server is doing hundreds or thousands of these calculations per second, and with up to 64 players on a server at once, it can be very resource intensive. For people with poor internet, it can result in some strange errors, such as a shot hitting you after you rounded a corner, or being hit by shots that clearly missed. Due to advancements in technology, these calculations have become more efficient, and the fact that we can create a relatively accurate simulation of that many bullets at once is an impressive feat.



Formula 1 cars are well known for being among the fastest cars to be raced competitively, and their inner workings are just amazing. These cars are really wide and low, giving them a low center of gravity. This helps with turning, as the centrifugal force doesn't tip the car as much, since there is less torque. This isn't the thing that helps these cars go so fast, their engines are incredible, and the body is extremely lightweight. It's made of a very complicated composite, part of it being carbon fiber. Since the car is so light, it could easily flip or fly up into the air on the crest of a ridge. Because of this, the concept of using wind resistance to push the car down was developed.

Called downforce, it's achieved by using large angled wings that are sloped up towards the back of the car. This way, the air pushes the car down into the ground, so much so that at a certain speed the downforce is greater than the weight of the car. Because of this, it is actually possible for a f1 car to drive upside down, although it would be a very difficult feat. Downforce is useful in many other ways, such as increasing the friction between the track and the tires, allowing for tighter turns. F1 cars are able to hold their speed through corners much better than other cars because they don't lose traction at speed.

The general convention in racing is to slow down to get around corners, but it's the exact opposite with f1 cars, since if the car slows down the downforce decreases, making the speed at which you can turn at lower. This dynamic makes f1 driving one of the most difficult racing sports in the world, requiring incredible reaction speed and skill to drive.



I spent a lot of my childhood with hotwheels, whether it be putting insane tracks together or just watching the cars fly around the track. Hotwheels are best described as miniature cars that can be sent around tracks at ridiculous speeds to do crazy things. Some of the stunts my cars did were jumping tracks, going through King Kong's mouth, and doing loops around other sections of track.

The cars are usually launched by two spinning foam wheels that rotate in opposing directions with a small gap in between for the car. This pushes the car really quickly forward, launching it onto the track. Part of the difficulty with setting up a Hotwheels track was getting the "boosters" in the right spot so that the car would succeed in all the stunts and wouldn't get stuck anywhere. Because the cars are small and light, they can be easily launched really fast and can do crazy things. I haven't kept up to date with the new types of stunts and other new stuff, but all of the stunts my cars did blew my mind, because I always believed that if the cars were scaled up to real life, it would work the same way. But physics has taught me otherwhise, because it would be insanely difficult to send a 4 ton car around a huge loop, let alone creating a structurally sound loop to begin with. Hot wheels cars are much lighter for their size than full size cars are, meaning that the whole situation wouldn't work at all. Hotwheels has made some videos of minor attempts to recreate some stunts, and they have all been fairly successful. The way they accomplished this was by scaling down the stunts, and using heavily modified cars. Without this, the cars would have absolutely not completed the loop, and fallen on their roofs. A lot of car or bike stunts involve jumping, or doing a loop. Hotwheels cars are a good demonstration for young kids how friction and gravity affect motion.




Everything that goes up must come back down. This is true for everything affected by gravity, including buildings. Demolishing buildings is actually a business, because of how complicated it can be. Sometimes just a bunch of heavy equipment and a few machines will suffice, but with larger buildings like offices and skyscrapers, keeping,the rubble inside the lot as it collapses is a big deal.

The way this is done is usually by using controlled explosions going off in sync. The way these explosives are placed is typically on the very center, on support beams and anything structurally integral. This way, all of the rubble falls inward, not intruding on roads and other buildings. Obviously, if a building collapses onto another one it can't end well, so the scientific destruction of buildings is a significant practice. Having been to watch a building being demolished, I can say that it is very loud, and the ground shakes a lot, so much so that it can be mistaken for an earthquake. After it collapses, the dust cloud it sends up is massive, and rushes out sideways. 


Most people know about what hydroplaning is, but not how it works and how to prevent it, or how to stay in control if it happens. 

What happens when you are hydroplaning? The car's tires are lifted off of the road by the water. This happens because of the way water moves as it is pushed by the tires. If the tires can't push enough water out of the way, the pressure builds up and lifts the tire from the road, resulting in a complete of friction and as such control.

What should you do if your car starts to hydroplane? Nothing. Don't turn, brake, or accelerate, as that can just cause the car to spin out. You should just maintain speed and direction until the water stops. It sounds counter intuitive, but its the best solution to the problem.


Our second lab was an interesting one: predict where the ball will land after one shot from a projectile launcher, and you get a 100. If you miss, its a 0. But, the whole class was involved, so the end result was a very disorganized lab. On the first shot, we measured the angle and change in Y, then the X distance and the time it took from launch to landing. This was used to calculate the resultant initial velocity of the ball. Then the angle and height of ball was changed, so we re-measured them. Using the velocity from the previous launch, the initial velocity in the Y direction could be calculated, and then the time the ball would take to hit the floor. This time, multiplied by the initial X velocity, gives the distance the target should be placed from the ball in order for it to hit. My calculations gave me an X distance of 1.99m, but since it wasn't calculated in time, I don't know what the actual distance the ball covered was. So, I hope my answer is correct, but there is no way of knowing.


About me

AP Physics C. It's hard to believe I'm taking a college level physics class for the second time, but here I am. I have always been interested in the topics that physics covers, because I love pretty much any type of deep scientific research. I've always been good at science, and with technology of most kinds. The relationship between technology and physics is often overlooked, but it plays a massive part in almost everything we take for granted today, like GPS and cell service. How else would we have gotten large hunks of metal to stay up in the sky for years on end?

These kinds of things are why I'm taking physics, because I just love it. I'm a very curious person so I thoroughly enjoy learning how the world works, and being able to understand why certain things happen. I hope to learn even more about that kind of thing this year, because I learned a lot last year. That is why I was excited for this class, having the ability to gain a much deeper understanding of the world from a high school class is awesome, and I can't wait to see what this class will unfold.

Although it isn't all sunshine and rainbows, with great power comes great responsibility, and in this case that responsibility is classwork, homework, tests, the usual. Except this isn't the usual class, so expecting a usual workload would be ridiculous. The horror stories of all-nighters from the survivors make me nervous, but I will do my best to avoid falling behind, and to work diligently to maintain a good grade. I can't wait to see what I'll learn, but I most definitely can wait on all that work.

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