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Simpsons Physics 3: Up, Chuck, and Away

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Cvankerkhove

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I recall an episode of the Simpsons where Homer and Bart go in a "Zero Gravity Ride" on a jet. In the show, the way the ride works is the jet flies very high above the altitude of Earthy, then when it reaches maximum altitude, does a nose dive towards the surface of the Earth. If we analyze the physics behind this, we can understand that because the jet is in free fall, Bart and Homer are in free fall, and therefore its like "0 Gravity." In reality, there is still a gravitational force acting on them, but it feels like there isn't because of free fall, and the jet falls at the same rate as the things inside. This is the exact same concept of a space shuttle in orbit. When astronauts are in orbit, they aren't really in a place with Zero Gravity. They are actually in constant free fall around the Earth. 

Furthermore, we can analyze the motion and actions Bart and Homer make when in free fall. one thing they do it float, but in order to move themselves a net force needs to act on them. By pushing their legs off the wall, a normal force is exerted on them and they can thus accelerate in the x direction until hitting the wall across them. Also, at one point they have a race by burping. Because burping releases gas from the system, an equal and opposite force pushes Homer and Bart in the opposite direction. This force is of course exaggerated for the purposes of the show, but the idea behind it is correct, similar to using a fire extinguisher on a rolling chair to move. Now indulge yourself in this comedic video of the scene.   

 


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Its really interesting to think of the concepts of physics and how zero gravity makes all these relationships so pure

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