When I look back to past Thanksgivings, I remember the smell of turkey baking, my sister leaving after the Thanksgiving Day Parade, and clicking over to the Science Channel to watch one of the most prestigious competitions of the year: Pumpkin Chunkin. The goal of the competition is to use a variety of heavy machines to blast pumpkins as far as possible. The different divisions consisted of air cannons, trebuchets, torsion, and “centrifugal” machines. While the trebuchets and torsion divisions are the flashiest, and the air cannons blast pumpkins the farthest, the “centrifugal” machines are what I wish to focus on.
Now we are aware that referring to the forces exerted on the pumpkin being referred to as centrifugal does not make sense. The net force acting on the pumpkin as a result of its rotation is actually referred to as centripetal due to it being directed towards the focal point of the machine (center of the circular path). The reason the pumpkin flies is because once it's released, wherever that may be on the rotational path, the instantaneous tangential velocity dictates in which direction the pumpkin will travel.
This diagram shows the behaviors of an object on a rotating path which I mentioned above.
This team is titled “Bad to the Bone”, and besides having a machine which terrifies me from behind a computer screen, their contraption can fling a pumpkin up to 3,245.58 feet. I’ve been doing my research, trying to find a measurement for the pumpkin’s initial velocity, even trying to see how fast the arm gets before it launches the pumpkin, but nothing shows up. I even tried to look at numerous videos, but the arm is always swinging too fast to make any reasonable assumptions. In fact, there is little to no data on ANY of the machines for that matter. I would have loved to calculate the pumpkin’s initial speed or revolutions per minute, but there are too many uncertainties.
Oh well, sometimes you are the pumpkin and sometimes you are the ground. In this case I guess I am the pumpkin as knowing so little leaves me a little… crushed.
I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As always thanks for reading! - ThePeculiarParticle