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Physics of Mario Kart

Mario Kart was (and still is) the greatest game of all time, and there is a surprising amount of physics involved – not the part about falling off the edge of rainbow road and then magically reappearing back on the track though. Mario Kart uses Newton’s laws. The use of Newton’s first law proves why in order to get moving you have to press a button to accelerate, and when you let your finger off the button, you don’t just automatically stop, you just slow down. Newton’s second law shows how

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Spaceships & EmDrive

Space rockets use thrust in order to get them up into space. Thrust is the sudden, propulsive force of a jet engine, and is based on Newton’s third law. In the rocket, thrust is created from the solid rocket boosters and the main engines. The solid rocket boosters and the external fuel tank are eventually dropped from the rocket in order to reduce mass once in space. The rocket is slowed down a little because of the force due to gravity and the drag force when in the Earth’s atmosphere. NAS

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Fuse vs. Circuit Breaker

If you live in a house like mine, blowing fuses and circuit breakers is a common occurrence because of all the things we have plugged in at once. A fuse is a small, thin conductor that is designed to separate whenever there is excessive current flowing through the circuit. Fuses are connected in series so that when the fuse blows it will stop current flow throughout the entire circuit. If fuses were connected in parallel, they would not affect the current through any of the other branches.

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Newton's Cradle

Newton’s cradle is a device demonstrating the conservation of energy and momentum. In an ideal Newton’s cradle, only the two balls on the end will move and there will be no energy loss, resulting in the cradle going on for an infinite amount of time. However, in a real Newton’s cradle, the fourth ball does have some movement and there is slight reverse movement as seen in the picture above. The equations p=mv and KE=½mv2 can be used to help find the velocities of the two end balls on a

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Physics of Golf

Since The Masters seems to be the only TV program on in my house these past few days, it seems fit to talk about the physics of golf. The angle of the golf club head helps to determine the distance the ball travels in the air and once it hits the ground. The greater the club speed hitting the ball, the lower you want the club face loft angle. This is because you want the golf ball to go farther and not higher. When you are closer to the green, you are more likely to use a higher numbered ir

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The Magnus Effect

The Magnus effect happens to a spinning object that drags air faster on one side, which causes the object to move in the direction of the lower-pressure side. Here’s a video showing the Magnus effect in action:   Newton’s third law helps to prove the Magnus effect because the object pushes the air in one direction and the air pushes the body in the other direction, an action-reaction force. With a ball spinning through the air, some of the air spins around the ball with

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Jet Stream

When I flew to California and back last month, I noticed that it took more time to fly to California than it did to fly back to Rochester (even though it seemed shorter to fly to California because of the time zone difference). This happens as a result of the jet stream. The jet stream is a strong and narrow air current the circles the globe flowing from West to East. Jet streams occur because of the heating of the atmosphere from solar radiation and the Coriolis effect from the Earth’s axi

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Spill Proof Mug

The other day I came across something talking about a spill proof mug. Since I do tend to spill drinks occasionally, I wanted to read about it. The cup uses a suction on the bottom of it to help prevent it from tipping over. Once the mug forms a seal with the surface it is on, the air pressure under it becomes smaller than the atmospheric pressure above the cup, resulting in the downward force keeping the cup on the table. Even when a small force is applied to the top of the cup that would

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Earth’s magnetic poles

If you know me well, you know that I have lots of irrational fears that will most likely not happen, knock on wood (I’m also superstitious). One of these fears is that the magnetic poles of earth are switching, ever since I read an article about it in January.  Earth’s poles switch about every 200,000 to 300,000 years, and considering the last major flip was 780,000 years ago, we are long overdue. The magnetic field helps to protect Earth from deadly rays, and if the poles switch, the prote

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Snowboarding Slopestyle

As I watched the Winter Olympics this February, I loved to watch the snowboarding slopestyle and couldn’t help but think of all the physics involved in getting the highest score. When the snowboarders start at the top of the hill, they are full of potential energy. As they make their way down the hill, the potential energy turns into kinetic energy. To create the flips and turns they do in the air, the snowboarders use angular momentum by applying an initial twist in their movement and that

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Air Resistance Tests

Last night my younger brother was watching one of his favorite shows: street science. I happened to walk in the room as they were doing a Galileo-inspired experiment where they were dropping different objects from a crane to show the effects of gravity and air resistance. At first, they dropped a basketball and a bowling ball from a height of 50 feet. Physics tells us that both objects should hit the ground at the same time because in free fall the weight of the object doesn’t matter. Howev

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Physics in Passengers: Tethers and Zero Gravity

*More spoilers ahead* One of the big scenes of the movie takes place when Chris Pratt’s character Jim is blasted away from the ship while saving everyone on board and his tether connecting him to the ship breaks, leaving him floating in the depths of space forever (or so you think). Many of the scenes involving tethers are actually scientifically correct. Jim and Aurora (Jennifer Lawrence) float with ease while connected to their tethers, and don’t interfere with any of Newton’s laws. While

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Physics in Passengers: Rotating Spaceship

This past week, I finally was able to watch the movie Passengers starring Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt. As I was watching, I couldn’t help but notice all of the physics involved. *If you are planning on ever watching this movie, continue reading at your own risk, spoilers may be included.* The story takes place in the future, where two of the characters wake up 90 years early from hibernation on an interstellar spaceship. The spaceship the characters are on creates artificial gravity b

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Dog Whistles

The other day my younger brother was using a new dog whistle app on his phone to make tour dog (and me!) go crazy. However, my dad was in the same room and he couldn’t hear the annoying high-pitched sound at all, so my brother was able to get away with continuing the high-frequency dog whistle sound. The highest frequency dogs can hear is 45 kHz, while a child’s limit is 20kHz, and a middle-aged adult’s is 15kHz. Dog whistles range from about 20 to 54 kHz, so it makes sense that I was able

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Rip Currents

When I was at the beach in North Carolina over the summer, for a couple of days there was a sign outside the lifeguard stand that said WARNING: RIP CURRENT. Now at the time I wasn’t exactly sure what a rip current was, all I knew was that it was obviously dangerous and it pulls you out into the ocean. So, I still went in the water because everyone else didn’t seem too worried about it. While I didn’t get pulled out into the ocean by the rip current, I did get a bad sting on my leg from a jellyfi

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Sledding Physics

One of my favorite winter activities: SLEDDING! (although not the walking back up part). My house is backed up to the woods and a big hill, so when I was younger we would always go sledding (and try to dodge the trees), and make jumps to go off of on the way down. At the top of the hill, you have the most potential energy because you are at the greatest height. At the bottom of the hill, you have the most kinetic energy because you are moving the fastest and all the potential energy has tur

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Christmas Physics

Even though it is well past Christmas, I figured why not use physics to try to prove a myth that many kids believe, the myth of Santa and his reindeer. While Santa is said to have magical abilities that allow him to deliver presents in one night all over the world, let’s pretend that Santa doesn’t have magic and he just obeys the laws of physics. So, Santa has to visit around 500 million houses in the span of 31 hours (taking into consideration different time zones and the rotation of the E

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Sulfur Hexafluoride

One of my younger brother’s favorite shows to watch is Mythbusters, and repeats are on almost every day. Well, a couple of days ago I saw a video about inhaling sulfur hexafluoride. Everyone has heard someone talk after inhaling helium from a balloon, they sound really funny because their voice is very high. The effect helium has on the voice is because it is much less dense than air. It causes the speed of the sound of your voice to increase, whereas the frequency of the vocal cords doesn’t cha

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Spikeball Physics

Spikeball is one of my favorite games to play in the summer, and I'm really wishing it was warm enough to play right now! Spikeball is a game involving a hula-hoop sized net placed on the ground and 2 teams of two go back and forth hitting a small ball across it. It can be played anywhere, including the beach, the grass, maybe even the snow if you're willing to get cold! Much like volleyball, each team has 3 alternating touches to hit the ball on the net for the next team to then play. However,

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The New Year's Eve Ball "Drop"

As you may know, people ring in the new year every year by watching the events taking place at Times Square, most importantly the ball drop starting one minute before January 1st. However, calling it a "ball drop" is a tad misleading because it doesn't actually free fall to the ground, the 11,875 pound (5386.4 kg) ball slowly descends down a 43 meter tall flagpole in the span of 60 seconds. It is not as stunning as everyone makes it out to be. Sure, the ball is made up of 2,688 crystals, but it

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Top-making

In physics class earlier this week, we were presented with a task to make a top out of two mini paper plates, a pencil, six pennies, and tape. Without any instruction, we had to create a top and make it spin for a decent amount of time using these materials. The engineering design process played a big part in our creation of a top, even though we didn't know it at the time. The steps of the engineering design process are: define the problem, do background research, specify requirements, bra

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Physics of Fetch

A dog trying to catch a ball in its mouth is like a person trying to catch a football, a lot of coordination and timing. Kinematics could be involved to find the distance, but there is not enough time for a dog or person to calculate that since it only takes a couple seconds for the ball to reach the dog. However, if you ever did want to find the distance, you would need both the x and y components of the initial velocity, acceleration in the y which is equal to 9.8 m/s2, and the time it takes f

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Falling Penny vs. Falling Pen

I'm sure everyone has heard the myth that if a penny is dropped off the Empire State Building it could kill someone. Well, fortunately you can still walk in NYC without shielding your head from falling pennies because this is not true. The penny will tumble as it falls which will slow it down, and because pennies are flat and thin, they experience a lot of air resistance opposing the force of gravity. A penny would reach a  terminal velocity of a meager 25 mph at 50 feet. Instead of going straig

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Physics of Angry Birds

While the once popular cell phone app reached its peak a couple of years ago, Angry Birds is a great example of projectile motion. The basic goal of the game is to launch the birds using a slingshot to knock out the green pigs. In order to knock out the pigs with the least amount of shots, you need to launch the birds with the correct initial velocity and at the correct angle. There are multiple different birds that are used in each level, including the standard red bird, a blue bird that turns

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Do billiard balls hurt?

Put simply, the answer to this question is yes. But here's how I found out: The other day, I was playing pool in my basement with my brother and, of course, I was looking at something on my phone just as the cue ball was hitting the 9-ball and he applied so much force that the 9-ball bounced off the table and landed right on my foot. It hurt really bad and I still have a large bruise right on the top of my foot. Well, since a standard billiard table is .762m and we can use acceleration

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