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Showing posts from April, 2008

Measure Your Car's Drag Coefficient!

You know you're a true physics geek (that's a good thing) when even a trip to the Quickie Mart is an opportunity to do a physics experiment.

It's still better when the experiment tells you whether those bangin' new fender skirts on your Honda CRX and the monster wing you bolted on are holding you back in your own private version of The Fast and the Furious 4. Or, even worse these days, burning a hole in your gas card.

Click the pic to check out an Instructable that tells you how to measure your car's drag coefficient.

A low drag coefficient is crucial for both high fuel efficiency and high speed cruising. It's also very hard to calculate for anything other than a really simple shape. So experiment is the way to go.

If anyone out there has a Scion xB, I'd love to know what sorts of measurements you get in real life driving. It can't be good. On the bright side, the slower you go, the less the drag affects your mileage -- and xB's look best when they'…

Spirit of Saint Louis

Hi, I'm Gabe Popkin. I'm new to the Physics Buzz, but not to physics. I got an undergraduate degree in physics from Wesleyan University in 2003 and now I work in the APS Education Department, mostly on a project to help physics faculty recruit and prepare future teachers. I am also involved in creating educational materials based on cutting-edge science research.



I just got back from the APS April Meeting in Saint Louis, where I spent much of my time manning a booth for an APS-led project called the Physics Teacher Education Coalition, or PTEC. PTEC is a group of around 110 universities, colleges, and one national lab at which at least one faculty member has taken an interest in working with some of tomorrow's physics teachers. The Coalition began in May of 2003 as an outgrowth of the PhysTEC project, which funds a smaller number of universities to develop strong teacher preparation programs that can serve as national models.

So you may imagine it can be a hard sell to get p…

Fun with Acoustics: Wine Bottles, an RC Car, and the Mario Brothers Theme Song

After seeing this video, I think I need to start collecting wine bottles (I don't know what I'm going to do with all that wine, though).

These folks from somewhere in China set up the bottles - precisely spaced and partially filled with fluid to tune them to various musical notes. All this effort went into an elaborate way to play the theme from the Mario Brothers video game when the bottles were hit by the small hammer attached to a passing remotely controlled race car.

Mario Theme Played with RC Car and Bottles - Watch more free videos
And to think I'm wasting my time working when I could be doing way cool stuff like this.

-Buzz

Inside Nature's Time Capsule

I couldn’t resist a science news story that’s so reminiscent of JurassicPark.Amber is the closest thing to a natural time capsule I can think of.It’s almost a time machine. The stuff preserves bugs, leaves, feathers, and who knows what else almost perfectly for millions of years.Researchers recently found a few hundred new species of fossilized animals that had been trapped in amber since the Mesozoic Era.And, with a 3D printer, they can make complete models of the fossilized creatures. The mosquito-containing amber atop John Hammond’s cane in JurassicPark was transparent – giving a lovely little image of the bug trapped inside.But a large percentage of amber turns opaque as it solidifies, so it’s impossible to see the animals trapped inside it.Bring on the physics!To look inside these bits of amber, the paleontologists are using a technique known as propagation phase contrast microradiography (phew!).Physicists have found that if you want to look inside something that visible light …

Self Cleaning Clothes - What to Wear This Summer?

Whether you're extremely environmentally conscious or just plain lazy, self-cleaning clothes are a good thing for everyone.Except those of us that gain comfort and confidence from the intense sanitizing power of the traditional washer-dryer.No one can tell me I don't smell pine fresh if I know my clothes have just gone through the wash cycle.Self cleaning clothes leave things a bit more debatable; but it is true that self-cleaning material would benefit energy guzzling humans in more than one way. Researchers announced in a February 2008 issue of the journal Chemistry of Materials that they have now found a way to coat wool with nanoparticles of titanium dioxide, making the fabrics essentially self-cleaning.The technology was developed in 2004, but could only be bound to cotton.Next on the way will hopefully be silk and hemp.This particular type of self cleaning is achieved by leaving the fabrics in the sun.The titanium dioxide is a photocatalyst - so exposure to UV light c…