Friday, September 11, 2009
There's nothing like a crisp fall day—fresh, cool air, leaves crunching underfoot, an apple in your hand, and ten pounds of textbooks in your backpack slowly giving you scoliosis as you haul them around campus. In the spirit of back-to-school, join me in imagining the following scenario.
You get to your class on time for once, file inside with your classmates, and find a seat. Then the teacher starts talking. And talking. And talking. Time dilation seems to be at work. You check your watch—still another half hour to go. And you're starting to feel not very good. Must be this droning professor, you think. You tug at your collar and cough; your head starts to hurt. Your eyes wander to the door and you wonder whether it's been shut this whole time. Then it dawns on you...
The Fermi Problem:
Assuming you're not in a big lecture hall and the professor shuts the door at the start of class, how long does it take for you and your classmates to deplete the oxygen enough to feel it? If you're in school, try using the classroom dimensions and number of students from one of your classes. (That's a hint on where to start.) Stay tuned for the answer on Monday's blog—it might surprise you.