Friday, March 12, 2010

Cone Heads

If you happen to be in the Portland area next Wednesday, please stop into the APS March Meeting public lecture. Speaking will be none other than James Kakalios, the creative mind behind the book The Physics of Superheroes. It is truly a treat to watch him speak, and the talk is totally free and open to the public, so drop in if you can!

Although he wasn't the first to point this out, one of my favorite tidbits in Kakalios' book is the explanation of why Lois Lane would still die if Superman tried to catch her after she'd fallen thirty stories off a building. Ms. Lane's momentum and rapid deceleration would kill her - even if it was Superman's hunky arms that caught her, and not the sidewalk.

The challenge of finding a way to decelerate rapidly moving bodies, without crushing them, is the key challenge behind the physics of protective gear. We've blogged in the past about how helmets used in the military are saving lives, but also result in an increase of severe head trauma. And even designs in your basic bicycle helmets continue to evolve as we come up with creative ways to reduce the impact delivered to the wearer's head in a crash.

What appears to be newest of those designs just hit American stores. Straight from Australia comes the cone-head helmet.

The inventor, physicist Don Morgan, has spent twenty years working on the design, after studying the remains of helmets taken from crash sites. Here's a short description in writing, but you get more info from this video of Morgan accepting an award at the Australian New Inventors ceremony.

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