Tag Archives: physics

TWSB: Take Me Down Like I’m a Domino

More like TYSB (This Year’s Science Blog) since I haven’t posted one of these in forever.

Sorry. I’m a bad person.

Anyway, check out this vid:

In case you’re not the type to read the description below the video, a domino can knock over another domino that’s about 1.5 times the original domino’s size. The idea to try this came originally from scientist Lorne Whitehead in 1983.

In the video, they only use 13 dominoes. However, if they had kept making larger and larger ones, the 29th one in the tumble would have been about the size of the Empire State Building, the 62nd would be large enough to almost hit the moon (assuming, of course, that we could keep the earth’s gravity constant over all of these mega dominoes), and the 133rd would have the same length as the diameter of the Milky Way.

Reddit user Variance_on_Reddit (along with other nerdy Redditors) calculated that the time it would take these 133 dominoes to actually fall would be 11.67 quadrillion years due to friction (again, keeping “earth” conditions constant across all dominoes).

Pretty snazzy.

Reddit link (warning: Reddit)

TWSB: Angles of Understanding

Geometry makes things so much clearer, doesn’t it?

Dear people who have found my blog by searching WordPress for “Leibniz porn”:

I don’t know who you are or where you come from, but I have a feeling we are kindred spirits.

Unless “Leibniz porn” is slang for something else entirely. In which case, someone please inform me of its meaning so as to allow me to avoid amy embarrassment if I were to go to any given public area and say, “gee, I could really go for some Leibniz porn.”

Which has been known to happen.

And on another Leibniz-related note, we are to read part of the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence for Philosophy of Physics this week. This correspondence consisted of a series of letters exchanged between our hero Gottfried and Samuel Clarke, an ardent supporter of Newton and basically a speaker on behalf of him. The two men’s correspondence began in 1715 and ended a year or so later with Leibniz’ death.

Anyway. The two talk mainly about the dispute between absolute vs. relational space (Newton’s/Clarke’s and Leibniz’ views, respectively) as well as things like whether our universe could have been created by god earlier or later than it was and whether or not space is mostly empty. It’s super interesting and fantastic if you get a good translation, ‘cause then you get the snarkiness that was exchanged along with the ideas. For example, at one point in Leibniz’ fourth letter to Clarke you get this little jab as the two debate the meaning of the word “sensorium’”: “The question is indeed about Newton’s sense for that word, not Goclenius’s, Clarke shouldn’t criticize me for quoting the Philosophical Dictionary, because the design of dictionaries is to show the use of words.” Clarke’s got a couple good ones in there, too.

Okay, that is all. I’m in Leibniz ecstasy land today. It’s a good, safe, happy place. Full of wigs.

TWSB: Planetary Perturbers: Space’s Version of Peer Pressure

So this is pretty awesome: apparently NASA’s found a Jupiter-sized planet that orbits its sun in the opposite direction of the sun’s rotation. No, this isn’t like Venus rotating in the opposite direction of the other planets…this is a planet revolving its sun in a direction that supposedly defies physics.

Wait, how in the hell…?

Let’s start with how solar systems are formed. First you need a huge cloud of particles. The collapse of this cloud and the result of the pull of gravity causes the cloud to begin to spin. As it spins, the densest part of the cloud condenses and forms a sun.  Less dense parts condense into smaller balls of matter and become planets.

Now it makes sense, since all these stars and planets and such arose from a single spinning cloud of debris, that the balls of matter would all be either rotating (the sun) or orbiting (the planets) in the same direction, the direction of the original spinning cloud.

So how the heck could a planet single itself out and rotate in the opposite direction?

NASA scientists suspect that the change in rotational direction is actually due to the influence of a planet external to the solar system containing the rebel revolver. They suspect that the opposite-orbiting planet originally revolved around the sun in the correct direction. However, it was also close to another planet, most likely a giant, that was slightly further away from the sun. Thus, it was stuck in a sort of gravitational tug-of-war. Its gravitation interacted with the giant planet’s gravity, with each pass between the giant planet and the sun causing a decrease in the angular momentum  in the planet in question.

As the planet began to lose its momentum, it began spiraling in towards its sun (since momentum is what keeps planets from just falling into their suns). But because its plunge to near certain doom gives the planet some additional angular momentum in the opposite direction of the sun’s rotation. This additional momentum causes the planet to stabilize  and establish a new orbit—one in the opposite direction of the rest of the solar system.

And how freaking crazy is that?

Yoctonewtons: the weakest bullies on the playground since April 2010

In this blog: Claudia fights the urge to make as many physics-related puns as possible.

So check this micro-insanity out:
Take a bunch of beryllium ions, trap them in a chamber using strong magnetic forces and weak electrostatic forces, get them really cold, and then point lasers at them to see if anything causes the ions to move.


Apparently, freezing cold, stuck-in-place ions = good way to capture very very minimal forces. Measuring the ions for movement allowed for scientists to detect forces in the yoctonewton range, which is 10-24 Newtons.

For perspective (that doesn’t really matter, ‘cause everything else involves so much more force than this):
– The maximum force of a freaking mosquito is about 10-3 Newtons (somewhere in the range of millinewtons).
– 1022 Newtons is the approximate gravitational attraction between the earth and the sun (above the force magnitude of a giganewton).
– 1044 Newtons is the Planck force (somewhere in the range of a “take-THAT-you-ineffectual-agitated-beryllium-ions” newton).


Science: it’s way cooler than you’ll ever be.

Hertz, don’t it?

Sorry, I couldn’t resist.

Today’s song: Sleepyhead (Cillo Remix) originally by Passion Pit (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=adEcSRvLNfM – listen and be chill)

What is the sound of one claw snapping?

Wikipedia, you’ve done it again.

I randomly found the “unsolved problems in physics” page on Wiki tonight, and after multiple clicks to multiple other pages, I came across this one on sonoluminescence. Firstly, “it was too difficult to analyze the effect in early experiments because of the complex environment of a large number of short-lived bubbles” is probably one of the best sentences ever.  Secondly, as I read further down the page, this whole phenomenon sounded somewhat familiar to me, but I didn’t know why.

Then I got to the near bottom of the article where they talk about the pistol shrimp, who naturally produce a type of sonoluminescence as a way to kill prey. I read their page and realized that I’d either read or seen or heard something about these shrimp at some point before, but I couldn’t remember when. But I do remember the death bubble.


Yeah, turns out these little guys pretty much sonic boom their prey to death. Check it out here:

I freely admit the “OH SNAP” comment from a viewer had me laughing.


The fact that a creature can do something so cool is proof that nature’s pretty badass.

Also, I dare you to show this screen capture to anyone and see if they can guess what the hell’s going down:


And for those of you wondering: yes, it is possible to get from “Sonoluminescence” to the “Pornography” page in six clicks (Sonoluminescence -> Viscosity -> Mistletoe -> Kiss -> Herpes -> Oral Sex -> Pornography)


Today’s song: Blue Bench by Sasuke


Bored of your tired, monotonous lives?

Haha, this is pretty funny. My favorites are in red.

One day, all of the world’s famous physicists decided to get together for a party (ok, there were some non-physicists too who crashed the party). Fortunately, the doorman was a grad student, and able to observe some of the guests…

Everyone gravitated toward Newton, but he just kept moving around at a constant velocity and showed no reaction.
– Einstein thought it was a relatively good time.
– Coulomb got a real charge out of the whole thing.
Cauchy, being the mathematician, still managed to integrate well with everyone.
– Thompson enjoyed the plum pudding.
– Pauli came late, but was mostly excluded from things, so he split.
Pascal was under too much pressure to enjoy himself.
Ohm spent most of the time resisting Ampere’s opinions on current events.
– Hamilton went to the buffet tables exactly once.
Volta thought the social had a lot of potential.
– Hilbert was pretty spaced out for most of it.
– Heisenberg may or may not have been there.
– Feynman got from the door to the buffet table by taking every possible path
The Curies were there and just glowed the whole time.
– Millikan dropped his Italian oil dressing.
– Hollerith liked the hole idea.
– Stefan and Boltzman got into some hot debates.
Everyone was attracted to Tesla’s magnetic personality.
– Compton was a little scatter-brained at times.
– Bohr ate too much and got atomic ache.
– Watt turned out to be a powerful speaker.
– Hertz went back to the buffet table several times a minute.
– Faraday had quite a capacity for food.
Oppenheimer got bombed.
– The microwave started radiating in the background when Penzias and Wilson showed up.
– Gamow left the party early with a big bang while Hoyle stayed late in a steady state.
– For Schrodinger this was more a wave function rather than a social function.
– Skorucak wanted to put everybody on his web site.
– Erdos was sad no epsilons were invited.
– Born thought the probability of enjoying himself was pretty high.
– Instead of coming through the front door Josephson tunneled through.
– Groucho refused to attend any party that would invite him in the first place.
– Niccolò Tartaglia kept stammering throughout the evening.
– Pauling wanted to bond with everyone.
– Keynes was keen to question the marginal utility of this party.
Shakespeare could not decide whether to be or not to be at the party.
– John Forbes Nash wanted to play an n-person zero sum game.
Pavlov brought his dog; which promptly chased after Schrodinger’s cat.
Zeno of Elea came with two friends – Achilles and the tortoise.
Bill Gates came to install windows.
Bertrand Russell kept wondering if the cook only cooks for the guests, who cooks for the cook?
– Witten bought a present all tied up with superstrings.
The food was beautifully laid out by Mendeleyev on the periodic table.
– Chadwick was handing out neutrons free of charge.
– Everyone was amazed at Bell’s inequality.
Watson and Crick danced the Double Helix.
Fermat sang, ‘Save the Last Theorem for me.’
Maxwell’s demon argued with Dawkin’s friend, the selfish Gene.
– Russell and Whitehead insisted on checking the bill for completeness and consistency.
– Godel said it was incomplete and it can never be proved otherwise.
– Epimenides the Cretan announced that only non-Cretans spoke the truth.
– Rontgen saw through everybody.
– Descartes cogitated, ‘I think I am drunk. Therefore I am at the party.’

Taking Down Berkeley!

So Berkeley’s “to be is to be perceived” thing has been bothering me ever since we studied him last semester. So today I worked out a quick (and probably logically flawed) argument against his idea.

In case you may not know, here’s his idea in a few sentences: nothing exists if it is not being perceived in some sense by someone. This would make him the advocate of the idea that a room winks out of existence when everyone leaves it, but he’s got his catch to establish the idea that this does not occur…he says that God is constantly watching everything*, and therefore everything is always in existence (handy, huh?). But basically, he says that there is no material underpinning to the world—everything is and exists solely because it is perceived. There is no material world, existence is dependent on perception.

So because I have no job, no life, and an online class that is extremely easy and therefore takes up very little of my time, I sat around today and tried to work out a semi-coherent argument stating that there is something independent of our perceptions, and this thing is necessary for existence. This is confusing, but it works out in my head, so now I have to write it in a coherent manner. I want to see if other people can follow this train of thought, so I’m going to break it into little small sentences that build on each other in a sequential manner. It kind of work likes a proof, but I didn’t really feel like making a proof, so this is what you get.


  1. Existence cannot be perception due to the fact that to perceive something (the “positive”) requires space (the “negative”), or something in which the thing is perceived.
  2. The “negative,” or space, is imperceptible by itself.
  3. You need to perceive the “positive”, or things, in order to perceive the negative.
  4. But to perceive the positive, you need to perceive the negative.
  5. If existence were to be solely perception, it would be impossible for the things we perceive to exist because we are unable to perceive space, the quality that allows things to exist.
  6. However, one cannot perceive the positive without the negative, or the negative without the positive.
  7. If we take Berkeley’s theory as the base, then we have to perceive things in order for them to exist.
  8. Because of this idea, that means we would have to perceive space to perceive at all, since perceiving the negative is necessary to perceive the positive.
  9. However, we are not able to perceive space.
  10. But since we are able to perceive things, that must mean that space exists in some sort of sense.
  11. Space, therefore, must exist independent of our perception, because we can’t perceive it and yet we know it is there because we can perceive the positive, or things.

In fact, I’d say that space, not perception, is necessary for existence.

Does that make any sense at all? If it does, does it seem like a circular argument? I’d like to hear your reactions to this, especially if it seems unclear.


*Yes, he has a way of explaining how God exists if no one is necessarily perceiving him…don’t ask me to explain it, though, ‘cause I can’t remember it.


Wasn’t it around this same time last year that all us people who were in physics were trying desperately to finish our chairs?

Those damn chairs…

I dug the picture of mine out of my butt last night. It was supposed to be cheese, but in retrospect, it looks more like The Cheat.

Stupid physics…(oh, and the last day of school)

I am very disappointed in my Rube Goldberg machine, which conveniently quit working when Mr. Blount came to check it out for a grade. It’s as if it hates me for some reason.


But anyways, it is the last day of high school…ever. Kinda sad, kinda scared, kinda excited.
But mostly pissed about physics. It ruined my whole day.

My Rube Goldberg machine is genius!

YAY! I finally finished the construction of my Rube Goldberg machine! Now I shall get extra credit in physics which will guarantee a solid A in the class (and possibly the highest grade in our period!)
It works beautifully…except for the actual cutting part, which I figured wouldn’t matter too much, considering the fact that its working is only 5f our total grade. I rock.

Once again, it’s time to visit the…

Train o’ Rockin’ at Physics!

So much pain…(or, why I should get an A in physics)

I’ve been working on my Rube-Goldberg project for almost 6 hours straight now, and I’m only about 1/2 way through. These are some reasons why I should get an A on this darn thing:

1) I’ve worked for 6 hours straight on this project ON A SUNDAY.
2) I have splinters in my pants.
3) I have about 15 burns all over my hands from that dang hot-glue gun.
4) My thumbs are all bruised up because I have no depth perception with a hammer.
5) The floor in my room is full of debris from this project, and therefore, everywhere I step I either get splinters in my feet, nails in my feet, or wire wrapped around my toes.
6) I had a dream last night about my Rube-Goldberg machine coming to life and destroying itself.


I guess it’s my own fault–when I get into something, I really get into it and begin to be obsessed about it. Oh well. I’ll get extra credit!!

On a roll! (and apologies to Aneel)

Sorry about that “disappointed” business yesterday, Aneel. I was just having fun with my butt (among other things).

Anyways, I am on a roll with my Rube Goldberg project for physics. I started building it today and I’m already about 1/3 of the way through. I rock.

Train o’ Rockin’ at Physics!


I’m sitting here at 11:30 at night watching Mystery Men and blogging on Myspace when I should be doing my physics final. But I always get things done…besides, I have one of the only two A’s in our period.

I shall prevail. Physics doesn’t scare me!!  (me laughing evilly)

Aneel should post more. I know he’s got girly little thoughts rolling around in that head of his.