rallain

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Rhett Allain

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September 14, 2010
Maybe you have already seen an announcement, or maybe this is the first time you heard that wired.com is starting a new science blogs section. Oh yeah, and they invited me to join. So, I did. This brings a couple of important notes. First, this will obviously be my last post at scienceblogs.com…
September 10, 2010
Here is the next item. There is a threaded plug on the top. I took it off so you could see inside. The whole thing is pretty heavy. Good luck, and let's be careful out there.
September 9, 2010
Through random surfing, I found this clip from The Amazing Race (which is apparently some type of reality show). Don't really know the set up except that it appears some girl is trying to launch watermelons with a slingshot. This looks bad, but she seems to not be seriously injured. Watermelon…
September 8, 2010
Actually, it should be called Happy "Magnitude of the local Earth gravitational field" day. You know, 9.8 N/kg on September 8 (9/8). Get it? Well, the idea was for the physics students and faculty to build some stuff to do outside - projectile motion type stuff. Well, we had the idea a while…
September 7, 2010
Congratulations Fran. Not only did she answer the "What the heck is this?" correctly, she was the first commenter. Here is the original item: It is of course a gas discharge tube. You put these tubes in there (as shown above) with helium or neon or whatever in there and it excites the gas to…
September 7, 2010
You can call it football if it makes you happy. Anyway, this is a popular story going around. The physics of the magic curving soccer kick. Here are two ends of the spectrum. First, there is the lower, easier to consume version from io9.com Physics forced to come up with whole new equation to…
September 3, 2010
Please note the official change of the title of this game, it is no longer "what is this". Here is the item: I suspect someone will know what this is. Honestly, I didn't figure it out right away. However, I have found that the readers as a group generally are more knowledgeable than me by myself…
September 2, 2010
Yes, I love python. However, I am no expert. Most of the stuff I write in python is dirty and ugly code. Sometimes I figure out new things (things that programmers already know) and sometimes I forget these things. So, here are a few tips and tricks that I use from time to time. Really, I am…
September 2, 2010
A while ago, we had a ton of lightning. As a bonus, it always happened in the middle of the night. I love sleeping where it sounds like I am on the front line in WWI - no, I don't. But, while lying awake waiting for the next BOOM I thought of something. Instead of just counting the time between…
September 2, 2010
The first thing that I saw was this article from nola.com (The Times-Picayune) "New teacher evaluation method being proposed in Jefferson Parish". Let me summarize this article. Basically, one of the local School Board wants to use a learning tool (Interval Testing) as a teacher evaluation tool.…
September 1, 2010
This is something I use at the beginning of a semester. I ask the class: "How are you an expert?" What is an expert? Let me call an expert someone that is comfortable answering questions about that particular topic. If students are too shy to share (especially on the first day of class), I will…
August 31, 2010
Reader Fruity was the first to correctly name this device - on just the 9th comment. Impressive. Honestly, when I found this thing I had no clue. I asked other physicists and none of us were sure. However, I did find the answer. Let me show you my secret. I don't know how old this thing is,…
August 28, 2010
Ghostbusters is old enough that I don't mind giving away some spoilers. If you haven't seen it, I doubt you are going to. In the movie, the Ghostbusters capture some ghosts. They keep these ghosts in some "containment grid" device. Someone from the city doesn't like this and comes to turn it off…
August 27, 2010
It would be nice if I could come up with a good rhyme for grade to fit this title. One of my brothers is a biochemistry faculty at Appalachian State University (hint - he is the one with the same last name that I have). We were talking (and surprisingly agreeing) that grades were dumb. What would…
August 27, 2010
Here is my plan. Post a "what is this" on every Friday until I run out of things. I will post the answer on Tuesday. Maybe we should start keeping points. You get more points for being the first one to get it right. You lose points for getting it wrong. Last week was easy, but I think this is…
August 26, 2010
Might as well jump. Jump. Go ahead, jump. - Van Halen Suppose everyone in the world got together and jumped. Would the Earth move? Yes. Would it be noticeable? Time for a calculation. Note: I am almost certain that I have done this before, but I can't find where. Starting assumptions. 7…
August 25, 2010
You know I wander around the intertubes, right? Who doesn't? Anyway, I saw this collection of strange google Earth images. Yeah, it is kind of dumb, but this one made me think: That article said the image was from TechEBlog, so there is that. I have no idea what this thing is, but it is clearly…
August 25, 2010
Austria seems like a nice place to visit - I have never been there. However, I am not going to Salzburg (even though I said I was). The original plan was for WOMWorld/Noika to fly me to visit Felix and the Red Bull Stratos team. It was an exciting plan. Now there is a new plan. The new plan is…
August 24, 2010
I might as well make a new tag called "basketball throws" because I can't stop with the analysis of these crazy basketball shots. Watch - in the end someone is going to post a video about how all these were faked (and I have said there is no clear evidence they are fake). Oh, if you want to see…
August 24, 2010
Perhaps you have had enough time to think about the first "What is this" demo item. Here is the item in question. It seems most of you were right on track with this one - probably because you can still buy such a device. This thingy launches a small ball horizontally while at the same time…
August 21, 2010
Let's play a game. I think this will be fun. So, a couple of years ago I had the duty of organizing the physics demo room (well, "demo" is maybe not the best term). This room is quite large and there is a whole bunch of stuff in here, some of the items are very old. There were lots of items that…
August 20, 2010
I am not normally a book-review-kind-of-guy. However, in this post I will make an exception. My wife (who clearly knows me very well) bought me this book - Made by Hand: Searching for Meaning in a Throwaway World (amazon link) The basic idea of the book is to look at how the author (Mark…
August 20, 2010
Reader Jorge has also looked at these amazing basketball shots. (here is my last basketball analysis) Jorge claims that at least one shot seems fake. He is referring to the following video (at around the 2:20 mark). ARRGH Ok, new plan. For some dumb reason, youtube won't let me embed this video…
August 19, 2010
First, where does Chad come up with these links? Oh, I am talking about Chad from Uncertain Principles. In his latest links of the day, I found this: Skip Class Calculator What a great idea. Basically, you enter some info about the class - like how often it meets, how many classes you have…
August 17, 2010
Let me start with the video. Here is a guy flying a plane in a barrel roll and pouring some tea at the same time. Talk about multitasking. How can he pour upside down? Well, there are two ways to look at this. First, I can look at this in the frame of the plane. For this case, I can invoke the…
August 17, 2010
I see that Doug at Nanoscale Views has fond memories of the hit show The Mechanical Universe. If you have never seen this show, it is quite excellent (even if old). Perhaps the best thing about The Mechanical Universe is that it might be the best that traditional lecturing can provide. Oh, I know…
August 16, 2010
I can't let it go. There is more here to explore. First, I can't believe that I looked at braking and then turning but not turning then braking. And what about braking while turning? I will model braking and then turning - but it won't stop here. Consider a few motions. I could turn and then…
August 13, 2010
We (Southeastern Louisiana University College of Science and Technology - but it should be called Science, Technology and Math) just had our fall convocation. Normally, we would share departmental news (which we did) and introduce new faculty. There are no new faculty and haven't been any new…
August 13, 2010
You know I have trouble letting stuff go, right? I am still thinking about these crazy long basketball shots. Here are some more thoughts. Really, there are two things I am interested in. First, commenter Scott Post suggests that the drag coefficient might be around 0.25 instead of 0.5. I don't…
August 12, 2010
There is something I am working on that will need some type of angle sensor. I am going to use a potentiometer. First, who came up with that name? Isn't this name the same as a voltmeter? Something is wrong with that name. How about we just call it a variable resistor or something like that?…