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People often have preconceptions about almost everyone they meet, and there's probably no reason why physicists would be any exception to that rule. The people in different professionals are going to attract different stereotypes however, and these stereotypes are...
Do you want to know about my new humidifier? No? You will in any case. It is a perfect example of the latest in advancements in technology that make practical everyday things into objects of worship. There is a...

Blast Off!

Physics can be really intimidating and dry for kids. It is also one of the most exciting areas of study, and well worth putting in the time to learn some basic physics principles. But kids usually need a kick...

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Cool Physics Experiments for Kids

Experiments are the right way to understand a particular and also find all about its occurrence and purpose. Individuals, especially kids, will gain a...

Stereotypes About Professional Physicists

People often have preconceptions about almost everyone they meet, and there's probably no reason why physicists would be any exception to that rule. The...

Blast Off!

Physics can be really intimidating and dry for kids. It is also one of the most exciting areas of study, and well worth putting...

Science at Work: Atomization

It is truly amazing when you think about all the science concepts people interact with on a daily basis and don’t even think about....

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Cool Physics Experiments for Kids

Experiments are the right way to understand a particular and also find all about its occurrence and purpose. Individuals, especially kids, will gain a lot from operations and their sense of knowledge will rise through these practical procedures. But for this purpose, you also need to look into the types of experiments. When it comes to physics, numerous methods prove a particular fact or point. But picking the right mode is essential and thus makes all the difference, Hence to bring out things in a specific order, here are cool physics experiments for kids.

All About Mass

The concept of mass is one of the first chapters that a kid is going to learn at school. So why not make his/her first experiment to highlight the same? Well, if the answer is yes, then you need to go ahead and learn all about the same. The experiment is quite simple, and all you need are a couple of cans. Make sure to carry a dirt can as well as the regular one because you are going to understand the difference. Once you dip respective cans in water, you might notice that some of them sink and some of them float. Well, what lies behind this odd behavior? The answer is simple, and it deals with sugar. Yes, that’s right. Regular cans have lots of sugar, and diet cans have artificial sweeteners. Hence, when you dig deeper and learn about the same, you will be able to make out the experiment in detail.

Energy and Power

Exploring themes like energy and power are always exciting, and we have an experiment that can help you out. For this experiment, you will need a duck tape, washi tape, recycled water bottles, baking soda, paper towels, vinegar, popsicle sticks, pencils, straws, and dowel rods. Once you have all these materials, you need to look into the experiment and learn all about the rules to make a rocket out of them. These are DIY experiments, so you need not be worried about occurrences. But as a sign of caution, it is good to keep vinegar and baking soda away from your kids. By the end of the experiment, the central theme of power and how it functions energy will be understood.

The Process of Deceleration

Learning about deceleration is an experiment that many have attempted in the past. Since it involves eggs, there is no safety measure required for this one. For this experiment, you would need raw eggs, a few containers, bubble wrap, plastic trash bags, string tape, egg crates, and so on. Once you have lined up these items, you can move ahead into forming the category by reading deeper into the experiment. By all means, it is an important one that carries a lot of knowledge.

Efficient Machines: The Bicycle

When you love physics and have studied it extensively, you tend to see everything in the world it terms of energy and motion. I want to use bicycles as my example today because they are so adept at using kinetic energy. What a marvelous, efficient machine. If you don’t know much about physics, let me explain a few basic concepts. In physics, if you are talking about the kinetic energy of an object, you are referring to the energy it possess when in motion. In other words, it is the work needed to accelerate an object of a particular mass from its state of rest to its eventual velocity. Energy comes from acceleration, and the object in question such as a bike maintains kinetic energy unless its speed changes, say slowing down. Deceleration is the opposite of acceleration and refers to the amount of work done by the bike in changing the current speed to what is called a state of rest. Whether you find this fascinating or not, it interests me. Perhaps you would rather talk about your last jaunt on your bike to explore the countryside or brag about the fabulous road bike you bought for under $1,000. Even though all bikes operate the same way from the perspective of physics, some are beautifully made and perform according to a higher standard. I can certainly identify with this and understand the need to have a pricey bike to satisfy your transportation needs. I, too, could sing the praises of a bike. It is surely an artfully-designed object that is pure poetry in motion. You whiz along the highway, exploring the nooks and crannies of your neighborhood. You can pack a lunch and store it easily on the bike for later consumption. If you watch bike races, you get the physics part even better. Bike rides are central to some family life and it is a wonderful way to bond with your kids or build camaraderie with friends and colleagues. If you haven’t indulged, now is the time to consider getting into regular bike riding. After a while you will get to know the type you want down the road for your ultimate purchase. There is the fun of selecting the model, the design, and the coordinated colors. The seat has to be well made and comfortable. You want your bike to look as good as it functions. There is no shame in showing off a little to the world. While there are thousands of bikers in your town alone, not every bike is equal. Some are visually exciting while they also take you on an energetic foray anywhere you want to go. Get on the Internet and compare brands and models. You will enter a whole new world that will grab your attention like a magnet. Every day a new bicycle aficionado is born. Embrace the kinetic energy and delve into riding at a whole new level.

How Stuff Works: Ionic Air Purifiers

It’s time for another physics lesson. This time it is about ions and ionic air purifiers. Many people use them without knowing what is behind their operation. If you are like me and enjoy the behind-the-scene details, then listen up. You will learn something new. Let’s start with an ion. It is in essence a charged atom or molecule because the number of electrons don’t equal the number of protons. Got it? Try to remember your basic chemistry. You will recall that an atom can acquire a positive or negative charge depending on whether the number of electrons is greater or less than the number of protons. Are you falling asleep yet? I think it is fascinating stuff, so let’s go on. For clarification, when an atom is attracted to another one because it has an unequal number of electrons and protons, that atom is called an “ion.” It is a positive ion if it has more protons than electrons. This comes into practical use with an Ionic air purifier. This appliance should help put things into perspective. I am going to use the Sharper Image Ionic Breeze for my example. The company claims it pushes air purification to a new level, all because of ions. The best-selling model is the Comfort Quadra in case you are inspired to go out and buy one. Through the marvel of whisper-quiet ionic technology, it removes dust, pollen, and tobacco smoke from the air. Smaller atomic-sized particles are eliminated, better even than HEPA filters. With an ionic system, you don’t need filters. All you do is clean the permanent stainless steel filter in your sink or dishwasher. Simple as that! You will have clean air in a room of about 400 square feet. Some reviewers give ionic air purifiers a bad rap because they generate a small amount of ozone as a byproduct of the ionization process. While ozone can be an air pollutant, it is not harmful at this level and you would buy a model that meets US federal and state standards. The Environmental Protection Agency keeps close tabs on the problem. Other than this drawback, and ionic air purifier is efficient and practical. People love the lack of a filter. Large commercial models have long been used to clean up crime scenes and where odor, smoke, and mold remediation is critical. Permanent removal is possible making the units a valuable tool in certain industries. It is up to you to determine safety hazards when using the smaller appliances at home. There is evidence on both sides. You can’t go wrong if the literature on your ionic air purifier operates within legal ozone limits. While there are many systems available, the ionic air purifier does a good job of capturing airborne allergens, pet odors, smog and household dust. This is the deciding factor in choosing a unit. Plus, they are easy to use and energy efficient. Collection blades are easy to clean and you save money on replacement filters. So give them a look now that you know how they operate.

Science Behind Humidity

Do you want to know about my new humidifier? No? You will in any case. It is a perfect example of the latest in advancements in technology that make practical everyday things into objects of worship. There is a science behind all inventions, from the simplest to the most complex. The new ultrasonic humidifiers are a case in point. It is all about combating the dry air that makes people susceptible to infection and other ailments like asthma, a cold, or the flu. High-frequency humidifiers are the new answer to the old problem. Vibrations generate a fine mist that is imparted to a room to increase moisture. Many people like the cool-mist versions for allergies and the warm-mist units for other needs. Most state-of-the-art offer silent operation along with the health benefits. They are multi-purposes appliances to be sure. What affect does moisture have in general that makes it so valuable? Temperature alone is not enough to determine overall comfort on a given day. Lack of humidity can be as important as too much. You can feel desiccated or drenched. Think Death Valley, California versus New Orleans in the summer. Do you want to be parched or sweaty? It is so vital that many industries conduct regular humidity monitoring. According to basic definitions, humidity is the concentration of water vapor in the air expressed as absolute humidity, specific humidity, or relative humidity—and measured by a hygrometer. On the other hand, a humidistat regulates it by means of a dehumidifier to achieve climate control. Due to the changing partial pressure of water vapor in air, as temperature changes, its water content at sea level can get as high as 3% at 30 °C (86 °F), and no more than roughly 0.5% at 0 °C (32 °F). Scientists use the ratio of the mass of water vapor to the volume of the air to arrive at absolute humidity, which is then expressed as a ratio of kilograms of water vapor per cubic meter of air. So much for the science lesson in today’s blog. Suffice it to say that I appreciate my humidifier and am passing on the word. If you can’t go live in the desert to help your allergies, you can buy a simple device. The mist engendered can be very soothing to the throat when you have a dry cough. Your skin will also respond nicely to the added vapor. Rough, peeling, and scaly skin has a remedy in store. There are many uses for a humidifier with a focus on reducing the ill effects of dry air. There may be times when you want it, of course, but as many when you don’t. The point is to find a unit that can service the square feet in your room at home or the office and that can disperse the mist quickly and evenly. You want high-quality construction, light weight, and easy maintenance of the water tank component. If you follow these guidelines, you can’t go wrong.

Physics of Sound

I am fascinated by the physics of sound at the moment. I’m always into physics, of course, but at this time, I am analyzing the nature of sound. I know it is a longitudinal, mechanical wave and that it can travel through any medium except for a vacuum (hence no sound in outer space my friends). I also know that it is a variation in pressure. For example, an area of increased pressure on a sound wave is called a compression or condensation while region of decreased pressure on a sound wave is called a rarefaction or dilation. I’m getting into this, are you? There are various sources of sound such as vibrating solids, explosions or implosions, and smooth air flow around blunt obstacles that creates shedding vortices (having a characteristic frequency). Think of a musical instrument such as a flute, or even a whistle in which sound waves are formed. These sound waves have amplitude (such as intensity, loudness, or volume), frequency, wavelength, and speed that reflects a certain medium and its state and is affected by elasticity and inertia. Physicists know this as the Newton-Laplace equation. So as not to enter a realm of tedium for less involved readers, I will stop here. If interested, I encourage you to google more with “physics + sound.” That’s all you need. I go into all this because I have been plagued recently by a lot of loud noise. It is not the heavy traffic outside my office window or the occasional construction jackhammer down the street. It is not a roaring commuter train or a boat whistle nearby. My brother has been taking me to the gun range, insisting I accompany him in the performance of his new hobby. He hopes in the long run I will take up shooting permanently in the long run. It is all a matter of exposure, he says. I like being with my brother, of course, but the sound is deafening at times. At first, I was a bit stunned. You need ear protection while shoooting for sure. Trying to keep my interest intact, he has given me earmuffs made out of molded plastic as a gift. They are designed for just such a purpose as a gun range and they really do the job. I don’t mind going as much as I did before. They fit over my head while also allowing for goggles or other headgear. He went all out and got the type that can do double duty as a phone and music listening system. Thoughtful, isn’t he. They are lightweight but sturdy and are adjustable as needed. I am pretty happy with this solution, but I felt like covering the nature of sound anyway to intrigue the reader. The subject of physics can be very abstract and theoretical and tying it to guns is my way of making it more practical and accessible. It doesn’t make the loud noise any more tolerable, however, and those earplugs are always on my person when visiting the range.

Blast Off!

Physics can be really intimidating and dry for kids. It is also one of the most exciting areas of study, and well worth putting in the time to learn some basic physics principles. But kids usually need a kick in the pants for something to really spark their attention, and when you’re talking about the science responsible for launching rockets into space, you have some great options. Today I am going to talk about a cool project that can get kids interested in physics using minimal materials that are easy to acquire. I found this lesson on the European Space Camp in Norway’s website. The premise of the project is to build a paper rocket that the students can then launch. Abstract formulas that talk about velocity, distance, time, and acceleration suddenly seem less abstract. Even complex ideas like the laws of aerodynamics can be visualized through a task like this. Plus, you’re launching something. That’s just cool. And you can set up competitions for innovative design, distance, height, or anything else you want to get kids excited about. Talk about ways to minimize air resistance before letting students start assembling their rockets. Explain how the design can add or decrease drag and allow the rocket to go faster, higher, or farther. For the launcher, you need either PVC or metal pipes and a small, portable air compressor. You can find instructions here in PDF form because it will be helpful to have a clear list when you get to the hardware store. This part is best done by an adult who has experience with tools and air compressors. To make the paper rockets, you need:
  • Standard A4 works great. Two pieces per rocket.
  • They just have to cut paper, so if you are working with little kids, safety scissors are fine.
  • Adhesive tape.
  • Putty or Plasticine.
Building the rocket:
  1. Roll one piece of the paper into a cylinder. Seal one end with tape. This will be the front of your rocket. Blow into it to make sure it is airtight.
  2. From the other piece of paper, cut out a circle 7 1/2 cm in diameter. Then cut out a section approximately 90 degrees from the circle. Roll the remaining piece into a cone shape. Put a small ball of putty inside the tip of the cone, then tape it to the sealed end of the rocket body you made in step 1.
  3. Cut four paper triangles of exactly the same size, folding one side of each to create flaps. Tape the flaps to the rocket.
  4. Note that the rockets will likely be one-and-done as far as launches go, as the landing tends to damage the nose.
Please be safe when launching the rockets. Pay attention to the pressure ratings of the materials you use, and please do not exceed them. Keep people away from the takeoff area when you are ready to launch. Wear eye protection and inspect the launcher to be sure everything is in good condition before using. If you want some great equations to work with your kids on, check out the “follow-up” section of the Space Camp’s page here. If you have your students take some simple measurements prior to launch (the length of the rocket body, the interior diameter of the launch tube, the air pressure of the launcher with the valve closed, the mass of the rocket, and the angle of elevation), they can actually work out things like initial velocity and acceleration. It is a great way for kids to see physics concepts up close and at work. Let me know if you take this one on, and if so, what the results are!

Science at Work: Atomization

It is truly amazing when you think about all the science concepts people interact with on a daily basis and don’t even think about. Various laws of motion, biology of life forms, chemical reactions, and physical changes. All of these are hiding in plain sight in your life: how when you stomp on your breaks, your body still goes forward, until (hopefully) the seatbelt catches you; bacteria growth on food you accidentally left out; filling an ice tray with water and having it freeze. All fairly mundane activities that, when looked at scientifically, clearly show amazing processes going on. For example, on any given day, you aren’t thinking about atomization, yet you probably actively cause it in your day-to-day existence. Atomization is the application of force in some way to break a liquid down into fine particles. You are taking something that is a liquid and applying force in such a way as to make it freeform droplets, or a gas, or a mist, depending on the process and the liquid you start with. You might be familiar with the term “powder coated” when referring to metal. The powder coating is created through atomization. And, as I said before, you atomize things on a regular basis and might not have known that it had a name, nevermind that it was a scientific process. Perfume and anything you get out of an aerosol can come to mind. There’s even something you may have lying around in your garage that makes a good demonstration of atomization: a paint sprayer. By separating the paint into tiny droplets forced out of the nozzle of a paint gun, you can accomplish more than by using a brush—because a paintbrush keeps all the “atoms” together while the spray gun separates for both better control and covers a more widespread area while using less liquid. Paint from a brush can drip, run, and basically get everywhere. If you spend some time to read paint sprayer reviews, you’ll find that they’ll discuss the process of atomization and how small or large the droplets from the spray gun are. A paint gun gives you better accuracy (most have settings to control how much paint is being released at a time; no person could be that precise with a brush and a can of paint), and more speed to paint a given area more thoroughly and quickly. Paint is interesting because it is typically more viscous than other liquids, so the droplets can be more obvious. Depending on the color, it can be easier to see when atomized than, say, perfume. And you can usually see the paint in a paint sprayer, unlike most aerosol cans, which tend to be solid in color and obscure the contents. The process is fairly simple: you fill a canister with the paint and attach it securely to the sprayer. A motor inside the sprayer creates suction to pull the paint up a tube and into the sprayer; if it is gravity fed, you attach it upside-down and let gravity’s force do the work. Then the paint passes through an atomizer valve, which breaks up the paint and creates a mist, which comes out the spray nozzle. That’s all for now. Keep your eye out for other examples of atomization and of science at work!

The Science of Vacuuming

If you are dying to know how a vacuum cleaner works, you have come to the right blog: it is physics 101. I know you see demonstrations on TV ads for various unique models, but we will go with a basic one. Assuming we are talking about an upright vacuum of typical size, you first must know the meaning of suction. This is the principle behind the wonderful machine. Turn it on and you will see. The motor is attached to a fan with angled blades which forces air forward as it turns. It reaches the exhaust port where the density of particles (called air pressure) causes a pressure drop behind the fan. So far so good? Continuing on: now the air pressure level drops behind the fan to a degree below the level outside the vacuum, thereby creating suction within the machine. The air in your room being cleaned enters the vacuum through an intake source (your assorted attachments) since the pressure outside is greater than inside. Got it! Normally there is an on-going, constant stream of air that moves through the attachment and then out the exhaust port. We come now to the physics principle of friction which explains how the air collects dust and carpet debris. Here’s what happens: the moving air particles “rug” against loose dirt and this friction carries the material into the machine’s innards. The debris has to be light enough for the amount of suction. Your vacuum might have rotating brushes at the intake site to grab onto carpet lint and dust. Now what? Here’s where the bag comes into play. The dirt-filled air reaches the exhaust port and passes through the bag which is fabricated out of cloth or paper (a porous material). This is the air filter part of the system. The bag contains tiny holes that let the air pass through easily, but they are too small for even the most aggressive debris which remains behind. Air out, dirt in. It’s that simple. Bags are located in various sections of the vacuum according to its specific design, and it doesn’t matter as long as it is in the right pathway between intake and exhaust. Upright cleaners are different than compact versions or canister vacuums. As such, the suction capability will vary. It depends on the power of the fan (good speed) and any blockage in the air passageway. If there is too much to vacuum as on a construction site, and the bag fills too quickly, there may be too much resistance for an ordinary model. Another factor in suction optimization is the opening at the end of the intake port or attachment. Bernoulli’s principle states that when air speed increases (due to a smaller vent), pressure decreases. Greater suction arises from a drop in pressure at the intake port. The moral of this story is that narrow attachments are better at picking up heavy particles. These are the basics, my friends. I could go on about wet/dry and central system vacs, but we are out of time and space. More next time.

The Famous Physicists That Made It All Possible

newton5Sir Isaac Newton may be the most influential physicist who ever lived, although historians are always going to disagree about that. However, the most fundamental theories of mechanics and gravity can generally be traced to him. He also devised the mathematical system through which physicists can properly understand and interpret physics today, which would be calculus. People’s ability to properly do physics and understand physics is going to be severely limited if they don’t have the advanced mathematics to properly model the situations. There’s a reason that there were very few influential physicists before Sir Isaac Newton, but there were quite a few influential physicists born afterward. Many people in the field know full well that they are following in his footsteps. As for basic physics, Lord Kelvin was also a tremendously influential figure, given his contributions to the fields of thermodynamics. While few people fully understand quantum theory, including the people who study it for a living, Max Planck is the scientist who more or less founded the entire field. Before the work of Max Planck, humanity’s understanding of time and space was limited. Quantum mechanics, in some ways, is an emerging science compared to many of the other sub-fields within physics. However, before the work of Max Planck, the relevant holes in humanity’s knowledge were even more substantial. Albert Einstein is perhaps the most famous of all modern physicists. He is a person who has actually become synonymous with the concept of genius, making him a figure that has transcended physics in the minds of many people. However, people tend to think symbolically when it comes to Einstein. People have heard of him and they have heard of his symbols, but far too many people are not truly familiar with his work. Einstein’s theory of relativity helped completely change physicists’ view of how space and time even worked, so it’s important not to underestimate its contribution to the field. Many people misunderstand the theory of relativity today, which does not mean the same thing as ‘everything is relative’ in the more everyday sense of the word. However, at least this widespread misconception gets people talking and thinking about Einstein and his theories just a little bit more. Einstein’s life is quickly fading out of living memory, but he still seems to have plenty of actual fans today, which is more than can be said for a large portion of other physicists. It is possible that the myth figure elements of Einstein have had their own influence. Some of the most important physicists of all time are still alive today. Stephen Hawking managed to improve upon the work of both Max Planck and Albert Einstein, given his contributions to the fields of quantum mechanics and the General Theory of Relativity. The famous physicists that are alive in one’s lifetime tend to automatically seem less exotic, but that doesn’t make their work any less important or influential.

Stereotypes About Professional Physicists

People often have preconceptions about almost everyone they meet, and there’s probably no reason why physicists would be any exception to that rule. The people in different professionals are going to attract different stereotypes however, and these stereotypes are going to vary in terms of how harmful they are and in terms of the consequences that they ultimately have on a social level. When it comes to physicists, the stereotypes certainly aren’t all bad. Many people will automatically make the assumption that the physicists that they’re speaking with are smart, which is a fair assumption. It is arguable as to whether or not this is truly a stereotype, since it often takes above-average intelligence in order to earn a physics degree in the first place. Assuming that physicists are smart may not be so different from assuming that they have physics degrees in the first place. However, the popular perceptions of physicist do not end there. For one thing, many people tend to be surprised whenever a woman says that she’s a physicist, which is a problem. The number of women in physics and engineering has increased tremendously over the years even though women are still a minority in the field, but the general public still hasn’t caught up to this perception. Many women in physics are constantly having to prove themselves as their abilities are challenged each and every day. When random people that they meet on the street seem to be doing the exact same thing to them when they simply state the name of their profession, it can be particularly demoralizing. People of colour who work in physics will often get similar reactions, and these reactions can be just as difficult to take for them. It is possible that influential physicists of colour like Neil deGrasse Tyson will make a difference in this regard, but these sorts of negative perceptions can take a long time to die. The negative assumptions about physicists extended to white male physicists. Physicists are often assumed to be socially awkward individuals, regardless of cultural background or gender. People may give charismatic physicists backhanded compliments, saying that they’re not like all of those ‘other’ physicists, even if the individuals in question don’t actually know any other physicists. Many people will still feel as if they do, because stereotypes can arm people with a false sense of their own knowledge. Television shows like the Big Bang Theory have only furthered this perception of physicists. Related to this stereotype is the assumption that a lot of the work that physicists do is actually not very practical. In that regard, it is as if some physicists have actually replaced philosophers as the intellectuals that some people hold up for mockery. It has become more socially acceptable in general to be what was once considered a ‘nerd.’ The term is rarely used derisively anymore, and ‘geek’ culture has become much more mainstream over the years. However, some of the negative perceptions of people who could be described as ‘geeks’ still remain, and they even affect professional people. It is possible that the trend towards the mainstream acceptance of geek culture will continue to help physicists, dismantling the stereotypes associated with their perception. However, the future of physics remains to be seen in more ways than one, as does the future perception of physicists.