Author Archives: John F. Lindner

About John F. Lindner

John F. Lindner was born in Sleepy Hollow New York and educated at the University of Vermont and Caltech. He is a professor of physics and astronomy at The College of Wooster. He has enjoyed multiple yearlong sabbaticals at Georgia Tech, University of Portland, and University of Hawai'i. His research interests include nonlinear dynamics, celestial mechanics, and variable stars.

Anholonomy

A falling cat’s twisting returns its shape to normal but rotates its body to land feet down. Earth’s spin returns a Foucault pendulum to its initial position in one day but rotates its oscillation plane. Parallel parking cyclically rotates a … Continue reading

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Norton’s Dome

Norton’s Dome is a fascinating counterexample in classical mechanics: A frictionless mass balanced at the dome’s top can remain there forever — but can also spontaneously slide down! The Shape Norton’s dome has a cubed square root profile: if the … Continue reading

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Moon Dance

I ran up the stairs to Studio Art. Justine was already rolling out the treadmill, so I climbed another flight of stairs to the old running track and let down both ends of the steel cable, one end connected to … Continue reading

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On Mercury One Day Lasts Two Years

Mercury has the most noncircular or eccentric orbit of any nondwarf planet in the solar system. This eccentricity has trapped Mercury in a 3:2 spin-orbit resonance, where it rotates three times for every two revolutions. When nearest Sol at perihelion, … Continue reading

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Dynamo

Stationary electric charges generate radial electric fields, and electric fields push positive charges (and pull negative charges). Moving charges also generate circulating magnetic fields, and magnetic fields deflect moving charges perpendicular to both the fields and their motions. All of electromagnetism follows. In … Continue reading

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Falcon Heavy

I was supervising Jr IS, but as I circulated around the lab, I watched the clock. Everyone was working quietly. Just before launch, I snuck back to my office and closed the door. The SpaceX Falcon Heavy was surrounded by … Continue reading

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The Impossible Problem

In 1969, Hans Freudenthal posed a puzzle that Martin Gardner would later call “The Impossible Problem”. Below is a 2000 version due to Erich Friedman. I have secretly chosen two nonzero digits and have separately told their sum to Sam … Continue reading

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Electronic Kilogram

The kilogram is the only metric unit still defined by an artifact. The International Prototype Kilogram, IPK or “Le Grand K”, is a golf-ball-sized platinum-iridium cylinder in a vault outside Paris. This year I expect the General Conference on Weights … Continue reading

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Taylor Bowl

On Wednesday, September 13, 1989, I met with newly elected Physics Club officers Tom Taczak ’91, Dennis Kuhl ’90, Doug Halverson ’91, and Karen McEwen ’90 in Westminister House. I wrote in my diary, “first phys club meeting w. officers goes well”. That year … Continue reading

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Newton’s Can(n)on

One of my favorite illustrations is the cannon thought experiment from volume three of Isaac Newton‘s Principia Mathematica. Johannes Kepler argued that planets orbit elliptically with Sol at one focus. Galileo Galilei argued that terrestrial bodies fall parabolically in space … Continue reading

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