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.

A Better Table

The periodic table of the elements is almost as old as The College of Wooster, and I am a big fan. As we approach next year’s sesquicentennial of Dmitri Mendeleev‘s 1869 periodic table, I present a modest addition to the … Continue reading

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Math Grenade

I just bought a new calculator. New to me, that is, but older than me. Inspired by the 1600s Gottfried Leibniz stepped cylinder and the 1800s Thomas de Colmar arithmometer, the Curta mechanical calculator design was developed by Curt Herzstark while … Continue reading

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Optical Tweezers

A focused light beam can trap a small particle, such as a micron-sized latex sphere (or biological cell). If the sphere is much larger than the light’s wavelength, ray optics suffices to explain the trapping. Light bends as it passes … Continue reading

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Dr. Rendezvous

Edwin Aldrin earned his PhD from MIT in 1963 with a thesis titled, “Line-of-sight guidance techniques for manned orbital rendezvous”. Just three years later in 1966, Aldrin was the pilot of Gemini XII, the last flight of the Gemini program, … Continue reading

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Ancient cultures everywhere observed seven “wanderers” move against the apparently fixed stars of the night sky: our star the sun, our natural satellite the moon, and the brightest planets Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn. In many languages, these wanderers … Continue reading

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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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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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