Category Archives: Physics

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Mathematics, Physics | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics, Space Exploration | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

Standard Model at 50

From Haidar Essili: All I can think of to describe my experience in the Standard model’s 50th anniversary conference is to repeatedly yell the word wow, until I have lost the will to do so. I am at a loss … Continue reading

Posted in Physics, Students | Leave a comment

Spring Outreach Events

Spring is a big time for outreach here at Wooster Physics. The Physics Club runs demonstrations for local elementary schools, doing often two outreach visits a week during the spring.  (In the fall, we are usually prepping for this flurry … Continue reading

Posted in Fun, Outreach, Physics, Students, Wooster | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment

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

Posted in Physics | Leave a comment