Category Archives: Physics


As I transition to emeritus status tomorrow, I reflect on 33 years at Wooster. I am thankful for the freedom I’ve had to design my own courses, including eight first-year seminars; for the flexibility to explore a wide range of … Continue reading

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Free-Fall Spinning Tunnels

Jump into an evacuated hole drilled straight through a uniform, static Earth-like sphere. Accelerate to 7.9 km/s (or 18 000 m.p.h.) at the center, then decelerate back to zero at the antipodes 42 minutes later! Step out of the hole upside down — … Continue reading

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Geographic Tongue

The improbable email was from a pre-dental math major asking about physics research projects combining math and dentistry, but my reaction was, “Yes — only at Wooster!”. Like animated tattoos, the surface patterns of benign migratory glossitis slowly move on the … Continue reading

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NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has discovered a sextuply-eclipsing sextuple star system. I think of “Nightfall”. The six stars of TCY 7037-89-I orbit each other in three binary pairs, as in the schematic. The primaries are slightly larger and … Continue reading

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Chemical Clock

Wooster’s summer 2019 Sherman-Fairchild group just published, “Disruption and recovery of reaction–diffusion wavefronts interacting with concave, fractal, and soft obstacles”, in Physica A. Working with Fish Yu ’21, Chase Fuller ’19, Margaret McGuire ’20, and Niklas Manz (Physics) was wonderful. … Continue reading

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Novel Math, Nobel Physics

When I was a kid I used to read Scientific American at the local library. I loved Martin Gardner‘s Mathematical Games column, and I vividly remember his description of Roger Penrose‘s then recent discovery of two shapes that force a … Continue reading

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Cookie Cutter

Cookie dough in a cookie factory moves on a conveyor belt at a constant relativistic speed. A circular cutter stamps out cookies as the dough rushes by beneath it. In the factory frame, the dough is length contracted along the … Continue reading

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Flying Silo

Yesterday, SpaceX successfully flew a full-sized Starship tank-section prototype at its launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas. Standing thirty meters tall without its nosecone, weighing one to two hundred tons with methalox propellant, and made from stainless steel, Starship was … Continue reading

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Hot & Cold Electricity

As I kid, I used to help my dad with electrical wiring projects (among other things). I learned that home electricity was “hot & cold”, like water in pipes — or at least, that’s how I understood the explanation. Later … Continue reading

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Hamiltonian Flow

Newton wrote, “My brain never hurt more than in my studies of the moon [and Earth and Sun]”. Unsurprising sentiment, as the seemingly simple three-body problem is intrinsically intractable and practically unpredictable. … If chaos is a nonlinear “super power”, … Continue reading

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