Curveball Science

Curveball Science

The Magnus effect allows pitchers to throw curveballs, soccer players to bend kicks around defenders, and golfers to launch drives along near-triangular flight paths. This fun physics phenomenon relies on the difference in relative airspeed at various points on the surface of a round object. Viral video captures the Magnus effect in action, 2015. Credit:

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What’s So Special about the North Star?

What’s So Special about the North Star?

The most famous star in the night sky is undoubtedly the North Star, also known as Polaris. It isn’t the brightest or most spectacular looking star, but it is nevertheless very important. Let’s take a look at why! The image above shows the north star in the Idyllwild sky. As we know, the Earth is

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Small but Mighty: Eggshell Architecture

Small but Mighty: Eggshell Architecture

In West Virginia’s New River Gorge, an 88-million-pound bridge spans a chasm eight tenths of a mile wide. Before its construction, drivers detoured for the better part of an hour to navigate the Gorge’s steep, water-carved walls. Today, the crossing takes less than a minute at highway driving speed. (Image credit: Louise McLaughlin.) For most

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Candle-Powered Seesaw – It's Physics

Candle-Powered Seesaw – It's Physics

Archimedes famously claimed that, given a lever, he could move the whole world. Why so confident, Archimedes? Levers take advantage of a rotational force called torque. You use this force to make your life easier every time you open a door, paddle a boat, turn a wrench, hit a baseball… the list is endless! Here’s

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Liquid Nitrogen Rocket! Here’s Why.

Liquid Nitrogen Rocket! Here’s Why.

Every step you take is a tiny study in rocket science! Lift one foot and push backwards on the floor with the other. The floor exerts an equal and opposite (forward) force on the planted foot, and your body moves ahead. Equal and opposite force pairs are everywhere. Stand on an ice rink and push

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Rockets & Newton’s Laws in 3 Gifs!

Rockets & Newton’s Laws in 3 Gifs!

Rockets blast off from earth with a rumble and cloud of smoke on their way through the atmosphere to the vacuum of space beyond. This is something that is accepted today, but it hasn’t always been that way. Doctor Robert Goddard is known as the father of modern rocketry, but when he first postulated the

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Bang, Pow! Collision Science

Bang, Pow! Collision Science

When cars, billiard balls, or football players collide, their momentum doesn’t just disappear. It has to go somewhere. Some collisional energy dissipates as heat, and some causes the incoming objects to recoil. Take a basketball hitting the ground. Both the ball and the ground become a little warmer than they were before. The basketball also

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The Pendulum Challenge

The Pendulum Challenge

Think you could stand still with a bowling ball swinging towards your nose? It’s tough! This scary experiment is governed by the same principle that decides the dynamics of a car crash and guides trick shots on a pool table: a gigantically important physical law called conservation of energy. This law states that if a

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DIY + Grapes + Microwave = PLASMA!

DIY + Grapes + Microwave = PLASMA!

WARNING: Handle dishes with a potholder, and be aware that they may break if left in the microwave too long. Always keep a fire extinguisher on hand when experimenting with high-energy science.  What do lightning, the aurora, neon signs, and grapes have in common? Plasma! It might be the least familiar of the four states

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Stacking Liquids with the Density Column

Stacking Liquids with the Density Column

 Why do these liquids stack so cleanly? For the same reason that helium floats on air, and air floats on water: it’s all about density. Density, or mass per volume, measures how much stuff is squeezed into a given space. The higher the mass-to-volume ratio, the denser the object. A ten-gallon bucket of rocks

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Eureka! Buoyancy And More

Eureka! Buoyancy And More

Have you ever felt pressure on your body– especially in your ears– as you swim deep underwater? The deeper you go, the more pressure you feel. This is the core of a principle called buoyancy. Buoyancy explains why, in a liquid, what goes down just might come up! Let’s think about how water affects this

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Fun with Inertia!

Fun with Inertia!

You wouldn’t want to get hit in the chest with a giant hammer…but what if you were to lie down, hold a heavy cinderblock on your chest, and have your opponent smash the block instead? Hm, actually maybe that sounds even worse! Thanks to a law of physics, the cinderblock actually protects you! Bill Nye

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