Monday, September 20, 2010

Physics Fun

When we usually think about something like physics (at least, our school-based experience of it), we tend to think of textbooks and formulas and laws of this and that. The amazing thing about science is that there is so much exploring and doing one can do to learn about the fundamental laws of nature without cracking a book. Here are some hands-on ideas.

Complicated Simple

We are fans of the Crazy Invention. Especially those complicated inventions that accomplish very simple and mundane tasks (putting jam on toast, peeling potatoes, lighting a match) using a chain reaction of events.

Some of our favourite wacky inventors:

Wallace from Wallace & Gromit.

Heath Robinson (surely the inspiration for Wallace's crazy schemes and the illustrator for the fun Professor Branestawm books).

Rube Goldberg.

Every year in the US, high school and college students (usually from engineering departments) get together for a Rube Goldberg competition at Purdue University. There are some great videos of some of these machines at YouTube.

And there's also a MythBusters' version.

We've been wanting to build our own for some time. I'm a bit chicken but perhaps it's time to explore the possibilities. (There's just something about turning my whole house into a contraption that worries me a little.)

We were so excited to see this OK Go music video of "This Too Shall Pass" (which we had to watch many times over) where a Rube Goldberg machine is demonstrated on a massive scale (and filmed in one take). Impressive.