25 July 2012

10 July 2012

Cartoon Physics

The All-Star baseball game is on today, and while I am not watching it, I have been getting a very interesting summary of the game from Neil deGrasse Tyson, possibly the world's most popular astrophysicist.  (At least real astrophysicist, Raj from Big Bang is pretty popular too...)

He has been live tweeting the game through "the lens of an astrophysicist,"  which has definitely given me some new thoughts about the game. Including this one: About that slow pitch: BugsBunny can throw a slower one. He's subject instead to Cartoon Laws of Physics 

If you aren't following him, I highly recommend it -- @neiltyson.  Also, you can always follow me =) @msgoldsteinsci.

This reminded me of an assignment I had in high school physics, we were to watch a cartoon and record all of the instances of "cartoon physics" and why they were wrong.  It actually was pretty fun.  So for your enjoyment, below, are the Cartoon Laws of Physics.

Cartoon Law I

Any body suspended in space will remain in space until made aware of its situation.
Daffy Duck steps off a cliff, expecting further pastureland. He loiters in midair, soliloquizing flippantly, until he chances to look down. At this point, the familiar principle of 32 feet per second per second takes over.

Cartoon Law II

Any body in motion will tend to remain in motion until solid matter intervenes suddenly.
Whether shot from a cannon or in hot pursuit on foot, cartoon characters are so absolute in their momentum that only a telephone pole or an outsize boulder retards their forward motion absolutely. Sir Isaac Newton called this sudden termination of motion the stooge's surcease.

Cartoon Law III

Any body passing through solid matter will leave a perforation conforming to its perimeter.
Also called the silhouette of passage, this phenomenon is the speciality of victims of directed-pressure explosions and of reckless cowards who are so eager to escape that they exit directly through the wall of a house, leaving a cookie-cutout-perfect hole. The threat of skunks or matrimony often catalyzes this reaction.

Cartoon Law IV

The time required for an object to fall twenty stories is greater than or equal to the time it takes for whoever knocked it off the ledge to spiral down twenty flights to attempt to capture it unbroken.
Such an object is inevitably priceless, the attempt to capture it inevitably unsuccessful.

Cartoon Law V

All principles of gravity are negated by fear.
Psychic forces are sufficient in most bodies for a shock to propel them directly away from the earth's surface. A spooky noise or an adversary's signature sound will induce motion upward, usually to the cradle of a chandelier, a treetop, or the crest of a flagpole. The feet of a character who is running or the wheels of a speeding auto need never touch the ground, especially when in flight.

Cartoon Law VI

As speed increases, objects can be in several places at once.
This is particularly true of tooth-and-claw fights, in which a character's head may be glimpsed emerging from the cloud of altercation at several places simultaneously. This effect is common as well among bodies that are spinning or being throttled.

A wacky character has the option of self-replication only at manic high speeds and may ricochet off walls to achieve the velocity required.

Cartoon Law VII

Certain bodies can pass through solid walls painted to resemble tunnel entrances; others cannot.
This trompe l'oeil inconsistency has baffled generations, but at least it is known that whoever paints an entrance on a wall's surface to trick an opponent will be unable to pursue him into this theoretical space.

The painter is flattened against the wall when he attempts to follow into the painting. This is ultimately a problem of art, not of science.

Cartoon Law VIII

Any violent rearrangement of feline matter is impermanent.
Cartoon cats possess even more deaths than the traditional nine lives might comfortably afford. They can be decimated, spliced, splayed, accordion-pleated, spindled, or disassembled, but they cannot be destroyed. After a few moments of blinking self pity, they reinflate, elongate, snap back, or solidify.


A cat will assume the shape of its container.

Cartoon Law IX

Everything falls faster than an anvil.

Cartoon Law X

For every vengeance there is an equal and opposite revengeance.
This is the one law of animated cartoon motion that also applies to the physical world at large. For that reason, we need the relief of watching it happen to a duck instead.

Cartoon Law Amendment A

A sharp object will always propel a character upward.
When poked (usually in the buttocks) with a sharp object (usually a pin), a character will defy gravity by shooting straight up, with great velocity.

Cartoon Law Amendment B

The laws of object permanence are nullified for "cool" characters.
Characters who are intended to be "cool" can make previously nonexistent objects appear from behind their backs at will. For instance, the Road Runner can materialize signs to express himself without speaking.

Cartoon Law Amendment C

Explosive weapons cannot cause fatal injuries.
They merely turn characters temporarily black and smokey.

Cartoon Law Amendment D

Gravity is transmitted by slow-moving waves of large wavelengths.
Their operation can be wittnessed by observing the behavior of a canine suspended over a large vertical drop. Its feet will begin to fall first, causing its legs to stretch. As the wave reaches its torso, that part will begin to fall, causing the neck to strech. As the head begins to fall, tension is released and the canine will resume its regular proportions until such time as it strikes the ground.

Cartoon Law Amendment E

Dynamite is spontaneously generated in "C-spaces" (spaces in which cartoon laws hold).
The process is analogous to steady-state theories of the universe which postulated that the tensions involved in maintaining a space would cause the creation of hydrogen from nothing. Dynamite quanta are quite large (stick sized) and unstable (lit). Such quanta are attracted to psychic forces generated by feelings of distress in "cool" characters (see Amendment B, which may be a special case of this law), who are able to use said quanta to their advantage. One may imagine C-spaces where all matter and energy result from primal masses of dynamite exploding. A big bang indeed.

From The Funny Pages, 29 November 1994

07 July 2012

It's "like" 103* outside....

So, if you are like me you have been seeing pictures like this on Facebook, for the past week or even more.

Everyone has been taking pictures of their car's thermometers lately.  Yesterday, mine read 110*, but it really wasn't, so what's going on?

First of all, lets start off with what everyone is reporting on the news -- weather forecasts saying that it will feel like it is 103* or even more outside.  But, thermometers are going to only show 100*.  Why is that?

The "feels like" temperature is the heat index, which is the combination of the outside air temperature plus the relative humidity.  The relative humidity is the percentage of the amount of moisture in the air compared to what it would be if the air were completely saturated.  So, when you go outside your body reacts like it is 103* or more, even though the air temperature isn't that high.

OK, not that big a deal, after all, if it isn't really real, it can't get you sick, right?


According to the National Weather Service, heat is the number one weather related cause of death in the US.  That's more than the big scary weather -- tornadoes, hurricanes, and blizzards.

When the relative humidity is high, you get that gross, icky feeling, like you are covered in sweat, and any little movement makes it even worse... (you know what I'm talking about).  What's going on is that the physiological response that your body uses to prevent overheating, sweating, isn't doing its job -- the air already contains a lot of moisture, so it's not going to absorb the moisture off of your skin (not technically what's going on, but you get the gist).

Without this process happening, your body will overheat, and you can get sick.

So, how do you stay safe? (From the National Weather Service):
- Slow down.  Don't over exert yourself during the hottest parts of the day (hold off your workout, stay in the coolest places possible (especially children and seniors) -- this may not be indoors).
- Dress for summer.  Your new down coat may be super awesome, but you shouldn't be wearing when it is hot outside.  Instead, opt for lightweight, and light-colored clothing that reflects heat and sunlight.
- Put less fuel on your inner fires.  Protein speeds up your metabolic heat production and also increase water loss.
Drink plenty of water, non-alcoholic and decaffeinated beverages.
- During excessive heat periods, spend more time in air-conditioned places.  Check out your local library if you don't have AC at home, there are lots of interesting adventures in store for you.
- Don't get too much sun.  Sunburn reduces your body's ability to dissipate heat.
- Do NOT take salt tablets unless specified by a physician.  Salt can dehydrate you, which reduces your body's ability to self-regulate temperature.  So put down the diet pills (you should just do this in general).

For further information, check out the links above, which also include symptoms of heat related illness, so you know what to look for, and what you should do.

Also, take time to check in on the elderly, they don't feel the heat as well as you do, and are more likely to suffer from heat related illness.  So go check in on grandma or grandpa, or (substitute grandma or grandpa if you are like me), make sure they are ok, and get them to some AC if they aren't.  Maybe you can ask them to tell you about their lives when  they were younger, they always love that stuff =)

So for now, keep cool, remember that it's summer, this stuff (like heat) happens, protect yourself, and check back in a few months for the follow-up, "What do you mean it's "like" -9* outside???"

ps, thanks to my friend Hollie for the picture =)