Welcome to the Fusion Zone

Relativistic Baseball

What would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90% the speed of light?

Lots of physics happens, and then …

Everything within roughly a mile of the park is leveled, and a firestorm engulfs the surrounding city. The baseball diamond is now a sizable crater, centered a few hundred feet behind the former location of the backstop.

A careful reading of official Major League Baseball Rule 6.08(b) suggests that in this situation, the batter would be considered “hit by pitch”, and would be eligible to advance to first base.

Rube-y Goldberg Tuesday, World Record Edition, 2012

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The Purdue Society of Professional Engineers team smashed its own world record for largest Rube Goldberg machine with a 300-step behemoth that flawlessly accomplished the simple task of blowing up and popping a balloon – setting the new world record for the Largest functional Rube Goldberg machine

They beat the record they set last year

Just Another Word for Nothin' Left to Lose

One of my colleagues recently observed that, unlike voting, participating in urinalysis did not come with an accomplishment sticker. He suggested a slogan, to which I added some artwork and then made stickers. For the next time.

(Click on the image to embiggen; I made 2″ stickers but if you want to use this for noncommercial purposes, feel free, and you can go larger if you wish)

A Day at the Mad Science Fair

“Teratogenic Effects of Pure Evil in Ursus Teddius Domesticus.”

Winning entry in the Mad Science Fair by Dr. Allison von Lonsdale of the Institute for Dangerous Research.

1. A sample of Pure Evil was obtained from the ruins o f an exploded toaster in the south of England.

2. Pure Evil was administered, via drinking water, to pregnant laboratory teddy bears for the duration of their pregnancy (4 months).

3. Dosage varied from 0 parts per million (ppm) to 1000ppm, titrating upwards by steps of 100pm.

4. Offspring were euthanized and mounted for display.

Did you get the Time Bandits reference?

Danger, Will Robinson!

TSA discovery prompts New York bomb scare – six hours later

Short version: TSA confiscates some pipes (not the smoking kind) even though they were determined not to be a threat. Forgets about them. Next shift sees them and goes WTF? and calls the bomb squad. But no evacuation ensues.

Several law enforcement sources told CNN the objects were determined to be homeopathic medical devices.

If it was a homeopathic bomb, then it would have beed diluted of all explosive materials, making it (homeopathically) the most dangerous explosive device EVAR!


The Nose Knows Physics

@neiltyson tweeted

According to the song, Rudolph’s nose is shiny, which means it reflects rather than emits light. Useless for navigating fog.

To which I responded

Nose also glows & bright. Since it’s red we could determine temperature if a thermal source & estimate Rudolph’s calorie needs

If Rudolph’s nose is a thermal source it will follow the Stefan-Boltzmann power law, which tells us the radiated power depends on the fourth power of temperature. Something red-hot will have a temperature of about 1000 K. Now this is an estimate and since it’s raised to the fourth power, will give us a large error bar on our answer. But let’s go with that because I don’t have a calculator handy. For the emitted power we multiply by the area, a few square centimeters (converted to square meters) and Stefan’s constant. Assuming I did the math correctly, we get about 10 Watts. The temperature should not be as large as 2000 K, which would give us and answer 16 times as large. (I am ignoring the “power absorbed” term in the equation, because at these temperatures it’s going to be small — 300K or less)

There’s also the emissivity. The nose is shiny, meaning the emissivity is not close to 1. So perhaps we double our guesstimate. Tens of Watts, maybe as large as 100 Watts as a probable value.

A thermal source has a maximum luminous efficacy of 95 lumens/Watt, at a temperature of around 6600 K but actual bulb filaments that give us white(ish) light are a lot closer to 10 lumens/Watt. So the nose probably emits around 1000 lumens at best — this is not even as bright as a traditional 100W light bulb, but is around what low-beam halogen headlights emit. However, those have reflectors on them to direct most of the light into a beam. Rudolph’s nose emits into a much larger area.

So perhaps the nose is not a thermal source (unless it’s much larger than I estimated) — the radiation is not because it is hot. We could check this if we knew the spectrum of the light being emitted. Perhaps it is some other type — does Rudolph have an LED nose?