The Sciences Explorer - Physics Factoids

The Sciences Explorer - Physics Factoids

Throughout all of the interesting stuff in Physics, there are a few items of interest that make you think "Woah, I didn't know that". Here is our archive of interesting little facts and figures, parcels and bits of info, and brain food, all of which we like to call Factoids:

Why are there dimples on golf balls?
The dimples on golf balls help the ball to move larger distances by reducing drag. This is because the dimples cause air to cling more to ball providing a barrier for small wind obstacles such as eddies. The result, you get a ball that goes more than 350% farther than a smooth ball would go.

What does LASER stand for?
You may not realize it by laser is an acronym. It means "light amplification by stimulated emissions of radiation". What this means is that it takes photons and shoots them forward in very high concentrations with pure and uniform wavelengths. It differs from normal light which shoots out stray random photons in all directions. In addition to its high concentration of photons, lasers also have very low frequencies of wavelengths. Because of its properties, lasers are used for many activities. It is used at times to cut things due to its high intensity and strength. It's also used by eye doctors because the reflection/refraction lasers can be measured very accurately.

Which is more economical, driving with the windows open instead of using the air conditioner?
Surprisingly, at 40 mph or greater, you need less fuel power with your windows closed and the air conditioner on than with your windows open. This is based on the drag effect in that with your windows closed makes your car more aerodynamic as it moves through the fluid air. This provides significant improvement since the requirement for horsepower increases exponentially as the drag increases.

Is there more than 3 states of matter?
The most common states of matter that you are familiar with are gas, liquid, and solid. However, there is a fourth state called plasma. This is when gas atoms become electrically charged. Such instances of plasma are in stars, in the sun, and in things such as lightning. It also happens in neon signs in which an electric current is emitted through the neon gas. This results in ions and independent moving electrons taken from the gaseous atoms. This creates a very violent state of matter and has different properties which is why scientists section it off as a 4th state of matter.

What causes a boomerang to return to its thrower?
We're probably all aware of what boomerangs are and that they have an interesting special feature; if thrown right boomerangs, will return to its thrower. This is a very interesting concept of physics that relies on the concept of lift and the concept of spinning gyroscopes' unwillingness to from off it's position. So when someone throws a boomerang properly, it will spin vertically forward. The smooth curved surface on the top gives it left. However, boomerangs are designed so that one wing will get more lift than the other will. As a result, that wing will tend to lift itself higher than the other does at a particular moment. This will attempt to twist the boomerang over to be spinning horizontally, which it can't because it is going at a high speed spinning vertically. To compensate for this, the makes an opposite reaction to it's velocity and the arc of the boomerang becomes a full circle return back to its thrower. This concept is much like a gyroscope and it's complex movements which give it its properties.

What is planet X?
Many scientists speculate the existence of a 10th planet in our solar system. It has been named tentatively Planet X and will remain that way until it is discovered. The reason for the prediction of its existence is because of certain oddities and discrepancies in Uranus's and Neptune's orbits. Scientists first believed that this slight gravitational pull at certain points in their orbit was caused by Pluto. However, it was proven that Pluto was too small to create such a pull. As a result, satellites and other space bound objects are also on course to discover what force, possibly this planetary force from Planet X, that is causing this disturbance.

What is actually saved by recycling aluminum cans?
Many people take recycling for granted, thinking that a little can doesn't make much of a difference. However, reports show that the total energy saved from recycling a can of soda is equal to about half a gallon of gasoline. That is a lot of energy, and recycling drastically reduces corporations' needs to gather raw materials.

How are do sea shells give off their unique music?
When a sea shell is placed near the ear, sounds that resemble the sea can be heard. These sounds are basically small flows of air, which cause tiny ambient sounds within the shell. The result is that the spiral shape and acoustics of the shell causes the sound to resonate in random patterns which causes an audible soothing sound which resembles the ocean.

What is meant by nuclear winter?
Nuclear winter refers to a hypothetical, almost sci-fi, time in the future in which post-nuclear war causes many drastic and apocalyptic changes. Thing such as firestorms, cloud blankets of soot, sand, and dust leaving only 1% of the sun's light to shine through. This nightmare term was coined by American physicist Richard P. Turco. Although his work of such a pessimistic future was criticized, documents based on years of research reinforced his prediction.

What is the economically optimum speed for driving on the freeway?
In order to save gasoline fuel there are certain speeds that save fuel the best when you can trade a few mph for more fuel in the tank. Driving at 50 mph gets 28% more miles per gallon than driving 70 mph, and 55 mph gets 21 % more.