Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Everybody... Jump!

The Bad Astronomer is a never-ending fount of facts and funnies. He and I attended Michigan at the same time and had a friend in common, though we never met in Ann Arbor. Whenever you hear some wacko astronomy story in the news, proceed directly to www.BadAstronomy.com for the real story.

He's posted a note about World Jump Day. What, it wasn't on your calendar? C'mon, basic physics tells us that if we can get 600 million people to jump at the same time, we can move the earth into a different orbit. If coordinated correctly, we can move the earth farther from the sun and save ourselves from the fate that global warming has in store.

Or not.

How many times do we see evidence that someone studied physics enough to learn of some classic problems or sketches of basic principles, but they didn't study thoroughly enough to internalize the solutions or consequences of the principles? Nevertheless, they go on to organize something like World Jump Day or design the next perpetual-motion machine.

Anyway, there's a hip lesson to be made from this kind of thing. A lesson that is especially groovy because it invokes real physics and throws in a splash of critical thinking as well.

5 comments:

pat the librarian said...

The Internet Physicist, an excellent tutorial, has a good section on evaluating materials.

http://www.vts.intute.ac.uk/tutorial/physics

See you in Syracuse!

Pat

JG said...

I'm fairly certain that World Jump Day is actually a joke (at least that website); a great problem for kids, though - when they see something presented as true, it's hard to get them to be actively skeptical. I present it: "explain to me how this theory will change the earth's orbit, and estimate by how much." Without first having been told to debunk something, it usually doesn't occur to them that such things might be bogus. Hence, magnetic bracelets, crystals, etc.

Dean Baird said...

JG,
I think you are correct about WJD being some kind of "performance art." I suppose part of the performance is the attempt to couch the thing in scientific terms. It would make a nice brief topic for the Mythbusters, though.

John B said...

The site quotes a "Professor Hans Niesward" who explains the physics of the Jump. He, presumably, will also be jumping during the event, and will start his jump by lowering his Hands (and rest of upper body) in the Knee-ward direction. Just a coincidence, of course...

Dean Baird said...

Oh, like the staff at NPR's Car Talk (Statistician Marge N. Overror, etc.). Good stuff.