Galileo’s Paradox

By Anupum Pant

Here’s an image of a contraption. It is basically a long stick hinged at one end and is free to move about the other. At the end of it rests a ball. Near the ball there’s also a cup fastened to the stick. The big stick is lifted up high and is temporarily supported by a small stick.

galileo paradox

Now, what do you think would happen when the temporary support is removed? Normally, it would be very intuitive to think that the cup and the ball would fall at the same speed. In other words, nothing fascinating would happen. Both would fall and the ball would roll away…no?

However, something very unexpected happens when the support is removed. Something that, in a jiffy demonstrates some very important concepts of physics like centre of mass, torque and acceleration.

The big wooden stick (with the fastened cup) falls and it falls faster than the ball. Actually it falls and also rotates. As a result of the swing, the cup comes under the ball just before ball reaches it and the ball ends up inside it.

Under the influence of the same gravitational force, irrespective of the mass, the cup and the ball must have fallen at the same rate, as predicted by Galileo? What really happens? The video explains…

Double Pendulum and Why We Can Never Predict Weather

By Anupum Pant

A single weight, if suspended from the ceiling, forms a pendulum – A simple device whose position at any point in the future can be predicted fairly easily if the initial conditions are known.

Now, if another pendulum is attached to the bottom of this first pendulum, preferably using a rod (not a string), and is then given a good amount of initial energy, things move from a simple single pendulum to a very complicated two pendulum system.

The system turns so chaotic that it is impossible to make two of such exactly same systems, forget keeping them synchronised. Even if every mass and ever little distance is carefully calculated and two such systems are constructed, it would be impossible to drop them from the same height and see them move in the exactly same manner.

That is because even if they are really dropped from the same position, they’d in reality have a very tiny difference in some parameter, which would eventually become so huge that the two systems would soon go out of sync. Initially they might really seem like they are moving in a synchronized motion, but that doesn’t stay for too long.

This is also the reason why we’ll never be able to predict the weather perfectly. Nikola explains…

Singing Sand Dunes

By Anupum Pant

I cannot say why you’d do it, but suppose you were on a hike to the top of a 120 feet sand dune in the centre of some desert, say  near Al-Askharah, a coastal town in Oman. Unfortunately, it’s also the mid summer time, with 50 degree Celsius winds blowing at 50 miles an hour, and the dune you are climbing has a slope of 30 degrees. There’s nothing else (besides sand) to be seen or heard for miles around you.

The numbers are apparently perfect for a very eerie phenomenon to occur. And then the whole desert suddenly cries out a booming chorus of a very low hum (Like someone playing a very low note on the cello). What could have possibly caused that?

For ages such sounds in the midst of empty deserts have been bewildering people. Marco polo mentioned it. Charles Darwin also wrote about the “Bellower” in The Voyage of the Beagle. Moreover, until recently, even modern scientists weren’t sure what caused these sounds. It was only during the year 2009 that things started becoming clear when a group of researchers started experiments with sand on an incline in a laboratory environment.

The low droning hums, now as we know, come from within the sand dunes. The Sand particles are blown by the wind, causing an avalanche. As the sand falls across the 30 degree incline of the dune, they vibrate, synchronise and send the vibrations into the dune. The dunes pick up these tiny synchronised vibrations and amplify them, causing the low droning hum; coherent enough to resemble musical notes.

This only happens at few places around the world. In Morocco the dunes cry out an echoing hum of 105 hertz. Whereas in Oman the sands create a mixture of frequencies ranging from low 90 to slightly less low, 150 hertz. Something similar is also heard in the death valley. The video explains…