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…

Lightning Trapped Forever in a Box

By Anupum Pant

On a cloudy and stormy night (or almost all the time, in this part of Venezuela), dark clouds separate charges and are able to put together the right conditions to send off one of the nature’s most powerful forces from the heavens – lightning.

The air break downs and a great amount of static charge gets transferred through the path of least resistance. And a bolt of bright light is seen for a fraction of a second. It lasts for a very little time.

lichtenberg-figureAs it happens too quickly, the exact shape of a lightning bolt is difficult to see. However, a long time back, a German physicist, Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, figured something that could help make the lightning bolt last longer. Or in fact, it could trap the lightning tree-pattern forever in an insulator (eg acrylic or wood etc.). The tree-like figure is called the Litchenberg figure after the person’s name (Georg Christoph Lichtenberg) who first noticed this.

Isn’t it a nice sculpture to have – a block acrylic with a lightning bolt permanently trapped in it! Or may be it could be a great gift for your physicist friend. But, sometimes the litchenberg figure isn’t a desirable thing to have…

People who unfortunately end up getting hit by lightning, sometimes survive to this permanent tree-shaped scar mark (or tattoo) – A permanent litchenberg figure gets printed on their skin. It looks like this.

litchenberg figure on skin

The Coldest Place on Earth

By Anupum Pant

A couple of days back I wrote about the hottest place on earth. That made me think of how cold the coldest place would be. I was sure it’d be somewhere in one of the poles, but I wasn’t sure where exactly it was.

This is what Google said:

Aerial photograph of Vostok Station, the coldest directly observed location on Earth. The lowest natural temperature ever directly recorded at ground level on Earth is −89.2 °C (−128.6 °F; 184.0 K), at the Soviet Vostok Station in Antarctica, on July 21, 1983.

After a little more digging, I found that his was the old record. Turns out, the coldest place on earth now, not counting the laboratories, is still in the high ridges of the East Antarctic plateau close to Vostok station. It’s called the Dome B. And the coldest times happen when all the conditions are perfect.

When the conditions are right, the temperatures during winters can reach minus 92 degrees Celsius!