Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Entire Family is going Ballistic -- Literally!

So anyway, since the final stages of my plans for World Domination may (or may not) include deploying Orbital Mind Control Lasers, it occurred to me that I should get some free-fall training, if for no other reason than it's hard to convince people you're serious if you're busy barfing at the time (ie: "One... Trillion.. Bleeaaaaagggghhhh... uh, Dollars!")

Fortunately, there is a company called Space Adventures that runs zero-gravity parabolic flights at a price that's within the reach of even the most budget-minded Overlord -- and realistically, if you can't get your wife to cough up $4k for a project like this, you aren't worthy of ruling the World!

Of course, it wasn't that easy. As soon as I announced my intention to do this, She Who Must Be Obeyed declared that she wanted to do it as well. And, of course, our sons insisted that they be included, on the grounds that this would make for the coolest "What I did during my summer vacation" essays ever. My protests that the extra $12k would be better spent on health insurance for my minions fell on deaf ears.

So we're all going ballistic in August in Vegas.

However, being as how my love of science is second only to my love of conquest, I have insisted that James and Alex do some experiments during the flight.

This is where you come in.

Your mission (and don't even think of not accepting it): come up with science experiments that demonstrate some physical principle, or some interesting difference between a 1G and 0G environment, that can be done by my kids during the flight. There are, however, some restrictions that must be adhered to:
  • The experimental materials must be small, pocket-sized if at all possible.
  • The flight operates under FAA rules, and therefore, nothing may be carried onboard that cannot be carried on to a regular airline flight.  Here is the list of restrictions.
  • The experiment must not inconvenience or injury to the other passengers, or cause a mess.
  • Given that each weightless period is only about 20 seconds, the experiment has to be pretty quick.
Also, if at all possible, it should be an experiment that would look interesting when filmed at 300fps using my Casio Exilim EX-F1 camera, which has been the source of much fun for me recently. I am not sure at this point whether I'll be allowed to take the camera with me, or whether there will be sufficient light for high-speed photography, but it would certainly be cool if that works out.

Obviously, these constraints make the obvious experiments we immediately thought of, such as popping a water balloon (it's been done, and it's messy, though as you can see in this video, you can mitigate the mess using a garbage bag), and seeing whether or not a yo-yo works in microgravity (might hurt someone).  Interestingly, there may be a loophole regarding electric screwdrivers; drills are not permitted, but an electric screwdriver 7" or less in length might be OK, which would permit some conservation of angular momentum demonstrations.

That said, we have come up with a couple of interesting ideas, which I will disclose in a subsequent proclamation. In the meantime, to encourage you to come up with other ideas, I will grant minor positions in the New World Order (something like, for example, Viscount of Fayetteville) to anyone who comes up with an idea we end up using.

1 comment:

Robert Poor said...

Off the top of my head:

* how does an ordinary science project gyroscope behave in zero G?

* play with a nerf boomerang (the kind with a ring around the edge). maybe not science, but fun.

* Make a simple pendulum on a string. As you go from 1G to 0G to 2G, how does it behave?

- rdp