Friday, December 09, 2005

Adventures in Applied Physics

(which is actually Applied Math, but I digress...)

* This morning I had my Nerve Conduction Test. It consisted of them putting electrodes on my hand and then shocking the crap out of me. Hahaha it wasn't actually that bad! It felt kind of like touching an electric fence. The biggest shocks made me twitch involuntarily. It was pretty cool to watch. I asked him about the waves on the computer screen, and he explained it to me a little.

As it turns out, I passed. My ulnar nerve is working just fine. I'm glad that it is, but at the same time, I suspect that the next time I go to the orthopedist he'll just tell me that there's nothing that they can do to ease my pain.

* Gundar is now a Tennessee car. His Illinois plates expired at the end of November, so we went to the County Clerk's office on the second to last day of November. (Hey, why rush it?) But Gundar was so proud of his Illinois heritage that he had a hard time giving up his old plates. So for a couple of days, while we were waiting for the WD-40 to work, we had Illinois plates in the standard locations, with a Tennessee plate taped in the back window. Judging from some other cars we saw, that was probably an acceptable solution for Tennessee, but due to our high standards, we went ahead and removed the Illinois plates and replaced the back one with the new Tennessee plate.

In Illinois cars have a front and a back plate, but in Tennessee you only have a back license plate. So Gundar looks a little bare in the front. My better half wants to get a KISS license plate for the front. I think we should get a University of Kentucky plate, but he doesn't want to get beat up.

I'm not afraid of getting beat up for being a UK fan. After all, the sports in which Wildcat and Volunteer fans take pride are orthogonal, so there is very little rivalry there. It's a given that they'll kick our butts in football, and a given that we'll kick theirs in men's basketball. Everyone is resigned to this.

* My favorite part of physics is kinematics. I am therefore extremely thrilled to be living in a place where there are HILLS and other variations in the terrain. It makes for a more interesting driving experience.

I drive about twenty miles round trip every weekday. It takes about twenty minutes to get to work, and another twenty-five minutes to get home. In the morning it's about ten minutes to the gate, and then another ten minutes to the lab from there. In the evening it's ten minutes to the gate, and then fifteen minutes to home from there.

The distance between the lab and the gate is more than five miles, and for a large portion of that distance you can go 55 mph. When you're approaching the gate on your way out, there's a point at which the speed limit decreases to 45 mph, and then just before the gate the speed limit becomes 25 mph. You have to stay at 25 mph until you leave the lab's reservation.

As a former physicist and a professional cheapskate, I am all about using the laws of kinematics to minimize the amount of braking and acceleration that I have to do. So for the past month I've been trying to figure out where I should be when I let off the accelerator so that I don't have to brake or accelerate while still managing to obey these speed limits.

The result of my experiments is that I have found the exact place where I need to take my foot off the accelerator. And I think they must have placed the speed limit signs with Gundar in mind, because the distance between the two speed limit signs is just the distance that I need to decelerate from 45 to 25 mph! I just take my foot off the accelerator at this particular landmark, and then I don't have to brake at all and I don't have to put my foot on the accelerator until I am just about parallel with the gates.

I say that they must have had Gundar in mind, because when I've driven other cars (when Gundar was in the shop and we had a rental car), I didn't get the same results. I guess he has just the right combination of friction and momentum.

1 comment:

Chris said...

I was interested in reading your latest "Adventures in Applied Physics" as it reminded me of my wife. Also a physicist, but this time a medical physicists, Sarah spent many years perfecting part of her journey to and from work along a narrow and winding country road. After many years Sarah announced that she could drive the journey without using the brake. Even now Sarah becomes upset in the morning when the time signal given by the local radio station fails to coincide precisely with her radio-controlled clock. As an engineer these antics have provided me with great amusement for many years. Do all female phisicists suffer from this condition?