Monday, October 24, 2011

Physics Project Idea: Mythbusters Statistics

Do you remember that episode of Mythbusters where the build team wanted to test whether or not firing an object backwards with a certain velocity while going forwards with the same velocity would cancel out the momentum?

In it, they went through dozens of tests, trying to get the air cannon to fire with exactly the right velocity and finally they got it so it canceled out just perfectly and the ball dropped straight down?

Very cool demonstration except for one thing: Doing dozens of tests and then picking the one you want to be right doesn't actually tell you anything. What would really be necessary is seeing if the average actually comes out to be zero.

This would require getting all the high speed footage from all the tests, analyzing it, finding the average, and standard deviation (which is related to the experimental uncertainty) to see whether or not the average truly fell where it should. Quite a bit of work, but I bet students would love it.

Topics it would address:
Velocity and/or momentum as vectors
Relative Motion
Coordinate Systems
Experimental Procedure
Experimental Uncertainty


Aurora Celeste said...

I disagree because the foundation of Mythbusters is that they determine if something *could* happen. Not that it did, or that it always, or even sometimes happens, but if it could have happened once.

blessed holy socks said...

FACT: all of U.S. will croak someday sometime somewhere and FACT: our souls are also indelible, girly, meaning they never die, they’re eternal. I believe Almighty God made U.S. that way precisely because God loves U.S. and God wants us to enjoy the splendors of Heaven… yet, there’s also two choices of whether we wanna follow the whorizontal deceit, the relativism of this zoological psychosis of the Devilish world which turns U.S. away or follow God. One other choice to think about: how lengthy is this finite existence VS. the utter vastness of the universe which we may take part in? That’s free will. Make your choice. I know where I’m going. Personally? I’d looove to have you where I am after our demise and being your servant to kiss your feets (perhaps in a baby doll nightgown), yet, gotta think summore about your eternity, miss gorgeous. We don’t live forever, toots; we’re sinfull mortals. Make your choice -Saw. God bless you.