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Posts Tagged humour

cows and physics and urban myths Alison Campbell Dec 15

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In which we encounter – cow-tipping!

This is apparently the focus of both myth & mirth in the US: the idea that cows, asleep on their feet, are regularly tipped over by tipsy youths. Now, apart from the inconvenient little fact that cows tend to sleep lying down & thus are supremely untippable at that point in their daily rhythm, our bovine friends are large and solid and (with a leg at each corner) well-balanced. Nor do I imagine that Daisy would take kindly to a shoulder charge from an inebriated young man.

And indeed, at ModernFarmer, Jake Swearingen dissects this myth & imparts a little physics with along with the humour & the facts. It turns out that back in 2005 a couple of researchers ran the numbers & decided it would be impossible for a single person to overturn poor Daisy, but that two or more tippers could – theoretically – knock her off her feet. Provided that she did not see them coming, or negate their efforts by shifting her weight, that is.

And I loved one of the comments on the Atlantic's coverage of this story:

Lillie and Boechler are clearly unfamiliar with the conventions of this sort of work. As every mathematician or physicist ought to know, thought-experiment cows are universally spherical. And spherical cows are easily tipped, it's just that nobody can tell the difference. Now, if you've got enough drunken frat boys for a full-on game of Sleeping Cow Billiards…

Spoilsports may object that real cows aren't spherical. Neither are they rigid bodies, as is implicitly required by the Lillie-Boechler analysis. Each leg is hinged in two places, and depending on the resistance and range of motion of the joints, cow tipping could on purely physical grounds range from trivially easy to nigh impossible. If someone wants to instrument a live, sleeping cow and measure the muscular response to lateral disturbances, I'll wait. Someplace far away.

I'm sure you could factor this into a physics class somewhere, Marcus!

some seasonal fun (with the spice of science) Alison Campbell Dec 03

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When I was a kid – & we’re talking a looong time ago now! – we had a gorgeous Advent calendar that was designed to look like a renaissance-era painting. At least, that’s how I remember it. And there was certainly none of this new-fangled stuff involving chocolate behind the little doors!

But Advent calendars have come a long way since then, & now you can view them on-line. And thus it was that, after an enjoyable sojourn on the animated happiness of the Wellington city version, behold! I came at last to the 2014 Chemistry Advent Calendar. And I found it to be good, and learned about carotoxin (&, by trotting off down one of the internet’s distracting sidepaths, about liquorice rot. Which affects carrots, not liquorice). However, unlike the traditonal version, you can’t cheat by secretly prying open a ‘future’ door to see what’s concealed within – you’ll just have to go back every day :)

zombies & lego – great combination! Alison Campbell Dec 02

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Actually, that’s a bit of a fib as the zombies & the lego don’t actually meet in these videos :) But both have a science focus.

Lego is the focus of a clip called ‘Building Curiosity’, which is something of an ode to science; I rather enjoyed it.

And the zombies? Well, you’re likely to encounter the animated undead on a place like the Discworld, where they tend to have an issue with bits falling off at inopportune moments. But the flesh-eating urge? Just might be possible…

Enjoy!

the amazingness of lyrebird vocalisations Alison Campbell Nov 12

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This is one impressive lyrebird – laser guns and kookaburras! (Not quite at the same time.) I found him on a ScienceAlert page, which has more info and also links to other videos of these vocally talented birds.

quirky science demonstrations Alison Campbell Oct 20

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A very brief post before I dive back into marking!

My friend Cathy pointed me at this short, fascinating video that shows some quirky chemistry & physics demonstrations (afficionados of Facebook will find it here). I had a couple of ‘wow!’ moments while watching it; science teachers will probably get the same response when sharing it with their classes.

Thanks, cathy :)

acapella science does eminem Alison Campbell Jul 17

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It’s not biology but this video is too good not to share :) I’ve always had a soft spot for acapella singing, & acapella science is just wonderful as an example of combining music & science communication. (Those who want the lyrics will find them here at Scientific American.)

6-second science Alison Campbell Jun 23

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This video is a compilation of the best clips from the ‘Six-second science fair’ run by GE recently. (Apparently it attracted more than 600 entries!)

Could be really interesting to set something like this as a classroom project – rapidly changing technology (including the apps) has really opened up the options :)

a bunch of fascinating animals you’ve never heard of… Alison Campbell May 30

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… unless you’ve been following this blog for a while, in which case you may already have read about the sarcastic fringeheads (who are not members of a rock band, despite the wonderful name!).

The dumbo octopus, the pacu (a fish with teeth like nutcrackers, an attribute that has given rise to an urban myth guaranteed to alarm men), the pink fairy armadillo – yes, really! – visit the IFLS webpage and read all about them!

an entertaining take on plants & plant cells Alison Campbell Mar 02

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The new semester kicks off tomorrow & right now I'm adding resources to my first-year bio moodle page & running through the powerpoints for the week's lectures. After a couple of introductory sessions we're diving into the section of the class that focuses on plants, and I'm giving some serious thought to how I present that material given that it looks like more than half the class didn't study the relevant year 12 Achievement Standard. 

So among other things I've looked around for some engaging short videos on plant biology, and I found this one (part of what looks like a great sequence, which I've bookmarked for future use): 

OK, I know the humour might not appeal to everyone, & he does speak rather fast at times, but the presenter's engaging, the graphics are good & the key points are emphasised and repeated – a nice little primer for my class to watch for homework as preparation for making sense of plants.

homeopathic first aid Alison Campbell Feb 23

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Some of my fellow Skeptics have been discussing a homeopath who offers courses in ‘homeopathic first-aid for the home’. Might work for dehydration, I suppose, given that a 30C dilution (that’s a 1 in 100 dilution, repeated 30 times) will have nothing in it but water… But I rather think that homeopathic arnica - recommended here for acute trauma! – would have been worse than useless the time that the Significant Other’s leg interacted with a heavy, sharp, falling object  – give me real-world first aid any day!

Mitchell & Webb said it all, really.
;

 

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