The Physics of Everyday Life
Physics is more than an abstract area of research, it is also a powerful lens through which to view the everyday world. Everyday phenomena, toys and puzzles offer many interesting challenges and some lead to deep, interesting problems, especially in nonlinear science and mathematics. And they remind us why we got into Physics in the first place.
Some topics in depth
Other fun stuff: video clips from the Discovery Channel
Check out the Daily Planet on the Discovery Channel. Some content may only be available in Canada, due to legal niceties. Sorry about the ads.
- Some of the physics behind the twisting in the air while diving. This is of course nothing like the whole story, since I neglected to mention that divers can also change their moments of inertia by flexing their bodies, something like what falling cats do. But hey, its only TV!
- The physics of why a curling rock curls. This explanation comes from E.T. Jensen and M.R.A. Shegelski, Canadian Journal of Physics, 82, 791 (2004). This is fully discussed visually in this flash animation by David Harrison.
- Should you use nitrogen instead of air to fill your car's tires? I agree with Jay Leno on this one: yes! Except that the machine that supplies the nitrogen is not available many places. For the full sales pitch, see this slick page.
- The physics of tops, including the tippy top and the rattleback. Of course this is a huge subject, which I only briefly explained. Felix Klein and Arnold Sommerfeld wrote a whole monumental treatise, Theorie des Kreisels all about tops.
- Some fun tricks with Magic Sand, special hydrophobic sand. You can make underwater sand castles!
- Some fun tricks with so-called "dry ice", including the dancing tooney.
- Meandering pancake syrup in a "fluid mechanical sewing machine". See our papers on this. And this video.
- How to open a pickle jar using some physics, and a bit of physiology.
- How to reverse time. Well, not really. How to use a very viscous fluid, glycerine, to show the reversibility of Stokes flow between concentric cylinders.
Go to the Nonlinear Physics Group
The Experimental Nonlinear Physics Group, Dept. of Physics, University of
60 St. George St. Toronto, Ontario, Canada, M5S 1A7. Phone (416) 978 - 6810