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Physics take flight

This article appeared in the December 2, 2012 edition of the Davis Enterprise.

By Lisa Justice
Special to the Enterprise

Investigate the laws of physics with a Magnus Flyer.  You will need:  two Styrofoam cups, some masking tape, three or four rubber bands, and lots of space.  Try this activity outdoors so you have plenty of room to throw and make your Magnus Flyer fly.

First hold your cups together bottom to bottom.  Tear off a strip of masking tape and wrap it around your cups to hold the bottoms together.

Tie your rubber bands together in a chain.  You want a chain that is about seven or eight inches long without stretching your rubber bands.

Now hold one end of your rubber band chain against the bottoms of your cups where the tape is with your thumb.  Your rubber band chain should be dangling down in front of your cups.

With your other hand pull the bottom end of your rubber band chain underneath your cups.  Wrap the chain two or three times around the bottoms of your cups where the tape is holding them together. 

When you are finished wrapping you should have the tail of your rubber band chain stretched out in front of the cups, away from your body, like a runway for an airplane.

At this point take the project outside if you’re not there already.  We’re about to let loose our Magnus Flyers and we don’t want them to bump into anything in the house.

Now stretch the tail of that rubber band chain out in front of your cups.  Pull your cups close to your body.  Hold the tail of your rubber band chain in between two fingers so you don’t lose it.

Let go of the cups!  What happens?  On a windy day, the wind will pick up the light Styrofoam cups and take them for a ride.

If it’s not windy, the force of the rubber bands will spin the cups and push them forward into the air.  The cups will then grab onto that air and force the air up over the cups.  Once the air travels over the cups and gets to the back, the spin on the cups will push that air downwards.

When the air goes down, the cups go up.  Newton explained what’s happening in his third law of motion, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.

This kind of motion is just one example of the Forces of Nature you can explore at Explorit’s current exhibit, open Saturday and Sunday, December 3 and 4 at our Mace Ranch park location.

Explorit would also like to extend a very special thank you to Ethel Sassenrath, who passed away recently.  Ethel served Explorit Science Center in many capacities including multiple terms on the board of trustees, Board Vice President and founder and President of the Friends of Explorit.

We are grateful for all her many years of hard work and dedication.  Ethel’s commitment to science education lives on in the continued work of Explorit Science Center.


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Explorit’s coming events:

• Explorit’s newest Exhibition, “Forces of Nature” is open the first Saturday and Sunday of every month from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.  at 3141 5th Street .
 

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Explorit Science Center is located at 3141 5th St. and is open to the public every first Saturday and Sunday of the month.  For more information call (530) 756-0191 or visit http://www.explorit.org, or “like” us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/explorit.fb.

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