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How fast does an (unladen Blue) Angel fly? July 26, 2015

Posted by mareserinitatis in Fargo, math, younger son.
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This weekend, the Blue Angels were in town to perform at the Fargo AirSho.  While we were watching them today, I made some comment about how amazing it is that they can keep such perfect formation despite the high speeds.  The younger son asked how fast they fly, and I responded that they could go up to a few hundred miles per hour.  He came back with:

I bet they’re flying at a trillion nanometers per second.

I honestly had no idea since that required not only a conversion to more reasonable units for such a measurement as well as the fact that we’d have to hop between metric and English units.

I decided to check it out, and it turns out he wasn’t far off.  The Blue Angels use the F/A-18 Hornet, which wikipedia gives a top speed of Mach 1.8 or 1,190 miles per hour.  The equivalent speed in nanometers/second is 531,977,600,000.  In other words, it’s half a trillion nanometers per second, so the younger son was only off by a factor of two when they’re traveling at top speed (which they obviously weren’t).

That’s a wee bit faster than an unladen European Swallow, which has an airspeed velocity of about 11,176,000,000 nm/s (based on Wolfram Alpha’s estimate of 25 mph).  I’m sure you were just dying to know that.

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Whistle while you work September 12, 2013

Posted by mareserinitatis in humor, physics.
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I’m not a big whistler, but every once in a while the mood hits me.  Yesterday after seeing this (it’s about the ‘new’ trailer for Monty Python and the Holy Grail), my mind travelled to The Life of Brian and, inevitably, this song:

It’s one of those annoyingly catchy (and yes, totally absurd) songs.  While it was burrowing its way through my brain, I started whistling.  Except, I discovered I couldn’t.

As some of you may recall, I had orthodontic work done and finally had my braces taken off last spring.  While wearing braces, I don’t imagine I tried whistling at all because whistling with braces is pretty much a futile exercise.  However, after having all my teeth moved around, I discovered that however I had learned to whistle before no longer works.

In order to whistle (at least the way I do it), one holds the lips in such a way to allow a stream of air to pass through.  The stream is disrupted slightly by the lips and teeth, causing the air to vibrate.  Then you can move your tongue around in your mouth to change the frequency of the resonance, which will change the pitch of the whistle.

It sounds easy, right?  Except that with my teeth in a different position, I can’t seem to get that vibration there.  Everything is in a new spot, so I’m not sure how to place my lips.

The end result is that I’m trying to sing, “Always look on the bright side of life,” which is so darn cheerful because of the whistling, and I can no longer whistle.  Despite the song’s mandate, I found myself a hair depressed…

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