19 June 2013

The Art of Child Tossing

I stayed up late last night watching the San Antonio Spurs blow a golden opportunity to win the NBA title over the Miami Heat.  Instead of analyzing anything from that game, the most constructive of which would concern coaching, I decided to analyze something much more fun -- child tossing.  No, I'm not about to describe some pernicious activity involving a defenseless and unwilling child.  The child tossing to which I refer is the stupendously fun activity of being asked by one's child to throw him or her into a swimming pool, and then gleefully obliging that child.  Writing this post will keep me from thinking about tonight's College World Series baseball game between my Hoosiers and the Beavers of Oregon State.

During my family's recent Florida vacation, we spent several hours in a swimming pool so as to avoid the oppressive heat.  My younger daughter kept asking me to throw her into the pool, and I couldn't turn her down.  She loved getting into a cannonball position and having me throw her as far as I could while I was standing in the pool.  Using a low-price digital camera's movie mode with a paltry 24 frames per second, my wife filmed me throwing my younger daughter into the water.  My older daughter meant to serve as a height reference, but was too far from the plane of my younger daughter's trajectory to be a good length standard (I ended up using my own head!).  The animated GIF below shows my child toss (click on the image for a larger view).

You can see a red trail connecting the data points (I marked my daughter's left shoulder).  I marked the movie frames using a wonderful free video analysis program from Open Source Physics called Tracker (click here to get it).

So, could I compete in a professional child tosser event?  Well, I launched my daughter at just over 5 mph (8 km/hr) at an angle of about 63 degrees from the horizontal.  After a flight time of nearly 0.6 s, my daughter hit the water at a speed of about 11 mph (18 km/hr).  She landed a horizontal distance of roughly 3.2 ft (0.98 m) from the point where I let go of her.  Her entry into the water was about 75 degrees from the horizontal.

Many more goodies may be gleaned from video analysis.  I could look at the small effect air resistance had on the trajectory.  I could examine the force I needed to exert to get my daughter into flight.  I could look at the splash dynamics.  Lots of wonderful physics toys with which to play!

Professional child tossing probably won't catch on, but it's a lot of fun in a swimming pool with kids who love to fly through the air!  That one may use a base-model digital camera and free software to turn fun in the pool into a first-year physics problem makes it all the more delightful.

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