31 December 2015

Look Ahead to Stephen Curry in 2016

My family was in Oslo, Norway on Christmas Eve.  We stopped in a newsstand near the Oslo Harbour and picked up the latest issue of TIME Magazine.  Adele is on the cover of the special double issue called "The Year Ahead."  I contributed to the story on Stephen Curry called "Stephen Curry and the Greatest Show on Earth."  Click here if you have a TIME subscription and wish to read the article.  As I did for the Wall Street Journal last December (click here for that article), I analyzed Curry's shooting motion and the trajectories of several of his shots.  The guy is amazing!  He has an incredibly quick release that produces high-angle trajectories into the basket.  I like that TIME included my observation that Curry was born on Pi Day!

Happy New Year!

11 December 2015

UK Petrol Passes Below £1 per Litre

I was watching the BBC at Ponds Forge this morning while I was pedalling away on a recumbent bike.  One report noted that the price of petrol sold by a company is now slightly less than £1 per litre (click here for the story).  It got me wondering what that translates into dollars per gallon, which is more familiar to me.  One litre is approximately 0.2642 US liquid gallons, or one could state that one US liquid gallon is roughly 3.785 litres.  Thus if it takes £1 to purchase one litre of petrol here in the UK, it costs about £3.785 to buy one US liquid gallon of petrol.  Hopping on Google's "pounds to dollars" converter for today, £3.785 is equivalent to $5.73.

The price of petrol in the UK is considerably more than what people pay in the US.  The average cost today for a gallon of regular unleaded in the US is $2.012 (click here for my source, but note that the number changes daily).  People in the UK thus pay about 2.85 times for petrol what people in the US pay.

There was some hype about petrol prices falling below £1 per litre, and I'm sure there will be many happy customers at the pump.  But excitement is relative.  It's good to keep an eye on what happens outside one's country, of course, even the stuff that doesn't make huge headlines.

10 December 2015

Derrick Henry and Football Physics

Rain greeted me this morning on my way to the gym, but as I wrote yesterday, that is nothing new.  Back in the US, college football fans are gearing up for bowl season.  But before those games will be played a certain famous trophy must be presented.  One talented young man will have his life forever changed when he accepts the Heisman Trophy this Saturday night.  I'll try to stay up for the announcement, but it will be early Sunday morning for me when the winner's name is called.

Three deserving finalists will be in New York for the Heisman ceremony.  Strong and convincing cases can easily be made for Christian McCaffrey of Stanford and Deshaun Watson of Clemson.  But my money is on Derrick Henry of Alabama to become the Crimson Tide's second Heisman winner.  I could certainly be wrong, but as someone who did his undergraduate work in the Southeastern Conference, my rooting interest is with the Alabama running back.

I recently got to study game film of Derrick Henry in preparation for a story the Alabama Media Group was putting together on the science behind Henry's dominance.  At 6' 3" (1.905 m), Henry is quite tall for a running back.  Usually the guys who run the ball have a center of gravity that isn't so far off the ground.  But I learned a few things watching Henry in action.  Click here for the article that contains some of my physics analysis of Henry's running.  That guy will be playing on Sundays someday!

09 December 2015

Wet and Windy in England

I've been slow to keep up my blog writing, especially as it pertains to my sabbatical experiences.  Late 2015 here in South Yorkshire has seen lots of wind and rain.  We have rarely found a day in the past month that we've not felt at least a little mist on our faces.  People north of us have had it much worse with Storm Desmond causing lots of flood damage.  For all the rain and wind, it's great being in Sheffield as holiday time approaches.  The city centre is decorated and fun to see at night when I'm on a bus headed for home after work. With the sun setting before 4 pm now, it's always night when I leave work!

A torn muscle in my left calf has kept us from doing much travelling of late.  Before the tear, my girls and I toured Shepherd Wheel, which is quite close to where we live.  Kudos to the woman (a volunteer?) we met there because she gave us lots of great information.  The wheel makes use of water that's been dammed from the Porter Brook.  I took the photo below on Sunday, 15 November 2015 (click on the image for a larger view).
The wheel is 18 ft (5.5 m) in diameter.  The large shaft through the wheel sends lots of kinetic energy into the building that's used for various grinding work.  It's great watching energy conversions in action!

Walking to Shepherd Wheel took us through Endcliffe Park, which is our wonderful local park.  The photo below shows the Porter Brook in Endcliffe Park, downstream from the Shepherd Wheel (click on the image for a larger view).
Wet weather could not distract from the natural beauty in the park.

This past Sunday, which was 6 December 2015, my family visited the 23rd Victorian Christmas Market at Kelham Island Museum.  That was a lot of fun!  We saw people dressed as Dickens characters, heard great bagpipe music and Christmas songs, and visited many shopping stalls.  I couldn't resist getting a fine pint while I was there and a jar of lemon curd to take home.  My younger daughter snapped the photo below of some reindeer at the market (click on the image for a larger view).
Some of the fine singers we heard are seen in the photo below (click on the image for a larger view).
It was a fun day to be out with family and denizens of Sheffield as we enjoyed a little holiday cheer.

Sabbatical research continues to stimulate my mind and keep me busy.  As a clumsy theoretical physicist who is more comfortable writing code and using a pencil and paper than tinkering in a lab, I am continually amazed by the ingenuity of people with experimental and engineering training.  Lots of what we do on a piece of paper takes for granted just how hard it is to build and measure what we're scribbling on that paper.  I take great joy in seeing what clever people construct to allow for precise measurements.

I am also enjoying the one hour per week I get to teach.  I volunteered to teach one of the second-year tutorials for the physics department.  My eight students are great and I enjoy interacting with them each week.  They see an enormous amount of material, so much that I wonder if being exposed to that much material is truly effective.  Just two days ago, I talked to my students about Lagrange's equations in mechanics, non-inertial forces, the infinite square well in quantum mechanics, and Born's interpretations of the wave function.  It's out of this world fun for me because I can yap about many areas of physics, but it's a lot for my students to digest.

Holiday break commences on Saturday, 19 December 2015.  Lots of research work to do before then!