I am a Physics Ninja, Part Two

Many of the contestants on the American spinoff of Ninja Warrior are avid participants in parkour. To these traceurs (and  yes, I did need Google to learn that word), the whole world is an obstacle course. To nerds, the whole world is a science demonstration. This is the second in a series of posts that shows what happens when these two worlds collide.

2) Newton’s Second Law: The acceleration of an object is inversely proportional to the mass of the object and directly proportional to the net force applied to the object. Mathematically, this is expressed as Force=mass x acceleration. The less mass an object has, the easier it is to get it to speed up. If you push harder, you’ll speed the object up more.

This is probably the most intuitive of Newton’s Laws, and commentators have referred to it (if not by name) on both Wipeout and Ninja Warrior. Continue reading

I am a Physics Ninja, Part One

I’ve always loved TV shows that feature obstacle courses. As a child I watched Fun House, Finders Keepers, and several incarnations of Double Dare. (Even if I hadn’t mentioned my twenty-seventh birthday, this information would place my date of birth squarely in the mid-eighties.) In recent years I’ve gotten into Wipeout and Ninja Warrior. The former makes me laugh, the latter makes me get off my butt and do push-ups during commercials, and both, naturally, make me think about physics- especially Newton’s Laws of Motion.

1) Newton’s First Law: Objects at rest tend to stay at rest; objects in motion tend to stay in motion.

That’s the version you’ve always heard. A more specific version would go like this: Continue reading