Monday, 23 September 2013
the Random Apple Tower experiment, the Universe and no Hamsters
As you all know I am a part-time student teacher and one of my specialist subjects is OIT Obscure Irrational Theories mainly the big ones relating to the universe, not small ones devoted to why hamsters run in small wheels. . . . . . AH as it happens that is one of the big ones but not today’s story, although the more science minded of you will see the link straight away.
Anyway today’s lesson was my first practical on OIT and I was trying to explain why galaxies spiral, much like water spirals down the plug hole. You see a spinning galaxy is in fact a huge gyroscope, and like a gyroscope, if you put it on top of a pointy stick at right angles rather than fall off the pointy stick the gravitational forces are moved to the pivot point and the gyroscope will start to rotate round the pivot. (OK I know some of you are saying WHAT?) As you may guess some of my students got a bit confused, so I used the
experiment to show them what was happening.
OK yes I know some of you have never done the Random Apple Tower
Experiment (The RAT Experiment) have you (education these days it’s terrible…
Hang on I’m a student teacher) Random
Anyway what you need is a selection of random apples from an apple tree; say anything from ten to about fifty and you have to make a tower. It is a well known fact that after a maximum of five apples the tower will fall over, the interesting point is no matter which apples or which combination you choose the tower will never get higher than five apples. Well if you cheat by using super glue or small skewers or use modern GM apples then it will but in nature the universe is the universe and cheating is not an option. After many hours the class tried and failed to improve on a tower of five apples until Esmeralda got bored and turned the whole lot into toffee apples and the class ate the universe.
However it proved the point I needed to make about why galaxies spiral although I must admit some of the class still looked a little perplexed, so I told them to try the experiment at home and get their parents to explain it.