Morning reading – The Loudest Sound in the World

From the physics department, I started my morning with a fascinating bit of reading from FiveThirtyEight.

They hooked me with the intro line:

The questions kids ask about science aren’t always easy to answer. Sometimes, their little brains can lead to big places adults forget to explore. With that in mind, we’ve started a series called Science Question From a Toddler, which will use kids’ curiosity as a jumping-off point to investigate the scientific wonders that adults don’t even think to ask about.

You want to capture my attention? That’s a pretty good way to do it.

What follows is a really approachable discussion of sound energy that is designed to be understandable but doesn’t skimp on all the science-y goodies to do it. It also doesn’t shirk on the drama.

A sound is a shove — just a little one, a tap on the tightly stretched membrane of your ear drum. The louder the sound, the heavier the knock. If a sound is loud enough, it can rip a hole in your ear drum. If a sound is loud enough, it can plow into you like a linebacker and knock you flat on your butt. When the shock wave from a bomb levels a house, that’s sound tearing apart bricks and splintering glass. Sound can kill you.

Go ahead and give it a read. I’d consider using it in a high school physics course. Although, full disclosure: I can’t universally recommend FiveThirtyEight since I know they also write about a lot of other topics and not all of their writers stick to basic school-appropriate rules, like no swears.

It also mixes in a bit of history (some nice story-telling on the eruption of Krakatoa) and some nice unit discussions (hertz, decibels, some prefixes get in the mix, too.)

All in all, definitely an article worth checking out.

Ordinary Shrinking Water Drop


Apparently that happens every time a drop of water hits a bigger body of water.

I have watched this video three times already and I find myself getting more and more fascinated every time I watch it. First of all, the fact that so much beautiful complexity can exist beyond the detection of our eyes is amazing enough, but the nature of the complexity, the wonderful symmetry, and the transformational nature of it blows my mind.

Anyway, what does it have to do with geometry? That’s your job. What questions can we ask about this video? When you think of a question, think about what information we would need to answer the question and beyond that, think about if the video gives us enough to find the needed information.

Post your thoughts in the comments.

Dolphins Blowing Bubble Rings


This fascinated me for lots of reasons.

1. Aren’t bubbles supposed to rise to the top of the water? (This gets brought up in the video, too.)

2. There must be some kind of movement to the rings, meaning there is a technique. That means that the dolphins are TEACHING each other skills that require some level of expertise.

2a. How did the first dolphin perfect the technique?

2b. Why did the first dolphin perfect the technique?

2c. How did the first dolphin train other dolphins?

2d. Why did the first dolphin train other dolphins?

2e. Could the dolphins teach ME to do that?

3. I wonder if they teach each other as to include others or if being able to make a bubble ring is a status symbol in the dolphin culture.

4. What about the rotation of the ring allows it to, seemingly, defy traditional fluid dynamics?


If anyone can answer ANY of these questions (especially 2e.), then add them to the comments.