Congratulations to the winners of the blog post challenge winners for FOP 1211!

Section 1

Raul Macias

Physics—Don’t Call it a Comeback! It’s been here for…well…forever.

The Physics of Rollercoasters by Raul Macias

    Growing up as a child, I never once rode on a roller coaster—not because the opportunity never presented itself, but because they terrified me, plain and simple. I just never understood why anyone would want to be scared to death just for the fun of it. As I got older, I didn’t want to come off as a coward in front of my friends, so I willingly jumped at the opportunity to avenge my childhood courage (Either that, or I gave into peer pressure, one of the two, the latter of which being more likely.). I’m glad I did because I rather enjoyed it…a lot…and I now consider myself a “roller coaster adrenaline junkie”. As I rode that roller coaster, I was overwhelmed with emotions and thoughts—but the thought of physics never crossed my mind…

The physics behind roller coasters is actually rather simple once you have the fundamental understanding of physics. There are basically only four factors that contribute to the physics of roller coasters. These four factors are: Potential Energy, Kinetic Energy, Law of Conservation of Energy, and the Friction.

Potential energy is the energy stored in an object through work (force x distance). The force x distance of a rollercoaster is the pull (force) of the roller coaster multiplied by the height (distance) of the roller coaster. Because of gravity, work is required to pull the roller coaster up to any amount of height.

Once work has been applied to lift the rollercoaster against Earth’s gravity, the potential energy of the rollercoaster can be described as gravitational potential energy due to the force of Earth’s gravitational pull. This force of gravitational pull has the same effect on all objects in free fall, which is an acceleration force of 9.80 m/s^2 (meters per second per second). The acceleration of free fall due to Earth’s gravity combined with force and mass of the rollercoaster convert the gravitational potential energy into kinetic energy.

Kinetic energy is an object with energy of motion, which depends on the mass of the object and its speed. Kinetic Energy is equal to the mass of the object multiplied by the square of its speed, multiplied by the constant 1/2. Because of the fact that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, the potential energy of the roller coaster will always transfer over to Kinetic Energy and vice versa—unless acted upon by an outside force.

For example, the potential energy of a rollercoaster is always at its highest at the peak of the first drop, and likewise, the Kinetic Energy of the roller coaster is always at its highest at the bottom of the first drop. This give and take relationship between the two is called the Law of Conservation of Energy, and because of the work put into lifting the roller coaster up to its highest peak, the roller coaster now only has to coast throughout the rest of the entire ride, hence, the reason why they call them roller “coasters”. Ok, so if energy can neither be created nor destroyed, then why doesn’t energy continue to transfer over from kinetic to potential and vice-versa in a never-ending cycle? Why do roller coasters come to a stop? The answer is simple. Friction.

Friction is a force that resists and opposes any motion or attempted motion of an object past another object it comes into contact with—this applies to solids, liquids, and gases. When dealing with friction, friction always opposes motion in the opposite direction of the object. This opposing force of friction is the outside force acting upon potential energy and kinetic energy that slows the “coaster” down and eventually brings you and it to a safe stop (not to mention, the breaks placed along the rails). This is exactly why the first drop of a roller coaster is always the highest out of all the other hills and loops. Friction is always slowing the “coaster” down—making it impossible to achieve the same results of potential/kinetic energy as the first drop throughout the entire ride.

This is just one example of how we have experimented with physics to amuse ourselves and shape our very lives. Who knows what the future has in store, but I’m sure physics will be there to guide us along the way, and because physics is such a fundamental part of our universe, I think physics will continue to be there as physics always has since the beginning of time.

Thanks for reading,


Sastamoinen, S. (2002) Roller Coaster Physics: The Science Behind the Thrills (Internet). Available from: 11.10.12Hewitt. Paul, Suchoki. J, and Hewitt. Leslie. (2008) Conceptual

Physical Science: Fourth Edition, San Francisco: Pearson Custom Publishing

Section 2

Steven “Killer Designer” Noe

Fundamentals of Physics

November 11, 2012

Harnessing Road Energy

            In 2007, I started thinking about how to profit from the booming Green movement. Recognizing that the future of transportation was electric, it was obvious that our dependence on transportation fuel would shift from fossil fuels to electricity. I also realized that it would take years, if not decades, until the transition was complete. Further, no matter the fuel source, personal transportation was hardly likely to be replaced by mass transit – at least not here in California. I punned that our traffic was not going anywhere fast.

That is when an idea occurred to me. What if there was a way to somehow harness the “free” and existing friction energy from the movement of vehicles on roads? In my mind, either replacing the metal inside existing steel belt tires with a better conducting wire or magnet while also repaving degrading roads with a wire or magnetized wire mesh laid under the asphalt top might not only harness energy generated from passing vehicles but also strengthen and extend the life of our roads, so I set off to do research.

As a high school dropout who took my G.E.D. and therefore was never exposed to Physics, I recognized that there might be potential in this concept, if only I could figure out how.

My research led me to Mats Selen, Professor of Physics at the University of Illinois. In an email exchange dated May 3, 2008, Professor Selen stated “the laws of thermodynamics tells us that we really can’t get something for nothing. If you somehow extracted energy from the rotating tires moving over the roadway then this energy has to come from someplace – it can’t be ‘for free’.” In other words, the car would slow down just as if we hooked up a conventional generator to the rotating wheel so that more fuel would have to be burned to keep the car moving at the same pace, thereby decreasing fuel mileage. He closed by suggesting that since internal combustion engines weren’t all that efficient to begin with, one would be better off putting all the fuel used by the cars into a large generator somewhere, resulting in more energy with less infrastructure cost. Since I didn’t understand Physics or the Laws of Thermodynamics, I did not understand why – if the friction were already present between the road and the tire – simply capturing it would have a negative impact, but he was the recognized Physics professor, and I was just a guy with an idea who was going to have to keep my day job.

Earlier this year, while reading news articles on CNET, I noticed a link on the page referencing green road energy, and clicked on it. The article was about the April 25, 2012 passing of California State Senate Bill AB 306, approving a pilot program in California that will harness road vibration and convert it to energy (Yvkoff, 2011).

It turns out that in October of 2009, Innowattech, an Israeli company, publicly announced that it had achieved a method to harness the power created by vehicles passing over roads. My curiosity peaked, I visited Innowattech’s corporate site. It turns out that this innovative company’s technology is based on “piezoelectric materials that enable the conversion of mechanical energy exerted by the weight of passing vehicles into electrical energy.” Who would have thought?

The technology generates electricity from small piezoelectric generators installed beneath a road’s asphalt layer, as I had envisioned, and the technology reportedly “does not increase the vehicles’ fuel intake or affect the road infrastructure, harvesting the energy, which would have otherwise been wasted on road deformation, rendering this energy as “parasitic.” (n.a. 2009).

What I did not realize then was the existence of the Law of Conservation of Energy.  Simply stated, the law states that net charge cannot be created or destroyed, only transferred, meaning that there was no “free” energy – it came at a cost – whether by increased friction, and thereby reduced gas mileage, or some other exchange. In short, as Professor Selen stated, you can’t get something for nothing.

What I do not yet understand is the difference of how vibration energy – which is present just as friction energy is when a tire passes over a road – can be harnessed without cost while friction energy cannot… but I am looking into it.


Yvkoff, Liane, April 26, 2012, Calif. highways could be source of green energy, CNET November 11, 2012

Press Release, October 2009, Innowattech achieves a breakthrough in alternative energy by generating electricity from road traffic in a recent complete-system pilot project. Innowattech


Section 5

Robert Bone

I am a Traceur.  For those who don’t know what that means, it means that I am someone who practices Parkour.  Like any sport, physics plays a large part in how participants perform.  However, with such a wide variety of movement, there is a lot more physics at work.

First of all, to understand the physics involved, I need to describe to you what‚s involved in Parkour.  It is a sport that has the focus of moving from point A to point B as quickly and efficiently as possible.  In order to do that, the participant must overcome obstacles to get to their next point.  This involves jumping, pulling yourself up on walls, vaulting, landing, balance, quadrupedal movement, and more.            

In a sense, you must understand physics and how your body reacts to those forces in nature to be able to be effective.  So, starting with a static landing:  Many times, traceurs will land from a greater height than most people are used to.  Amateurs will be comfortable with anywhere from about 4‚ to 8‚.  Professionals can safely drop approximately 15‚+.  In landing, we must understand principles of gravity, momentum, and force.  Whether falling from a height or jumping from a height, we know that gravity will bring us down and the higher the height, the greater the speed we will fall until we reach the ground.  Thus, the greater the speed before the ground is reached, the harder it is to stop once that force that will act against you is reached (ground).  To counteract this force from a fall from a greater height, you must hone your reflexes and get better at gauging when you will impact the ground in order to activate your leg muscles to begin slowing down to avoid injury.  Also, gain in leg muscle will allow a greater force to act against the downward pull once the ground is reached.

In rolling after a land, the principle stays the same, but the result is that this allows the momentum to get transferred from a downward direction to horizontal to provide less risk of injury for the landing.

Next, we’ll look at balance.    In order to properly balance, whether on just your feet or on feet and hands, you have to understand where gravity is going to be pulling you and position your body to either counterweight the way you‚re tending to fall or to pre-emptively put support on the side that you might be pulled when shifting your weight to move along a rail.

Lastly, in order to climb up a wall onto a ledge, you have to recognize at least four of the major points of force being acted upon your body.  One is the force of gravity that is pulling you downward that you must act against to gain vertical movement.  The second is the friction between your feet (rather the shoes on your feet) and the wall as you run up it.  So if you‚re moving up it, the friction against the wall is acting to move you upwards.  Thirdly, the support force acts against your foot as the wall pushes against it equally.  Lastly, the force you exert on your arms and legs will effect how well you are able to pull yourself onto and/or over the ledge.  The more vertical your force is atop the ledge, the easier it will be to gain the last bit of vertical lift needed to completely reach the top.            

Essentially, knowing what forces are acting against what you want to accomplish will allow you to become successful at Parkour and move with ease in addition to knowing what muscles to strengthen and in what ways to move your body.

Section 6

Luis Camacho

Telekinesis:  Science or Fiction?

Telekinesis, as defined by, is the movement of a body caused by thought or willpower without the application of a physical force. Take a moment to imagine having this ability. How would you use this power? What purpose would it serve? Is it an ability that only certain individuals can attain? There are many questions we can ask about this ability, but first let’s review what science has to say about telekinesis.

Until science can explain this phenomena most will credit the supernatural, or claim this power to be a hoax. Alexandr Nikolayevich Aksakov, a Russian born psychic researcher, coined the term telekinesis. Psychic abilities are assumed by many to be a hoax or an unexplained phenomenon. Psychics are defined by their ability to be in touch with energy, which they use to activate their senses. Psychics are most credited for the use of the power of telekinesis. Are psychics in touch with the supernatural or in touch with the inner workings of the mind? We have all heard, and used the phrase, mind over matter. But the question remains, can the mind control solid matter as proposed by telekinesis?

The human being is the most intelligent highly evolved life form on the planet. That being said, we have the will power and sheer determination to bring into existence what ever we can imagine. The universe, and all that inhabit the universe are all made up of atoms. It would be safe to say that the one who can learn to manipulate atoms will soon discover the power, and use of telekinesis. Sooner than later we will have the power to wield and manipulate atoms. Atom manipulation is being studied, and actively experimented in our present time as stated by physicist Phaedon Avouris in his research article, Manipulation of Matter at the Atomic and Molecular Levels.

Most credit any phenomenon to the supernatural, but science, in time, always provides an answer. Studies are being conducted on linking prayer healing to telekinesis as stated in the National Center for Biotechnology PubMed article by Drew Leder, ŒSpooky actions at a distance‚: physics, psi, and distant healing. Most of the data collected are unexplained phenomenon as related to healing power of prayer. What is actually occurring here? Is prayer mind over matter through our words and beliefs? Most religious members have a belief system that is unwavering and unquestionable as stated in the National Center for Biotechnology PubMed article by Elizabeth Hillstrom and M. Strachan, Strong commitment to traditional Protestant religious beliefs is negatively related to beliefs in paranormal phenomena. They believe their prayers are answered. For example, a prayer done for a person with an incurable illness is healed. Is it possible that the one conducting the prayer used his mind to manipulate the atoms of that illness thus eradicating the illness?  I believe under certain circumstances these abilities are activated. Science will experiment, and give us the answer as to what are these specific circumstances as stated in the National Center for Biotechnology PubMed article by Macgregor RJ, Vimal RL   „ Consciousness and the structure of matter.

Telekinesis in my opinion is the manipulation, and or transference of energy from one body to another in order to manipulate the atoms of the target matter, or cause it to be moved to a specific location. This mystery, like many others, answers may lie within quantum mechanics or the next revolutionary understanding of atoms.

“It is well within the laws of physics for a person in the future to be trained to mentally manipulate an electronic sensing device that would give him godlike powers. Radio-enhanced or computer-enhanced psychokinesis is a real possibility.”
(Physics of the Impossible, Michio Kaku, Professor of Theoretical Physics, City University of New York, 2008, p. 94, Doubleday, New York, ISBN: 978-0-307-27882-1)