# A physics-based Scratch game

I already said I like [scratch from MIT](http://scratch.mit.edu). After building a simple rocket model, the kids said it should be a game. I caved. Here it is:

To play, press the space bar. The arrow keys are rocket thrusts. The goal is to get to the red circle in as little time. If you hit the wall or the sides, you start back at the green circle. Please forgive me masters of scratch (I know who you are – you find something to complain about in my program).

# Help Me. I can’t stop making scratch programs

I actually have some important things to do. However, I thought I would make another scratch program. Yes, this will all lead to something useful (that is what I told my wife). Anyway, in this program, I made a spaceship with 4 thrusters. The great thing about this is it show what forces do to the motion of an object. I already had a suggestion to make it into a game with a score.

Use the arrow keys to turn on the 4 thrusters.

# MythBusters: How small could a lead balloon be?

On a previous episode of The MythBusters, Adam and Jamie made a lead balloon float. I was impressed. Anyway, I decided to give a more detailed explanation on how this happens. Using the thickness of foil they had, what is the smallest balloon that would float? If the one they created were filled all the way, how much could it lift?

First, how does stuff float at all? There are many levels that this question could be answered. I could start with the nature of pressure, but maybe I will save that for another day. So, let me start with pressure. The reason a balloon floats is because the air pressure (from the air outside the balloon) is greater on the bottom of the balloon than on the top. This pressure differential creates a force pushing up that can cause the balloon to float.

**Why is the pressure greater on the bottom?**
Think of air as a whole bunch of small particles (which it basically is). These particles have two interactions. They are interacting with other gas particles and they are being pulled down by the Earth’s gravity. All the particles would like to fall down to the surface of the Earth, but the more particles that are near the surface, the more collisions they will have that will push them back up. Instead of me explaining this anymore, the best thing for you to do is look at a great simulator (that I did not make)

![Page 0 Blog Entry 14 1](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/page-0-blog-entry-14-1.jpg)

# Gravity, Weightlessness, and Apparent Weight

In my classes, I like to bring up the question:

*Why do astronauts float around in space?*

The most common response to this question is that they float around because there is no gravity in space. Some people take this a small step further and say that there is no gravity in space because there is no air in space. This is why they claim there is no gravity on the moon (even though there is – more on this later).

I like to start off with the concept of gravity. Gravity is an attractive force between any two objects with mass. Your pencil and your dog both have mass so there is a force pulling your dog and your pencil (that is if you have a pencil) together. This force turns out to be extremely small. So small that you would never notice it. However, if one of the masses is very large, it is noticeable. An expression for the gravitational force was first determined by Newton. He came up with the following (turning off vector notation for simplicity).

Where G is the universal gravitational constant, m1 and m2 are the two masses in the interaction and r is the distance between their centers. This force (as are all forces) is really a vector that points from one mass to the other.

# Physics of Linerider IV: Friction?

Friction in Line Rider

Is there friction in Line Rider? Does it function as physics would expect? To test this, I set up a simple track:

Basically, a slope with a flat part to start with and to end with. Let me show you something simple before further analysis:

This is the x-position vs. time for the line rider on the first horizontal portion of the track (before he or she goes down the incline). This shows the rider traveling at a constant speed of 0.71 m/s. If friction were present, the rider would slow down. If you do not believe me (and why should you?) try creating your own line rider track with a long horizontal section. The rider will not stop, but continue on at a constant speed.

Ok, so no friction on the horizontal line. This makes a little bit of gaming sense. Who would want a rider to stop in the middle of the track and be stuck? That wouldn’t be fun. But, is there friction on non-horizontal portions? To test this, I will use the work-energy principle.

# The Iron Cross – or: Why is Gymnastics so Darn Difficult?

I know the olympics are basically over. Really, I should have posted this earlier. Anyway, the gymnastics feat that always impresses me is the Iron Cross (I think that is what it is called). I know you have seen this, but here is a picture from wikipedia: