Torque produced by balls in Fantastic Contraption

The fun part about exploring the physics of [Fantastic Contraption](http://fantasticcontraption.com/) is coming up with new setups to test ideas. Torque is not too difficult to set up. Here is what I did:

![Screenshot 04](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-041.jpg)

In this setup, I have a “turning ball” with a wood stick attached to the side. I increased the length of the stick until the ball does not turn. At this point, the torque from the gravitational force on the stick is equal to the torque from the ball. I can use [Tracker Video Analysis](http://www.cabrillo.edu/~dbrown/tracker/) to find the lengths of the two wood sticks. The torque from each stick will be its gravitational weight times the perpendicular distance to the center of the turning ball.

![Screenshot 05](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-053.jpg)

In order to calculate the gravitational force, I need the mass of each “stick”. [From my previous post](http://blog.dotphys.net/2008/10/physics-of-fantastic-contraption-i/), I found that the mass density per length for sticks was

![Screenshot 171](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-1711.jpg)

where mb is the mass of a ball and U is the diameter of a ball. I also need to find the horizontal distance from the center of the stick to the center of the ball. I will call the top stick 1 and the bottom 2. This gives:

![Screenshot 06](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-063.jpg)

Notice that stick 2 is connected at the same x-value as the ball, so I did not need to add the radius of the ball to its r value. Now I can calculate the total torque:

![Screenshot 07](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-073.jpg)

Although I do have an ok value for U in meters, I do not have a value for the mass of the ball, so no point in multiplying in the constant g. Anyway, let me test this. If this is true, how many balls could I hang right off the circle and lift? In that case, r would be 0.5 U (U is the diameter). So if the torque is around 3, I should be able to lift 6 balls (depending on the mass of string used). Let me try it.

![Screenshot 08](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-082.jpg)

I love it when a plan comes together. Actually, this was a little more than the weight of 6 balls, it also had the short length of water-sticks. But also, according to my calculation, this should not be able to lift 7 balls. Again, success.

Physics of Fantastic Contraption I

One of my students showed me this game, [Fantastic Contraption](http://fantasticcontraption.com/). The basic idea is to use a couple of different “machine” parts to build something that will move an object into a target area. Not a bad game. But what do I do when I look at a game? I think – hey! I wonder what kind of physics this “world” uses. This is very similar to [my analysis of the game Line Rider](http://blog.dotphys.net/2008/09/the-physics-of-linerider/) except completely different.

Fantastic Contraption gives the unique opportunity to build whatever you want. This is great for creating “experiments” in this world.

The first step is to “measure” some stuff. The game includes three types of “balls” and two types of connectors. The balls are:

  • Clockwise rotating
  • Counterclockwise rotating
  • Non-driven

Connectors:

  • wood lines – these can not pass through each other
  • water lines – these can pass through each other, but not the ground

First question: Do the different balls have the same mass? This can be tested by creating a little “balance”

![Screenshot 05](http://blog.dotphys.net/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/screenshot-052.jpg)

Continue reading “Physics of Fantastic Contraption I”

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:

Learn more about this project

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).