Sunday, September 25, 2016

Smashing Pumpkins, anyone?

The above article, written by Jordan Gill from CBS News, discusses an annual event that occurs in New Brunswick, Canada on the Miramichi River. While many are welcoming the new season through apple picking, drinking homemade apple cider, or purchasing their first ripe pumpkin, there are handfuls of people in New Brunswick that opt to welcome Fall by smashing pumpkins -- and no, not for baking pumpkin pie.

Image of the pumpkin launcher.  

The leaders of this event, which is rightly called the Fall Harvest Pumpkin Fling, are from the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of New Brunswick. With the goal to educate the group about science, the masterminds behind the event encourage the attendees (mostly children) to load up the pumpkin launcher and estimate where the pumpkin will land in the water or on the land. While this might be quite the challenge for an elementary child or an adult that hasn't taken a physics course recently, this would be second-nature to the Physics 111 students (hopefully!). 

Here's what I would do if I were in this scenario. According to the article, the pumpkin launcher is more than 4-meters in length. I would need a meter-stick (to determine the launcher's height above the water), a protractor (to calculate the angle that I launch the pumpkin), a radar gun (to determine the velocity), and a stopwatch (to determine the total time it takes the pumpkin to 1) reach its maximum height and 2) land in the water). Using this information as the basis for my projectile motion-like problem, I would use the kinematic equations to solve for Δx.  Alternatively, given the time it took for the pumpkin to land in the water and the landing distance, I could determine the velocity of the launcher. 
The Fall Harvest Pumpkin Fling, which recently occurred on 9/24/16, would have been a fun supplementary field-trip for Physics 111, had it happened a few weeks back in the midst of the kinematic lessons. In the meantime, if you or your friends have an urge to smash some pumpkins, maybe take the time to think about the physics side of your Fall-time hobby and determine the velocity or displacement of your free-flying pumpkin!

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