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/content/aapt/journal/tpt/52/7/10.1119/1.4895358
1.
1. Carl Mungan, “The physics of shot towers,” Phys. Teach. 50 (4), 218 (April 2012).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.3694072
4.
4. R. C. Cross and M. S. Wheatland, “Modeling a falling Slinky,” Am. J. Phys. 80 (12), 10511060 (Dec. 2012).
http://dx.doi.org/10.1119/1.4750489
6.
6. Albert A. Bartlett, Professor Emeritus University of Colorado Boulder, Past President AAPT, personal communication on June 27, 2013.
http://aip.metastore.ingenta.com/content/aapt/journal/tpt/52/7/10.1119/1.4895358
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/content/aapt/journal/tpt/52/7/10.1119/1.4895358
2014-10-01
2016-12-09

Abstract

The drop towers of yesteryear were used to make lead shot for muskets, as described in 1 in April 2012. However, modern drop towers are essentially elevators designed so that the cable can “break” on demand, creating an environment with microgravity for a short period of time, currently up to nine seconds at the drop tower in Bremen, Germany. Using these drop towers, one can briefly investigate various physical systems operating in this near zero- environment. The resulting “Drop Tower Physics” is a new and exciting way to challenge students with a physical example that requires solid knowledge of many basic physics principles, and it forces them to practice the scientific method. The question is, “How would a simple toy, like a pendulum, behave when it is suddenly exposed to a zero- environment?” The student must then postulate a particular behavior, test the hypothesis against physical principles, and if the hypothesis conforms to these chosen physical laws, the student can formulate a final conclusion. At that point having access to a drop tower is very convenient, in that the student can then experimentally test his or her conclusion. The purpose of this discussion is to explain the response of these physical systems (“toys”) when the transition is made to a zero- environment and to provide video demonstrations of this behavior to support in-class discussions of Drop Tower Physics.

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