Akron Phy sics Club
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, January 22, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
With the opening bars of Richard Strauss’s Also Sprach Zarathrusta resonating in some of our consciousnesses (if not in the string section of the universe) as we silently enter Stanley Kubrich’s epic year with neither a bang nor a whimper (unless you count all that recent electoral stuff) — our first speaker for the real New Millennium will be our own Vic Burke, who will answer Charlie Wilson’s question:
HOW DO MODERN COMPUTERS REALLY WORK?
Minutes, January 22, 2001
Gathered for our first meeting of the (real) New Millennium were Tom and Marie Brooker, our speaker, Vic Burke, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, Bill Jenkin, John Kirszenberg, Robert Mallik, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Darrell Reneker, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson.
Addressing the first order of business for our new year, Treasurer Dan Galehouse reported that our shrinking treasury would weather the evening with a balance of less than $50 (later quantified at $43.37) and would probably blush into the red after February — especially since Tangier has raised the price of our meal (and postage has gone up by one cent [a 3% increase]). After learned discussion by the membership, it was decided that instead of a $5 assessment at this time we would raise our dinner price to $15, permitting our treasury to make a modest profit; after which, Vic Burke, doubling as both speaker and program chairman for the evening, presented an exciting list of potential speakers he is currently working on.
After a short break to permit Vic and Dan Galehouse to finish wiring an impressive array of state-of the-art electronics, speaker Vic proceeded to answer the question Charlie Wilson had proposed at your executive committee’s summer meeting, How to Modern Computers Really Work?
Rarely in the ten-year history of the second edition of the Akron Physics Club (resurrected 1990) have we had a custom program, written and produced for this modest if erudite audience, replete with (appropriately enough) computerized slides, original photography, and a fun, impressive demonstration created for the occasion.
Acknowledging Charlie’s contribution in his title slide, Vic proceeded to show us long shots, medium shots, and close-ups, of the contents of a modern computer (having taken off the side panel): power supply, “mother board,” CD player slot, USB connector, micro-processor (under the heat sink), memory card — even a view from inside the computer looking out at its ports — followed by layer upon layer of metallic photolithographs of scribe lines between Pentium chips (with solder spheres on the back of each chip). Vic explained that if a single chip were expanded to the size of the United States, its complexity would be comparable to the entire U.S. highway system.
Thanks to our speaker, we became acquainted with the address bus, memory bus, data bus, and control bus, all under the control of the microprocessor which follows the computer program, and the clock that paces everything: a clock whose tick has a period of one nanosecond! In burst mode, during the interval between ticks, the computer can decode a signal, recognize an address, and zap it out to a prescribed destination. A typical protocol, e.g. for sending a document from the computer to the printer consists of (1) wait for the “busy line” to go low, signaling that it can accept data, (2) write data to the register, (3) lower the strobe line, telling the printer to read the data (4) wait for an acknowledgement as the busy line drops low, which also signals that the computer is ready to take another command.
To give us a feel for the significance and the power of the eight bits in a byte, with a computer program active on his computer-projected screen, displaying changing numbers simultaneously in decimals as well as hexadecimals (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 A B C D E F), Vic provided a foreground display of eight bright red LEDs which flashed changing binary patterns as the numbers changed. As it turns out, the number of permutations available doubles with each additional bit. Seven bits can communicate 128 different characters (enough for the alphabet, punctuation, etc. — the ASKII code), and eight can present 256 in the binary language of zeros and ones. Computer crashes, it seems, while communicating megabytes of information, can be caused by a single bit in error (perhaps the result of a cosmic ray, or a momentary glitch in the power line).
Reviewing the exponential development of computer technology in recent years, Vic suggested that if the automotive industry had improved at a similar rate since computer development began, a Cadillac would now cost $1000 and be the size of a shoe box. Thanks, Vic.
And so, as usual, please consider yourself reminded to call in or otherwise zap your reservations (or regrets) by Thursday afternoon, February 22, to Charlie Wilson: 836-4167
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, February 26, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
For our February meeting we will be privileged to hear a presentation that Dr. Jutta Lütmer-Strathmann of the University of Akron’s Physics Department has given (with great reviews) at both Case Western Reserve and at Cornell:
INVESTIGATING SMALL-SCALE EFFECTS ON POLYMER DYNAMICS
Dr. Lütmer-Strathmann is a trained theoretician currently doing computer simulations of molecular mobility in polyolefins
Minutes, February 26, 2001
Gathered for our February meeting were Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, Bill Jenkin, John Kirszenberg, Robert Mallik, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson.
Called upon for a report, Treasurer Dan Galehouse advised that, even with the increase in our dinner price to $15, we were essentially holding our own. Dan later quantified the state of the treasury at $45.06. We’ll see how it goes.
Vic Burke offered a pair of book titles whose content he heartily endorsed: Feynman’s Lectures on Computation, a book put together by of one of the famous physics lecturer’s graduate students, using Feynman’s own notes as well as his own; and Superstrings: A Theory of Everything, by P. C. W. Davies and J. Brown. To which your secretary would add Voodoo Science: The Road from Foolishness to fraud, by Robert Park, Professor of Physics at the University of Maryland, and Director of the Washington Office of the American Physical Society. The book chronicles the weird mental processes that lead to such fiascoes as cold fusion and the Patterson cell, often snowing gullible politicians and bilking mesmerized investors.
Dr. Jutta Lütmer-Strathmann, Assistant Professor of Physics, the University of Akron and a trained theoretician who has been doing computer simulations of molecular mobility in polyolefins, gave us a well-prepaired program, replete with graphics, entitled Investigating Small-Scale Effects of Polymer Dynamics, a talk she had given in earlier versions at Case Western Reserve at Cornell.
Dr. Lütmer-Strathmann presented the details of a remarkable computer discipline she has developed that enables her to predict the physical properties and behavior of polymers, some of which have yet to be made. To provide a brief overview as she explained in a paper she delivered at the Fourteenth Symposium on thermophysical Properties in Boulder last June: “Processes on different length scales that affect the dynamics of chain molecules.” Comparing these length scales in a polymer melt, her overhead slides showed marked differences between the tangled architecture of “Gaussian” coils (in molecular clumps of 10 nm size) with that of “stiff” end-to-end”Kuhn”-linked structures (with individual links of the order of 1 nm), and other “coarse-grain”monomeric units having side chains or a lattice structure (some with even smaller links in the 0.15 nm range). Unentangled (“Rauss” regime) molecules (whose linkages were graphically represented as little springs) have lesser dependence on molecular weight in their friction coefficients (a quantity proportional to the force required to pull the chain at a specified speed). Such properties can be mathematically related to both the viscosity and diffusion coefficient of the polymer (with formulas that are beyond the scope of this type font).
Our speaker showed us some interesting phase diagrams of polymer blends, e.g. PEP/PE, an inverted parabola peaking at an upper critical solution temperature, above which a true solution no longer exists, and the upright parabola of PIV/PEP, below the nadir of which (the point representing the lower critical solution temperature at a critical concentration) a single-phase blend separates.
Showing us plots of experimental data covering such functions as viscosities vs. molecular mass, and friction coefficients vs. temperature, as well as the probability of segmental motion vs. temperature reduction, Jutta demonstrated the remarkable correlation between experimental data and her calculated results in poilyolefin melts. Citing an example with regard to the value of this technology in selecting materials for real-world applications, Jutta described the Styrofoam insulation that is used under Stockholm sidewalks — where large temperature differences increased the permeability of water, creating problems.
It was a sophisticated program that prompted sophisticated questions — an understanding of which could, perhaps, have benefited Timothy Guinee, who last fall was finally issued U.S. Patent 6,139,889 for “an apparatus and method of quantifying the stretchability of molten cheese, typically mozzarella cheese, on a pizza pie.” . . . “At the commercial level,” the inventor explains, “this property is largely assessed by lifting the cooked cheese with a fork. While this method has merit in that it simulates consumer behavior, it is very subjective, as the stretchability depends on the depth to which the fork is embedded in the molten cheese mass, and the rate at which it is lifted.” With apologies, Jutta — and thanks to Ernst, whose fingerprints are unmistakable in earlier paragraphs.
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, March 26, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Having once again slid past the vernal equinox unscathed, our March meeting will feature a program by our own Dr. Robert Mallik, new Chair of the University of Akron’s Physics Department. Taxing our available typography (and perhaps our available neurons, Dr. Mallik’s topic will be:
TUNNELING SPECTROSCOPY OF SILANE MONOLAYERS
ABSORBED ON SiOx AND GeOx FILMS
Minutes, March 26, 2001
Components of our largest turnout for the current year included Tom & Marie Brooker, Dave Brown, Vic Burke, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, John Kirszenberg, Bill Jenkin, Dan Livingston, Jutta Luetmer Strathman, Robert Mallik, Leon Marker, Lyle Pauer, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, Gary Roberts, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson.
In club business, Treasurer Dan Galehouse (once again in dual roles) announced that we had gained a little during the evening in the club’s mini-assets. Program Chairman Vic Burke advised that we now had a commitment from Dr. Ralph Harvey of Case Western Reserve Geological Sciences, and an Antarctic explorer. Dr. Harvey will be speaking on “Antarctic Meteorites: Sifting Sands of the Solar System.” Vic hoped to sign biologist Donna Galehouse for May . [And she has since agreed to be our speaker!]
Another discussion explored the preferences, wisdom, and doability of transmitting this newsletter via e-mail in the future — a suggestion advanced by Ben Hu at our last meeting. It was agreed that Vic Burke plus your secretary, with the counsel of Ben (who also has suggested the possibility of placing our APC material in the UA Physics Department website), would see if they could work out a solution — recognizing that your present secretary/editor has a nonconformist Macintosh (although his wife has an HP he could use).
Whereupon, switching roles, Dan Galehouse presented his promised notes and analysis of Solid-State Scission of the electron, as written up in the Journal of Low-Temperature Physics (Mar 2/rev Apr 6, 2000) by Humphrey J. Maris. The phenomenon, reproduced by several independent experimenters, involves imprisoning an electron shell as a spherical bubble (a few Ångstroms in diameter) at relatively low pressures in liquid helium. Excited by light, which changes the state of the electron as radiant energy is absorbed, an optical transition is created as the state of the electron changes. When the confining pressure of the liquid helium is increased, the spherical shape of the bubble elongates into a peanut shape, which eventually splits in two — the two halves of the electron separating and moving about with different charges, each “remembering” which is its own mate, and eventually recombining and going home with each other after the dance. It is, of course, more complex than that, and it creates some quantum problems — but what else is new?
Which brought us to the piece de resistance for the evening, our own Robert Mallik’s discussion of Tunneling Spectroscopy of Silane Monolayers in SiOx and GeOx Films. Dr. Mallik described the work he has been doing with multiple layers of silicon oxide and/or germanium oxide films only one or two atomic layers thick, depositing them with such techniques as thermal evaporation RF/DC sputtering, dry vapor and wet phase deposition, and liquid phase solution doping.
There are, he explained, many applications for the absorption of compounds on broad surfaces. There, for example, a consumer product called “Mud-X,” a cloth with a hydrophobic coating meant to be rubbed on car windshields to keep them clear — preventing their being wetted by muddy water.
To achieve adhesion between otherwise incompatible materials — to produce, for example, a filtering surface on glass (perhaps one reason Ford Motor Company did substantial research on the technology) — a base film of an organofunctional triethoxilane [RSi(O2C2H5)] is laid down on the glass substrate, its hydroxy groups bonding to the glass in a condensation reaction rejecting H2O. With the R-groups pointing upward, a second functional coating is chemically attached — a process our speaker fittingly characterized as “micro velcro.” Additional layers are sometimes added.
Dr. Mallik presented some visuals depicting the chemical structure of some of these polymerized matrices, “assembled velcro” composite molecules, one of which had a triangular shape — looking like a Christmas tree with a plethora of ornaments. Another resembled a “W” printed in a splendacious type font replete with decoration. Information on such structures is elicited in Robert’s laboratory using a variety of techniques that include vibrational spectroscopy and tunneling electron microscopy. Other slides included a schematic diagram of the tunnel junction geometry used in IETS, and spectrographs that looked at both energies and intensities. Robert passed around another visual that included both a circuit diagram and actual ultra-thin (1.5 nm) Al/Pb shadow mask having a tunneling junction of one square millimeter.
Our speaker’s conclusions included “(1) tunneling microscopy is a valuable tool for investigation of low-energy vibrational modes in ultra-thin artificial barriers; (2) detailed information on surface chemistry and physics may be obtained; (3) presence of siloxane adlayers causes modification of barrier parameters; (4) constant resolution spectroscopy offers significant improvement in performance for severely non-linear junctions and extends the accessible energy range.”
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, April 23, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Speaker for our April meeting (suggested by Leon Marker, Program Chairman Vic Burke reminds us) will be Dr. J. T. Gleeson of Kent State University Department of Physics.
Dr. Gleeson’s subject will be:
FROM ZEBRAS TO SNOWFLAKES IN GROWING LIQUID CRYSTALS
Minutes, April 23, 2001
Managing to make their way into the barely accessible Tangier (due to Market Street construction) were Dave Brown, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, Bill Jenkins, Leon Marker, Pad Pillai, Lyle Pauer, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson. And we were delighted to welcome visiting psychologist Rachel Wagner.
Called upon by Chairman Ernst for a report on progress in transforming this newsletter into an e-mail publication, your secretary reported that under the masterful guidance of Vic Burke, a number of innovative experiments had been attempted. But so far, although everyone received copy that was readable, we have yet found a digital elixir to satisfy the zoo of system software we are attempting to feed, and we apparently also face the confusion of unavailable fonts, text styles, etc., in some machines. Moreover, efforts to match the challenge imposed by this editor's typographic excesses sometimes result in a trash pile of mystic symbols, especially in the heading. To be continued...
Our April speaker was Dr. James T. Gleeson, Associate Professor of Physics, Kent State University, and Director of the KSU Planetarium - under whose celestial dome the first program of the resuscitated Akron Physics Club was held in November, 1990 (and where we enjoyed a custom program entitled "A Short Tour of the Planets").
Poetically entitled From Zebras to Snowflakes in Growing Liquid Crystals, Dr. Gleason's spirited lecture was an explanation of how patterns form in nature - or, getting down to the first cases, how a zebra gets its stripes. At which point our speaker filled the screen with an almost life-size Equss, the periodicity of whose stripes were invited to contemplate. From a mathematical standpoint, Jim suggested, we could consider each of the stripes as either a positive dislocation or a negative dislocation. This is not something programmed by the animal's DNA, he explained; rather the determination of where black pigments vs. white pigments ended up was something that was determined by interaction between the cells while the zebra was growing. At which point our attention was directed to a very different kind of pattern: giant images of spectacular snowflakes assembled by a Japanese photographer who spent part of his life on the slopes of Mount Fuji producing his spectacular collection.
But he wasn't the first to be carried away by the mysteries of spontaneous pattern formation in nature. In 1611, a dozen years after his Mysterium Cosmographicum, Johannes Kepler, buddy of Galileo Galilei and Tycho Brahe, produced a pamphlet on the subject: The Six-Cornered Snowflake, whose vintage cover Prof. Gleeson displayed - followed by results of some of his own laboratory experiments in pattern formation - patterns produced in disparate controlled venues: radiating filaments of zinc metal suggesting snow flakes. In a film of silicone oil we saw a pattern of tiny hexagons, the result of local convection eddies. [There does seem be something about the number 6!].
All of these, it turns out, are growth structures. They exist only at their moment of formation, while they are growing. They are spontaneously formed in a structure less environment. All are far larger than their constituents; e.g. multi-millimeter snowflakes out of molecules; radiating zinc filaments out of ions; regular, 25-foot scallops along a California beach (alternating wet and dry areas) assembled from grains of sand. All seem to have a distinguished provenance that is hopelessly complicated. But there are clues. Dynamic growth patterns occur at their own boundary layers, e.g., where zinc metal is plating out of an electrolyte; where water is turning to ice as crystalline needles grow - each led by a skinny advancing tip that is a parabola [as Vic recognized!]. And each slightly different, especially in the side branches, within the same snowflake.
Revealing some of his laboratory results, Dr. Gleeson showed a video sequence in which, when he applied a weak electric field to a 20-micron film of a liquid crystal fluid (which has 5 different viscosities because of its isotropic nature) he could cause dislocations begin to occur as he ramped up the voltage. Boundary layers began to appear between where the liquid was flowing and where it was not - boundaries between solid crystal and its own melt, ultimately turning into a pattern of zebra stripes. He also demonstrated how he could simulate "snowflakes," (whose parabolic tips grow at a constant speed) - in which there is a definitive relationship between growth speed, the radius of curvature of the parabolic tips, and the temperature; or, again, where the critical factors are speed of growth, the radius of curvature of the tips, and the magnetic field. The reason the real snowflake is a hexagonal lattice, it seems, is an example of crystalline anisotropy in which surface tension and anisotropy exactly cancel each other out, but can only do so in six directions. And what might be called local "thermal noise" prevents the needles of each snowflake, and their overall patterns, from being identical.
It is Jim Gleeson's hope that if we can understand how these things occur in a well controlled laboratory environment, we can possibly understand how nature chooses to structure the patterns that she has chosen for all of the things that happen outside.
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, May 21, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Speaker for our May meeting - last meeting until fall - will be our favorite biologist (and Dan's), Dr. Donna Galehouse of Children's Hospital Genetics Center - whom we last had the pleasure of hearing in 1994. Her topic will be:
THE HUMAN GENOME PROJECT:
HOW IT WAS ACCOMPLISHED, AND WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Minutes, May 21, 2001
Turning out for our last meeting of the season were Tom & Marie Brooker, Dave Brown, Vic Burke, Tom Dudek, Jack Gieck, Dan Galehouse, John Kirszenberg, Dan Livingston, Leon Marker, Lyle Pauer, Pad Pillai, Jerry & Barbara Potts, Darrell Reneker, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, and Charlie Wilson, and (accounting for the enthusiastic turnout) our favorite biologist, Dr. Donna Galehouse.
The meeting opened with Chairman Ernst advising your newsletter editor (who was apparently in a state of denial at the time) that he had failed to mention in the May newsletter that APC members had gone through the equivalent of an election, retaining the present officers of the Club by acclimation for yet another year, thus fulfilling the requirements of our bylaws as authored by Founder Charlie. Duly chastened, your secretary began taking notes.
Summoned for a report on our financial condition, Treasurer Dan announced that his best (conservative) estimate of our wealth at the moment was about $40. But, after the arithmetic dust had settled, it seems that our treasury has grown to the staggering sum of $63.39.
Turning to a (really) stunning contribution by our volunteer webmaster John Kirszenberg, Chairman Ernst asked for a report on our newly established Akron Physics Club Website — http://physics.uakron.edu/APC. Using both his professional skills and his persuasive talents, John has not only created a colorful, inviting Internet site for our club, but, as will be apparent to the cyberliterate, he has also convinced the University to sponsor our site — which means we will have no annual fee! Our collective thanks, John. The new website has also solved the puzzle of transitioning this APC newsletter into an on-line format that can be accessed by our mixed zoo of computers. The familiar (e-mailed) advance notice of meetings (the top of the page) will not only invite“Reply” reservations, but will also contain a link to our APC Website for members who wish to read the rest of the newsletter.
Which brought us to Program Chairman Vic’s introduction of our speaker. We had last heard Dr. Donna Galehouse, Director of Molecular Pathology at Children’s Hospital, in 1994 when she presented a talk on future prospects of Molecular Biology: The Organic Software that is us. Appropriately, Vic read the minutes of that talk. To refresh our minds about Dr. Galehouse’s technology we could do worse than quote one paragraph therefrom:
“Scaling down from DNA, which carries hereditary information from generation to generation, and RNA, which delivers the instructions encoded in this information to the cell's manufacturing sites (messenger RNA and structural RNA), we learned about four nucleotides (thymidine, adenine, cytosine, and guanine) — which are the monomers that form nucleic acids. Donna showed us the structure of DNA: very long linear strings of nucleotides (these are the components of chromosomes) geometrically arranged in the famous double helix, held together in parallel by the relatively weak zipper of hydrogen bonding — a kind of lusting after the hydrogen in the adjacent string by carbon atoms (especially atoms already involved in a double-bond carbonyl affair), and oxygen or nitrogen in the poymer’s twin. Stretched out, these incredibly long molecules would measure about 5 cm in length.”
It soon became apparent that Donna’s “future prospects” at the time have blossomed by orders of magnitude. Saying she would try to answer the list of questions posed by Charlie III, Donna’s title was The Human Genome Project: How it was Accomplished, and What does it mean? It might have been subtitled, The [Amazing!] Facts of Life.
Our speaker explained how this mammoth DNA sequencing project was able to determine whatever CGAT order are by first cutting up the 3.2 X 109 base pairs into manageable size pieces of less than 500 kb, then cloning them into cooperative bacteria [see illustration] who happily reproduce large quantities of these random segments — which must then be sorted out into some kind of order. Tools include enzymes, chain terminators, electrophoresis, fluorescent dyes read by a laser that sends data to a computer — for which software to unscramble the resulting duke’s mixture is commercially available on the Internet, as are libraries of clones, “paint probes,” and other arcane aids (see websites below). The process is becoming increasingly automated with machines the size of a refrigerator costing $300,000. These robots can now achieve 100,000 sequence reactions in eight hours.
The project has produced unexpected results, especially when comparing the DNA of humans with those of flies and worms! It turns out that we code for more genes, and we get more use out of the genes we have. On average, one human gene makes three different versions of a protein — flies and worms only one. Proteins are composed of domains defined by their amino acid sequence. Humans, flies, and worms use the same domains, but we do it more creatively. And there are differences in whole architectures of the combinations, which differ dramatically across the genome. It turns out that nearly half of human DNA segments are repeated sequences of non-coding “junk” DNA, which seem to have no function except to make copies of themselves. Only 1-1.5 % of the DNA actually codes for proteins, meaning that there are only 30,000 human genes — down from earlier estimates of 100,000. Flies have about 13,000 genes, worms 18,000. Donna is convinced that gene therapy is the way to cure genetic diseases.
For those who would like to get a better handle on the above than this writer can attempt, Donna gave us no less than nine websites. Having sampled them, your editor would recommend http://www.ensembl.org/genome/central (then click on the”ensemble.org” link). A site that starts from scratch, with animation, is http://vector.cshl.org/resources/resources.html (then click on the “DNA from the Beginning” link). Another click on my list: After calling up http://www.hgmp.mrc.ac.uk/GenomeWeb, try searching for “basics.” One other site worth mentioning is http://www.nhgri.nih.gov/educationkit
WE WELCOME VISITORS!
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, September 24, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Appropriately, with the sun rising over Antarctica as the autumnal equinox ensues later this week, Dr. Ralph P. Harvey, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences, Case Western University, will launch our new season, speaking on a subject for which he is well-known:
ANTARCTIC SEARCH FOR METEORITES:
SIFTING THE SANDS OF THE SOLAR SYSTEM
Minutes, September 24, 2001
Turning out with what was probably record attendance for our first meeting of the new season — barely hours after our now-autumnal shadows had reversed and begun to lengthen — were Tom & Marie Brooker, Vic Burke, Dave Brown, Vic Burke, Stuart Clary, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Alan Gent, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, Bill Jenkin, John Kirszenberg, Leon Marker, Robert Mallik, Lyle Pauer, Pad Pillai, Gerry Potts, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, Charlie Wilson, plus David Wynn and son Casey, both of whom we were delighted to welcome — especially those who got to sit at Casey’s table.
At Chairman Ernst von Meerwall’s request, Program Chairman Vic Burke presented some previews of coming attractions for our new calendar year, featuring member Ben Hu in October, discussing “The Phyics of Golf.” (it was Ben who started this Newsletter down the cyberpath), and, we hope, Decklan Keene and Bill Doane in coming months. Vic said he would also do some prospecting at Case Western Reserve, where he has struck more than one mother lode in the past. After which Treasurer Dan Galehouse assured the membership that the value of our assets would exceed $53 by the time financial dust of the evening had settled. The club remains solvent. We remain the cheapest club in Akron. Dues — $5, but rarely — only when our treasury drops below the red line. Hasn’t happened in several years.
Program Chairman Vic then introduced our speaker, Dr. Ralph P. Harvey, Assistant Professor of Geological Sciences, Case Western Reserve, a NASA Summer Faculty Fellow, consultant to PBS, BBC, CBC, the Discovery channel (and self-confessed Space Cadet on his personal website) who is constantly sought after by universities and significantly more prestigious groups than ours from New York to Houston, New Zealand to Switzerland, for his lectures and workshops on such subjects as the frontiers of science, the evolution of Mars, the solar system, and especially for his special interest, his continuing Antarctic Search for Meteorites: Sifting the Sands of the Solar System.
Acknowledging Vic’s well-researched recitation of his accumulated honors, our speaker suggested that it sounded like he was applying for tenure — or for the grant that had fallen apart earlier in the week!
Against a background of two of large screens lit by twin Ektagraphics, on one panel of which we were treated to colorful, often spectacular, very high-resolution (no dust in the air) Antarctic scenes — paired with explanatory text or with artists’ cosmic conceptions — Dr. Harvey began with a question: Why Antarctica?
The first answer is a forehead-slapper: because it is a big white sheet 1800 miles across, making meteorites much easier to find than those that otherwise drop in the woods, are trampled into the ground, or worse, drop into the ocean which covers most of the earth. A 1976 estimate suggested that only one in a thousand are ever found.
But things picked up when exploration went to Antarctica, where 90% of meteorites are found today. There is a subtler reason for Antarctica. This ice sheet, millions of years old, continuously sublimes, losing cubic kilometers of volume as years go by, concentrating what has landed there and improving the odds in this perennial Easter egg hunt — frequently resulting in finds as close as every ten meters for kilometers on end. But the barehanded sorting of rocks from the good stuff (most about the size of a walnut) on hands and knees at –10° to -15° C makes it look like a hobby that demands more dedication than your average dilettante. Nonetheless, the average yield today is about 600 per year. And such simple visual searching (reminding one of hunting for arrow heads in Missouri but never finding any) has proved much more productive than any high-tech electronic scanning devices tried to date. Most of these bits and pieces are moderately radioactive, having been bombarded by cosmic rays for millions of years.
The payoff, of course, is in the results of their analysis (meteorites are packaged and sent to the Johnson Space Center), revealing that samples are from 20-30,000 to 3.5 million years old, dropping (no pun intended) clues to the much more probing question, where do meteorites come from? (Most likely not from angels, as the ancients theorized.) The vast majority, it seems, are from the smashing together of the orbiting chunks in the Asteroid Belt. Dr. Harvey explained how some of these orbits are driven by resonances with planets — especially Jupiter. Some, obviously. been chipped off the Moon, because they are dead ringers for the Apollo Moon rocks our astronauts brought back. And yes, some are, indeed, from Mars. But there is no credible evidence that they include (bacterial) life forms as was once claimed. In fact the “worm-like” bits of minerals are of nanometer dimensions — too small to fit in more than a single RNA molecule. Moreover, the phenomenon of life, Dr. Harvey explained, depends on extremely dilute water solutions to provide the necessary mobility for organic materials. These submicroscopic grains are clearly crystallographically linked to the substrate. They appear to be nothing more than a lucky photomicrographic coincidence, imaginatively interpreted.
Chemical analysis of the Martian pieces reveals that their composition includes lots of oxygen in the form of iron oxides (Mars does look like the original rust belt); also melted glass, and — confirming the Viking Lander’s finds — xenon, krypton, neon, argon, nitrogen, and carbon dioxide. But Mars isn’t the only planet whose pieces are occasionally raining down upon us. And one planet, it seems, collects different noble gases than another. In carbonaceous objects, diamonds, calcium carbide, titanium, and nitrogen are found.
The smashing of asteroids into the surface of the Moon or Mars, or other planets with sufficient force to achieve escape velocity generates enough energy to produce temperatures in the 22-2500° C range, melting minerals into lava-like “chondruels.” Smaller pieces of these frequently accrete together, looking like lumps of gravel as the molten rocky buckshot suddenly plunges into the deep freeze of space. Some of the cross sections we saw could be mistaken for pieces of a broken concrete sidewalk.
All of the meteorites we find today, Dr. Harvey believes, came from within the solar system. In fact, the Solar System is much more likely to be an exporter rather than an importer. But that doesn’t really answer the where these objects came from. Most, our speaker explained, are dregs of the Solar Nebula during formation of our Solar System. But where did the stuff come from before that big cosmic eddy swirled into the sky some 4.556 billion years ago? All of the heavier elements — the precursors of life — of which we and the Earth and these found-object meteorites are made were manufactured in the nuclear furnaces of stars.
Some believe that in the center of asteroids we are likely to find the really heavy elements: gold, platinum, uranium, etc.) Carbon rich red giants, we learned, produce carbonate minerals; supernova light graphite, silicon carbide. But until we capture one of those, we will be dependent on intrepid teams like the one Ralph Harvey heads, to pick up the pieces — and new clues.
WE WELCOME VISITORS!
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, October 22, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Having just heard about fascinating events taking place at the south end of our own great earthmother magnet, thanks to speaker Ralph Harvey, it seems appropriate that in October we will be privileged to hear geophysicist Dr. Gerhard Kunze, recently-retired Professor of Geological Sciences, University, of Akron, who will be speaking to us on:
Minutes, October 22, 2001
Turning out for our club’s October meeting with what was certifiably record attendance were Georg Böhm, Tom & Marie Brooker, Dave Brown, Vic Burke, Stu Clary, Tom Dudek, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, Bill Jenkin, John Kirszenberg, Leon Marker, Robert Mallik, Pad Pillai, Darrell Reneker, John Russell, Dave Steer (hope we see more of you Dave) Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwall, Charlie Wilson, David Wynn and son Casey; Dave also brought Joe Angelis (we hope you’ll be back, Joe — and the same goes for John R [FYI: there’s a street by that name in Detroit]).
At which point, Chairman Ernst presented the reason for our record attendance, introducing recently-retired Professor of Geological Sciences, Dr. Gerhard Kunze, whom the University of Akron was lucky enough to attract some 27 years ago. For that to have happened, although he was born in the U.S., Dr. Kunze had to first escape from East Germany and find his way to our part of the world, fortunately (for both our speaker and his audience) by way of Austria, for it was there that he married Dianne, who joined us for the evening — and she is fun! Dr. Kunze’s topic was Geomagnetism, about which, as it turned out, he knows a very great deal. But it seems to be a field about which there is still a great deal yet to be learned — George Pal’s speculative Journey to the Center of the Earth (1959) notwithstanding.
That the Earth is a magnetic dipole, our speaker explained, was first announced in a book by Sir William Gilbert in 1600, which makes him the first geophysicist — and thus the science of geophysics began with geomagnetism. As it turns out, the axis of Earth’s dipole has its axis tilted off our axis of rotation by almost 11° (furthermore, there is a difference of hundreds of kilometers between the North Magnetic Pole and the Geomagnetic Pole), and there is a great deal of irregularity in the field as one moves toward the equator and around the globe. Both the strength and direction vary significantly with latitude (by a 100%), both horizontally and vertically. Moreover, superimposed on the dipole field is a weaker non-dipole field. From a goodly distance (i.e., out in space) it can be seen that the field(s) are distorted and “blown about” by the solar wind, making the entire magnetosphere surrounding the Earth look something like a comet.
Dr. Kunze’s maps of magnetic declination, inclination, and field strength across the world looked rather like weather maps with several cyclonic systems that could be breeding hurricanes. These maps, it seems, don’t last long. Both vertical and horizontal components change, and the strength of the field waxes and wanes from year to year. The non-dipole field (the irregular portion of the field), drifts westward about a tenth of a degree per year. Thus, in 3600 years or so, it could go completely around the Earth!
The above constitutes evidence that the source of the Earth’s magnetic field does not originate in its crust. Iron oxides in the Earth’s crust do get weakly magnetized, of course, and, layer by layer, they constitute “frozen” maps of where magnetic points were when the layers formed — incidentally providing clues to continental drift in aeons past. Neither can the earth’s core be magnetized, because iron loses its magnetism above 750° C. So where does the magnetism come from? It seems, our speaker explained, to be a product of the magneto-hydrodynamics of convective currents in the molten iron-nickel core of the earth. The randomness of these movements probably accounts for some of the continual changes .
There is evidence, we learned, that the polarity of the earth has reversed several times. The most dramatic, this listener felt, is pictured on the sea floor, where, like tree rings, stripes of reversal patterns (some resembling tire treads!), make it possible to analyze, with the help of other magnetic reversal-pattern clues, how and when the Earth’s tektonic plates broke off from the original supercontinent, and how our continental puzzle pieces, drifting about with respect to each other, ended up where they are now (not that their present locations are going to stay that way).
The time when these events took place is relatively recent in geological terms. It was a little startling to learn that 135 million years ago the South Atlantic did not exist! Africa and South America’s divorce was still in the Pangean court. The North Atlantic goes back about 200 million years; the oldest rocks in the Pacific 300 million — all of this data based on magnetic anomalies on the sea floor.
Finally (at Chairman Ernst’s request, Gerhard said) our speaker turned to the rest of the Solar System and the magnetic fields — or the lack of them — of other planets. As it turns out, Mercury has a very weak field with about one thousandth the magnetic moment of the Earth. None has been detected by U.S. probes on Venus or Mars. Jupiter and Saturn, however, have extremely strong fields. Saturn’s is 600 times that of the Earth! These fields are probably produced by convective currents in their metallic liquid hydrogen cores. And the field of the Sun, not surprisingly, is enormous — and irregular. Interestingly, the non-dipole field of sunspots, those violent nuclear storms, is greater than that of the dipole field.
In informal chat after the program (and your secretary thought it important to document this matter!), following a flood of questions that were an index of the talk’s popularity, Dr. Kunze seemed amenable to paying us another visit in the future — perhaps talking about meteorology next time.
And if you’ve just stumbled into the site: WE WELCOME VISITORS!
Meeting Announcement: MONDAY, November 26, 2001 - TANGIER, 6:00 PM
Our last meeting of the year will feature Dr. Yu Kuang Hu, Assistant Professor of Physics, University, of Akron, better known to us as our own Ben Hu — whose innovative persistence resulted in the cyberization of this Newsletter. The subject of Ben’s talk will be:
THE PHYSICS OF GOLF
Minutes, November 26, 2001
Turning out for our club’s last meeting of the old year, whose subject drew several guests in addition to regulars David Brown, Vic Burke, Ali Dhinojwala, Dan Galehouse, Jack Gieck, Bob Hirst, Ben Hu, John Kirszenberg, Jutta Luetmer-Strathmann, Leon Marker, Robert Mallik, Lyle Pauer (whose guests were Larry Wallman and Jim Frater); Gary Roberts, Jack Strang, Ernst von Meerwaal, Joe Walter, Charlie Wilson (and son Rob), and David Wynn (who brought not only Casey, who is getting to be a regular himself, but also Casey’s science teacher, Jim Jenson). We hope all of our guests know they are invited to future meetings, and that most will be enticed to come back. They are receiving invitations to the current meeting.
In club business, Treasurer Dan Galehouse reported that our cash box is closing out the year with a horde in three figures, an amount equal to last month’s balance of $110.60, plus a modest profit for the evening. Your Secretary reported that he had delivered a Club Archives CD to Webmaster John Kirszenberg, containing the last 11 years of Minutes and Newsletters, together with a Table of Contents, making it possible for the surfer to find the write-up of a program in Search Mode by subject, by speaker, or by date. John advises that these goodies will be posted on our website forthwith.
Our year closed out with a certifiably fun program for both the speaker and his audience. Our own Ben Hu (Dr. Yu Kuang Hu) — having just completed an intensive series of related experiments at a California venue — stimulated our minds (and our wishbones) with his promised program on The Physics of Golf. Ben addressed three (pretty darned important as it turns out) areas of study: (1) aerodynamics of the ball, (2) physics of the club-head, and (3) physics of the golf swing — beginning with properties of the raw materials he (and we) have to work with — and some statistics resulting therefrom:
|Ball Diameter||1.68 in||4.27 cm|
|Hole Diameter||4.25 in||10.8 cm|
|Ball Weight||1.62 oz||45.9 g|
|Typical Driver Head Weight||7 oz||200 g|
|Typical Club-head Speed||110 mph|
|(Ditto, Tiger Wood Speed)||130 mph|
|Typical Ball Speed||150 mph||67 m/s|
|Club-Ball Contact||0.5 msec|
|Ball Spin Rate - Driver||60 rps||3600 rpm (Mostly Backspin|
|Ball Spin Rate - 5 Iron||160 rps||9600 rpm (!)|
|Ball Kinetic Energy||100 joules|
While keeping all of the above in mind, it is the responsibility of the golfer to apply the laws of physics (together with his intuition) each time he launches the ball while negotiating a fairway about 25 yards wide and 275 yards long. The margin of error to keep the ball within these confines when it lands, it turns out, is 2.5 degrees. With half-a-millisecond of club-ball contact, those who claim to impart special magic to the ball while in its brief intimacy with the club-head are to be doubted. Moreover, if they manage to induce any sidespin, it exacerbates their error.
Ben explained in detail how backspin on the ball contributes enormously to its lift — almost doubling its range from 370 feet for a drive with no spin to as much as 600 feet with a healthy backspin. The mechanism, we learned, is very similar to the production of lift on an airplane wing — in which application, air traveling faster over the (longer) top surface reduces the air pressure on top of the wing. [And which concept finally explains the converse: why, when this writer attempted the game decades ago, each time topping the ball with sufficient clout to cut the cover, giving it so much topspin and that no matter how hard he hit the thing, the ball was sucked down to the ground about 50 feet out.]
The last column in the spin data, above, relates spin to equivalent engine tachometer readings (9600 rpm could blow a passenger car engine). Our speaker pointed out that a 160 rps ball is frequently heard to “sizzle.” In music, the fundamental of 160 Hz is about two thirds of an octave below Middle C on a piano — the pitch of a slightly flat violin G-string. Maybe the higher-frequency “sizzle” could be related to the dimples? In any case, these little negative bumps in the ball surface actually contribute to aerodynamic lift by reducing energy-absorbing turbulence at the boundary layer (shades of Bernouli’s theorem, even though the medium is neither nonviscous nor incompressible).
For the game of golf, the laws of physics seem to produce lots of results that are counterintuitive, e.g., the face of a club-head is convex; dimples reduce drag; the ball’s trajectory is not a parabola. In fact, its range would be significantly shorter if it were. Prof. Hu gave us students a quiz whose answers, it was demonstrated, could not be guessed by a roomful of PhDs, much less the uninitiate. Samples: A 30 mph tailwind is blowing above the trees behind the tee. When the ball’s trajectory rises above treetop level, will the ball land long, short, or just right? A sidewind is blowing from right to left. Should one aim left, right, deliberately hook, or slice (or give up the game)?
With regard to the physics of the club-head it turns out that the (unlikely) convexity of the club-head is an effort to counteract effects produced by the torsional twisting of the head mass, which otherwise tends to hook the ball.
Addressing the physics of the golf swing, Ben explained how putting the mass of the club-head as far away as possible increases the moment of inertia of the weapon to deliver maximum energy to the ball. Coaches, who consider little of this stuff from a physical dynamics perspective, relate their teaching instead to palpable muscle feel. Ben Hogan speaks of “cohesive movement of body, arms, legs.” There is, for example, much more power available in the legs than in the arms — which, by themselves, cannot hit 300-yard drives. So, using collision theory, pros stress that one must transfer power from the legs to the upper body — with the lower body moving forward before the upper body moves significantly — lots of torque at the top of the swing, substantially bending the club shaft — but with the wrists relaxed at the moment of impact. [Where were you 40 years ago when some of us needed you, Ben?]
Finally, when I queried our speaker about the significance of the 4.25-inch entry in the above table, he explained that "4.25 inches is the diameter of the hole. Actually," he said, "I never used this number. I had intended to talk about why one should leave the pin in when you chip from off the green. However, my calculations did not seem to give the definitive proof that I had originally envisaged. I'm still convinced, though, from empirical observation, that the pin should be left in." As is apparent, counterintuitivity, thy name is GOLF. But, as our speaker demonstrated, it is fun to understand what is going on, even if one can’t control it.