They Didn't Ask Me (dr_phil_physics) wrote,
They Didn't Ask Me
dr_phil_physics

West Michigan Statues Part 1

If you happen by Google today, the current doodle shows a Foucault Pendulum. It's Foucault's birthday you see -- September 18th.

Yesterday a large metal ball suspended over a sand box was removed from outside the GVSU Physics Dept. Mostly the articles on TV or print have gotten the details of what the ball is completely wrong.

I taught one year at GVSU in the early 90s. The then Loutit Hall was encased by the new Padnos science building while I was there. As they finished the "addition", a steel arm was erected from the side of the building over a sand box and eventually they hung the ball. It's a form of a Foucault Pendulum, the spike on the bottom of the sphere makes tracks in the sand as it swings back and forth, moving sideways due the Earth's rotation. That was in 1995.

Fast forward to today's trash-du-jour Miley Cyrus and a video of her song Wrecking Ball. The university became aware that students were duplicating Miley's swinging ride with the steel ball, sometimes several people at a time and sometimes nude. The university says it put the ball in storage for safety reasons.

How some ever...

-- Students have been swinging on the ball for eighteen years. Though to be fair, the university claims an uptick in the numbers to be a factor.

-- One of the local TV news programs showed footprints in the sand as proof of students' Doing Bad Things, while ignoring the fact that it isn't a simple sculpture, but an interactive science demonstration. One that requires you to climb into the sandbox so that one or more can push the ball over so it can swing. In other words, to use it as it was intended.

-- Both local and national news reports have failed to even understand what the thing is, just calling it a sculpture.

Sigh.

I often ask my students how many news anchors have degrees in Physics or any science or engineering major. Same with politicians. And these are the people who inform you and legislate?

Sigh.

Dr. Phil
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