Making Sport of Physics

Bamford to Ladybower Reservoir

I spent yesterday (Sunday, 24 April 2016) with a colleague and his wife hiking in the Derbyshire part of the Peak District.  We took a short train ride from Sheffield to Bamford, which is a small village with a population around a thousand.  We crossed River Derwent just west of Bamford using stepping stones and footbridges (click on the image for a larger view).

We then proceeded north toward the Ladybower Reservoir in the Upper Derwent Valley.  Once at the Ladybower Dam, I took a photo of the massive overflow just inside the reservoir (click on the image for a larger view).

Reservoirs are great examples of the application of potential energy.  It takes energy to raise water to a certain height, and much of that energy may be retrieved by allowing the water to fall.  As we walked along the eastern edge of the reservoir, I got a sense of just how large the body of water is.  I took the photo below from the eastern edge of Ladybower Reservoir as I looked across to the Ashopton Viaduct, which carries Snake Road or the A57 (click on the image for a larger view).

As you can tell from the above photo, we didn’t have the greatest weather on our hike.  But one must get used to cloudy skies and rain if one is to enjoy hiking in England!  After walking awhile, I needed a break (click on the image for a larger view).

I am looking west at beautiful Peak District scenery.  We then headed back toward Ladybower Dam and had a fantastic lunch at The Yorkshire Bridge Inn.  We completed our 10-mi (16-km) hike by climbing New Road towards Bamford Edge and then descending toward Bamford along The Clough.  The latter path was officially closed, but we had a train to catch and braved the steep decent.  It wasn’t so bad!

The high temperature in Sheffield this week looks to be around 9 C (48.2 F).  Rain is expected next weekend, so we may take a weekend off from hiking.

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Earth Day, the Queen, and Modelling in Sport

Today is Earth Day, and it’s important for several reasons, most notably the Paris Agreement is now open for signatures.  The US better be rushing to sign.  Climate scientists have been calling for action for decades now.  I hope to see my country taking established science more seriously and doing more to combat climate problems.  There are more than 7.3 billion people in the world, which is twice the human population in my birth year of 1970.  Nobody can be blamed for wanting a car, a nice home with air conditioning, and all the other comforts of modern living.  But it would help everyone to understand that we all share a common ancestor, just as we share common ancestors with all living things.  We are just one of a whole multitude of species occupying Earth.  Let’s leave it better than we found it.

Yesterday was a fun day.  I woke up to the news that Queen Elizabeth II turned 90.  As someone from a country with a secular government and no monarchy, especially a country that tossed out the English more than two centuries ago, I find the English monarchy to be rather silly.  But I suppose it’s been neat being here when QEII became the longest serving monarch and when she turned 90.  Maybe the English will give up the monarchy someday, but traditions die hard.

I got a chance to talk research yesterday.  My colleague asked me to guest lecture in his Sports Engineering course.  I never turn down an opportunity to talk to students about my research work.  They were a fun bunch of kids who asked great questions as I talked to them about my Tour de France and World Cup football work.  A physicist like me tries to tease out of the natural world what is important for a particular phenomenon.  The students I talked to certainly knew that worrying about Jupiter’s pull on a cyclist would be a waste of time, whereas cyclist power output is worth studying.

After a fun lecture, I enjoyed a few pints at the Red Deer with a couple of colleagues.  Few things finish off a great day better than delicious cask ale and palaver with friends.  My college needs a pub!

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Peak District and Bakewell

This past Sunday, 17 April 2016, my family took a bus from Sheffield to Bakewell.  We wanted to hike a part of the Peak District we’d not seen before.  I found out when we got home that we were in the Peak District on the 65th anniversary of the Peak District becoming the UK’s first National Park.  That fact, plus ideal English spring weather, made for a perfect day to hike.

We hiked about five miles, some of which was along the Monsal Trail.  The loop we hiked was southeast of Bakewell.  Because bridleways make up part of the trail, we encountered several sections of muddy terrain.  Mud isn’t a problem if you’re wearing a good pair of hiking boots!  We enjoyed walking alongside many sheep.  The photo below shows wonderful green grass enjoyed by playful lambs and watchful ewes (click on the image for a larger view).


After walking a couple of miles, a gorgeous valley opened up for us (click on the image for a larger view).

We then hiked uphill through wooded areas with lots of muddy sections.  Once we broke through the woods, we were met with an incredible Peak District view.  I got so giddy and filled with joy that I had to take out running (click on the image for a larger view).

Note the shadows of trees off to the left, which mark the end of the woods.  The stunning blue sky and the lush green grass almost colour overloaded us.  The part of the Peak District in Derbyshire is certainly a thing of beauty.  And of course no hike through the Peak District is complete without stopping in a great country pub.  We chose The Peacock in Bakewell, and we weren’t disappointed (click on the image for a larger view).

But our food consumption didn’t stop with The Peacock’s delicious dishes and tasty cask ales.  We had to experience what Bakewell is famous for:  Bakewell pudding and Bakewell tart (not the same!).  Suffice to say, Bakewell’s reputation for pudding and tart is well deserved.  I had to get some tart to take home from The Old Original Bakewell Pudding Shop (click on the image for a larger view).

The shop also has lots of little odds and ends.  By the time we got back to Sheffield, we were tired and well fed.  Truly a great day in the Peak District!

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Fun Time in Germany

I pick up yesterday’s sabbatical journal with a few comments today about our recent week spent in Germany.  We spent about two thirds of our week in Hamburg and the remaining third in Berlin.  What we loved more than anything was spending our Hamburg time with a friend of mine and his family.  We got to experience a little German life from a normal home on a normal street.  Our two daughters managed to interact well with their three children, despite the fact that our children don’t speak German and their children don’t speak English.  Nothing like a playground or a trampoline to break language barriers!

A real treat for us was visiting Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg.  I cannot recommend this place highly enough.  It was wonderful!  We saw the most amazing miniature train displays, airport displays, and many other miniature set-ups.  Check out the scene of a Swiss train station below (click on the image for a larger view).

The detail on the people, trains, and other various objects is extraordinary.  The scene below made me giddy (click on the image for a larger view).

They had a demonstration using Magdeburg hemispheres!  It was thrilling to see a classic physics experiment in miniature.

We also saw much of Hamburg’s city centre, including the Hamburg Rathaus (click on the image for a larger view).

Despite the rain, we enjoyed touring the city.  We also enjoyed visiting Wildpark Schwarze Berge in Rosengarten on Easter.  We saw many animals and got to pet and feed a few of them.  Anyone with children who find themselves near Hamburg should get to that park.

We stayed in what used to be East Berlin after leaving Hamburg.  It was not hard to see the influence of four decades of Soviet occupation.  Visiting the remains of the Berlin Wall gave us a chilly reminder of the Cold War.  The photo below shows me in front of a graffiti-filled part of the wall (click on the image for a larger view).

The circular part at the top helped prevent people from climbing over the wall.  Nothing like applying physics to something terrible.  And nothing like seeing walls between people come down.

Of course we had to visit the government buildings in Berlin.  The Reichstag is a particularly interesting building (click on the image for a larger view).

We enjoyed good food and beer in Germany, as well as good times with friends.  Now I’m anxious to visit the southern parts of Germany!

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Seeing Beauty and Division in Northern Ireland

My sabbatical journal writing was on hold over the past fortnight as my family was on holiday.  Our first of two trips took us to Northern Ireland.  We visited Ireland seven years ago during my first sabbatical.  Getting to Northern Ireland completes the last big piece in the “seeing the UK” puzzle for us.  We stayed in Belfast, which is a beautiful city.  To get a great look at the city, we did a little hiking toward Cavehill.  I snapped the photo below on our way up (click on the image for a larger view).

Hiking the hills mostly north of the city was a lot of fun.  Leave it to Northern Ireland to give us lots of green!

We toured the northern coast of Northern Ireland and were met with breathtaking vistas.  Picking a representative photo for this blog post wasn’t easy.  I selected one I took looking back toward the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge that we crossed to the teensy island of Carrickarede (click on the image for a larger view).

And of course we had to visit Giant’s Causway.  Seeing those 40,000 basalt columns blew me away.  I felt like I was living geology from 50 million years ago.  One of my daughters snapped the photo below (click on the image for a larger view).

Touring the city of Belfast proved to be quite an education.  We hired a Catholic Republican loyalist to take us on a taxi tour of the locations made famous by The Troubles.  Though from the Catholic point of view, I’ll never forget the stories we heard from our guide.  We wrote on the Peace Wall, something hard for me to conceive.  Check out the photo below (click on the image for a larger view).

We were on the Catholic side of the Peace Wall and the people living to the left of the wall in the photo have put cages on their property to protect themselves from flying objects, like bricks.  I simply can’t imagine what it’s like living under such conditions.

I’ll write about our second holiday trip tomorrow in which we got to see another famous wall.

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Hoosiers Win Big Ten!

Wouldn’t you just know it.  I am out of the US this year and my Indiana Hoosiers win the Big Ten Conference.  I wasn’t able to see any of the games!  We beat Iowa on the road last night to secure an outright conference championship, our first since 2013.  I would love to have seen the win, but the game started at 2 am here.  I just can’t miss a night’s sleep!  Oh well, it was a welcome treat to see the score and see highlights of the players celebrating.

I have been affiliated with Lynchburg College for nearly 14 years.  It took awhile for the school to grow on me, but I really love it now.  Both our men’s and women’s basketball teams won conference titles this year.  But there really is something special about one’s alma maters.  I root for Vanderbilt and Indiana like crazy.  Vandy beat Tennessee last night and, as strange as it seems, has an outside shot a tying for the top of the SEC come season’s end.  The great thing about one’s alma maters is that they stay with you for life.

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Lose Hill to Mam Tor Ridge Hike

This past Sunday, my younger daughter and I hit the Peak District for a great hike.  We took a bus to Hope and set out on a hike up Lose Hill.  My younger daughter doesn’t remember going up Lose Hill more than seven years ago because she was about two-and-a-half at the time and sat in a harness on my backpack.  Now nearly ten, she is quite the hiker.  She bounded up Lose Hill with little effort.

After reaching the top of Lose Hill and enjoying the incredible vistas and strong wind, we began the ridge hike over to Mam Tor.  We had been to Mam Tor earlier, but this time we hiked to it from Lose Hill.  The photo below shows me atop Back Tor, not too far from the Lose Hill peak (click on the image for a larger view).

Hope Valley is off to the left (my right).  You can see the ridge walk that gets one to Mam Tor, which is visible at centre left.  We probably walked about 6 mi (9.7 km) because after hiking down Mam Tor, we walked into Castleton.  There we sat our tired bodies down in The Castle pub.  I enjoyed a few pints of great English cask ale and my daughter had hot chocolate.  The food there was great!

I absolutely love my work.  Researching sports physics and teaching physics are so much fun for me.  But even more fun for me is seeing my younger daughter hike like crazy in a beautiful part of the world.

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Daytona 500 Finish Line Math

I was not able to see yesterday’s Daytona 500, in which Denny Hamlin beat Martin Truex, Jr by the smallest time since electronic scoring came into NASCAR back in 1993.  But headlines and stories this morning got my attention.  Most stories I read reported a winning time of 0.010 s, i.e. three digits past the decimal were stated.  I then read that Hamlin “won by inches” in several articles, some of which gave winning distances in the range 4 in – 6 in.  Before I saw the photo finish, the numbers weren’t making sense to me.

A NASCAR race car travels about 200 mph, which converts to 3520 in/s.  Winning by 0.010 s means winning by (3520 in/s)(0.010 s) = 35.2 in, which is nearly 3 ft.  That’s why the numbers I read didn’t make sense to me.  I’m assuming a constant speed here and in what follows, a reasonable approximation for such a short time interval.

I then watched a replay of the final lap.  Speedometers on the lead cars showed they were just over 190 mph in the final turn.  I grabbed a screen capture of the finish (click the image for a larger view).

That winning distance looks larger than 6 in to me.  I checked out one web site (click here) that told me that the Toyota Camry Hamlin was driving is 189.2 in long.  Another web site (click here) told me the tire diameter is 28 in.  Using either of those reference lengths as my calibration distance, Tracker told me that the winning distance was about 20 in.  If Hamlin’s tires really have a diameter of 28 in, a 20-in winning distance looks reasonable.  The gap between Truex’s car and the finish line looks smaller than a tire diameter, but not by much.

So take the winning distance to be 20 in.  If the winning time really was 0.010 s, that means a speed of 2000 in/s = 114 mph.  That can’t be right!  If the cars were going 200 mph and the winning distance was 20 in, the winning time would have been (20 in)/(3520 in/s) = 0.00568 s.   Crank up the speed to 220 mph and the winning time drops to 0.00517 s.  Drop the speed to 180 mph and the winning time increases to 0.00631 s.  All three of those times round to 0.01 s, but the winning time was reported as 0.010 s, i.e. three digits past the decimal.  I actually found a couple of articles that had the winning time as 0.011 s, but that makes what’s being reported even worse!

I didn’t see the race and thus may have missed commentary about the winning time.  It seems to me that the winning time that was reported was too big by a factor of 1.8 or so.  If there are any NASCAR fans out there who can provide me with a missing detail, I would love to hear from you!

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Remembering the Paragon of Bravery

Seventy-two years ago today, a plane crashed in a park near where I’m currently living in Sheffield.  A United States Army Air Force B-17 Flying Fortress named “Mi Amigo” was hit while flying a mission over Denmark.  Returning to England, the plane was headed for a crash in Sheffield’s Endcliffe Park.  Sighting children playing in the park, the crew chose not to try for a crash landing on the large, flat, grassy area of the park and instead crashed the plane into a wooded area on a hill in the park.  All ten on board were killed.  Protecting those kids in the park made all ten instant war heroes as much as any of their previous deeds.

My younger daughter and I were in Endcliffe Park yesterday (Sunday, 21 February).  She fed ducks on two ponds and then played for awhile on the playground.  As we were preparing to leave, I saw men and women wearing my country’s Air Force uniform.  It dawned on me that this was the Sunday when the annual remembrance of the plane crash would take place.  My daughter and I went to the crash sight and watched the ceremony.  I took the photo below just before the ceremony began (click on the image for a larger view).

It was a beautiful day in the park; the sun was out and wind sometimes got pretty strong.  I felt pride seeing my country’s servicemen and servicewomen at the ceremony.  I spoke to a couple of them afterwards, asking them where they were stationed and thanking them for their service.  The Royal Air Forces Association organizes the ceremony in the park each year.  It was moving hearing the names of the ten crew members who died in the crash, but well worth hearing every one of them.

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A Delightful Hour of Music

My wife and I visited our favorite Peak District pub, the Fox House, the day before Valentine’s Day.  She made the experience even more wonderful for me by telling me that she had purchased tickets for an upcoming concert.  After a great week of work in which I got to teach my first tutorial of the current semester, my wife and I made our way to The Crucible Theater for the concert.  What a lovely hour of music we experienced on a Saturday afternoon!

I love experiencing chamber music in person because of the intimate feel one has with the performers.  Unlike listening to the music on an iPod, watching a live performance affords one the chance to see how the performers experience the music.  It had been many years since I witnessed chamber music in person, mostly because of being a workaholic and using free time for family and martial arts.

Yesterday I was introduced to the music of Sterndale Bennett, who was born in Sheffield 200 years ago.  My wife and I sat in Tier 1, which was the top of the cozy theater.  Because we aren’t from the UK, I told my wife that we were Tier 1 Imports (I got the expected eye roll after a corny joke!).  Before the music started, Tim Horton, the pianist, talked to the audience about Sterndale Bennett, his music, and the performers’ interest in celebrating the 200th anniversary of his birth year.  How great to hear a Sheffield composer in a Sheffield theater!

The piece we heard was Bennett’s Chamber Trio in A Op. 26.  Composed in 1839, the piece was positively delightful. I particularly enjoyed watching Gemma Rosefield on cello as she faced Benjamin Nabarro on violin.  During the second movement, the serenade, the string instruments were alternately plucked.  I had the image of two children talking back and forth with each other, two plucky children.  The piano was like a parent keeping the children from getting too wild.  I’m no musical expert, and I may have butchered what a connoisseur would describe for that second movement, but that was my honest feeling while watching it.  I could see Rosefield’s face really well and she played with a lot of plucky passion.  She was fun to watch!  I will definitely check out more of Bennett’s music.

After a brief intermission, a quartet prepared to play String Quartet in A Op. 41 No.3 by Robert Schumann.  I had heard this piece many years ago.  It was composed in 1842 during Schumann’s “year of chamber music.”  Joining Rosenfield and Nabarro were violinist Claudia Ajmone-Marsan and violist Ruth Gibson.  Prior to the beginning of the music, Nabarro regaled us with his obvious love and passion for Schumann’s music.  He compared themes in the Bennett piece we had just heard with the Schumann piece we were about to hear.

I don’t know why children were on my mind, but I had another thought of a child while listening to the Schumann piece.  It’s great music with lots of passion from the quartet of performers.  During the third movement, the adagio molto, the viola seems a bit sad.  Gibson looked sad while playing.  As the fourth movement, the finale allegro molto vivace, got going, it looked like Nabarro’s violin was talking to Gibson’s viola, almost perking her up as the music progressed.  I had the image of the sad child in the third movement getting cheered up and joining the others in the fourth movement.  Again, a connoisseur might think I’m nuts for such imagery, but I’m sticking with it!

I thank my wife for a great Valentine’s gift.  It was a delightful hour during which I could experience new feelings while encountering great music.

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