So, how does Agent 007 -- aka James Bond -- do it? What exactly is the force that propels the Batmobile?
What's behind the momentum and energy of Hollywood stunt cruisers when they collide?
Central Lakes College physics students have an idea. Their experiments with a laboratory collision demonstrator determine energy changes and classifications that are the basis for fictional action episodes designed to look real.
In the redesigned multipurpose lab on the Brainerd campus, they are using a rail with collision carts and motional detectors connected to computers equipped with data acquisition software (LoggerPro).
"We're measuring momentum and energy after a collision," said Dustin Blue of Virginia, a sophomore planning to study marine biology at Hawaii Pacific University after earning his transfer degree at CLC.
Instructor Brian Kohn watches his bright collegiates compute and evaluate data from the automated system loaded into the computer. They measure the velocity of objects, everything compiled in metric measurement.
These may be slow-speed collisions, with the crash carts zipping toward each other at a blazing half-meter per second (1.12 mph). But the data can be extrapolated onto the grand scale of what we see in the movies as life-size vehicles crash.
These studies mirror the kind of impact research conducted by the Insurance Institute and other safety-issue agencies that determine the survival rates and likelihood of injuries resulting from impacts.
A James Bond-like feature can be employed as part of the research. One end of the collision cart includes a miniature battering ram. The protruding ram clicks out of the cart and thrusts an adjacent cart down the track.
Is it an elastic, inelastic or super-elastic collision? It depends on how much energy is conserved, how much kinetic energy is lost or gained, and if the objects stick together after collision.
"It is rather fascinating, once you begin to compare energy changes in the different collisions," said John Richardson, a native of England planning to study ecology and sociology at St. Cloud State University next fall.
Tom Nixon, Deerwood, is among the quickest to compute and advise of results that are retrieved for display on the computer screen. "This simulates the spontaneous splitting of an atom," he said.
Blake St. Sauver, Pierz, mans the computer and likes the graphic displays that can be produced using LoggerPro software. "It is interesting to see the results of various types of collisions and the changes as we switch from magnetic bumpers to Velcro and back," he said.
These students share the modernized lab and equipment with those taking courses in earth science, engineering design and astronomy.
"We are gaining a great deal of versatility with what used to be just the physics lab," said Kohn. The physics department has gained a fair amount of relevant, critical space for the growing program Kohn inherited when the venerable George Bedard retired.
Instructors Dave Kobilka (earth science) and Jim Wentworth (astronomy) are making use of the facilities. Chemistry, oceanography and biology have additional laboratory and lecture space in the east wing at CLC.
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