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# Question 01/05 ROPE BETWEEN INCLINES

A rope rests on two platforms which are both inclined at an angle (which you are free to pick), as shown. The rope has uniform mass density, and its coeffciient of friction with the platforms is 1. The system has left-right symmetry. What is the largest possible fraction of the rope that does not touch the platforms? What angle allows this maximum value? Question 02/05 NEGATIVE INDEX

A ray of light is incident on a boundary between vacuum and material that (at that particular frequency) has dielectric constant =-1 and magnetic permeability =-1. (Stricly speaking, these quantities must also have imaginary

parts. We will assume that they are very small.) The incidence angle is . What can you say about the direction of the reflected and the transmitted rays. Question 03/05 AGAINST THE WIND A boat carries a wind motor of a windmill type, which drives the propeller screw. Discuss the possibility that such a boat can sail against the wind. This problem appears without solution in "Physics Problems" by P. L. Kapitza. Question 04/05 LINEAR MOLECULES

Consider a two-dimensional gas of molecules inside a rectangular box of small width d and very large length. If the box is filled by point-like molecules with density n, then the pressure is p=nkBT. (kB is the Boltzmann constant, and T is the temperature.) If the point-like molecules are replaced by thin linear molecules of length L, then the pressure will slightly increase. (a) Consider a case when L is smaller (but not much smaller) than d, and the molecules do not interact with each other, but they cannot penetrate the walls of the box. (See picture (a).) Calculate the exact pressure in the box.

(b) Consider a case when the molecules of lengths L form rigid circles of diameter L/{pi}. (See picture (b).) Calculate the exact pressure in the box. (c) Note that your answers to (a) and (b) produced corrections to the leading term (nkBT) that are simply related to each other. What is the reason for that simple relation? Question 05/05 POLE-VAULT Estimate the height to which a person can paul-vault. Determine the crosssection of the pole. Question 06/05 SLIDING BOX

A rectangular box leans on a frictionless wall with one corner and rests on a frictionless floor with another corner. It starts sliding down. When will the box become detached from the wall? (Assume that all the dimensions are given.) BERNOULLI PRINCIPLE

## Provide a semi-QUANTITATIVE explanation of this expensive demonstration of Bernoulli principle.

BOILING DROP A drop of water landing on a 150C hot plate evaporates within few seconds. If the temperature of the plate is raised to about 200C the drop survives for about a minute. At even higher temperatures the survival time decreases with increasing temperature. Provide a semi-quantitative explanation of this phenomenon. BREAKING A THREAD A weight is hanging on an elastic thread. An additional stretching force F is applied and is gradually (slowly) increased. When the force reaches value Fo the thread breaks. What should be the minimal size of a force that breaks the thread, if such a force is applied instantaneously and remains unchanged. Question 10/05 ROTATION REDUCTION

The picture above shows a part of a mechanical contraption exhibited in the main gallery of the MIT museum. The contraption begins with a motor (on the left) turning at 212 revolutions per minute. It is connected to a sequence of N worm-gears, that can be seen in the picture. Each worm-gear pair reduces

the rotation speed by a factor of 50. The axle of the last gear in the sequence is embedded in a concrete wall and cannot rotate! Assuming that each gear consists of an axle of about 10 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter, find the smallest N for which such an arrangement is possible. Question 11/05 POLARIZABLE PAIR OF WIRES

A system consists of two very long parallel conducting circular wires touching each other of radia a (see the cross section in the picture). Find the twodimensional polarizability of the system in the plane perpendicular to the axes of the wires. Consider the cases with electric field is parallel to the line connecting the centers of the circles (in the cross section) and perpendicular to that direction. Question 12/05 ICE IN SPACE

A sphere of ice 1m in diameter is placed at a distance R from the Sun. How long will it take for the ice to evaporate? Question 01/06 BIRD ON A TREE How big does a seed on the ground have to be to justify a bird in flying off a tree branch to eat it?

This problem appeared among the London Physics Olympics questions Answer to the Question 09/05 BREAKING A THREAD The question was: A weight is hanging on an elastic thread. An additional stretching force F is applied and is gradually (slowly) increased. When the force reaches value Fo the thread breaks. What should be the minimal size of a force that breaks the thread, if such a force is applied instantaneously and remains unchanged. (1/06) This problem has been solved correctly (13/9/05) by Qiu Shi Wang and Ying Cun Luo, freshmen at Peking University, China (e-mail inklings@163.com), and (13/9/05) by Chetan Mandayam Nayakar, a student at India Institute of Technology, Madras, India (e-mail mn_chetan@yahoo.com). There are many, essentially equivalent ways to solve the problem. We will present what appears to be the simplest solution.

The answer: The thread will break if F=Fo/2. The solution: Before the force is applied the weight of the object hanging on the thread is balanced by the tension force of the thread. Once the additional force F is applied downwards the TOTAL force becomes F, and the weight starts executing harmonic oscillation under the influence of the forces. It starts the oscillation at the top point of the period. After a quarter of the period it reaches the midpoint of the oscillation at which the total force vanishes. After half of the period it reaches the bottom point of the oscillation, at which, by symmetry, the total force is F UPWARDS. This total force is result of the applied external force F pointing downwards, and the increase in the thread tension, which must be 2F and point upwards. Thus, the maximal thread tension is TWICE larger than the applied force. Consequently, F=Fo/2 suffices to

Comment: This problem has been taken from an old issue of the journal "Kvant" ("Quantum") (Problem F1209, the issue of 1990). Copies of the old issues of that journal can still be found (in Russian) on the web. It is probably the best PhysicsMathematics journal for high-school children (as well as university students). It's a shame that nobody ever attempted to translate the wanderful collection of the problems that apeared there into English. Answer to the Question 10/05 ROTATION REDUCTION The question was:

The picture above shows a part of a mechanical contraption exhibited in the main gallery of the MIT museum. The contraption begins with a motor (on the left) turning at 212 revolutions per minute. It is connected to a sequence of N worm-gears, that can be seen in the picture. Each worm-gear pair reduces the rotation speed by a factor of 50. The axle of the last gear in the sequence is embedded in a concrete wall and cannot rotate! Assuming that each gear consists of an axle of about 10 cm in length and 1 cm in diameter, find the smallest N for

which such an arrangement is possible. (2/06) This problem has been solved correctly (11/1/06) by Dan Miller (email millerd10@t-one.net).

The answer: 8 gear pairs will probably suffice to keep the exhibit running for a century or so. Either the motor or the exhibit or the building will cease to exist by then... The actual contraption at MIT has 12 gear pairs. The solution: The solution of the problem relies on the existence of backlash (the play between adjacent movable parts) between the gears. By assuming that the last gear pair has a backlash of, say, 1/100 of the complete rotation one can estimate how long will it take N gear pairs to create such a rotation in the before-the-last gear. By assuming that the contraption has to exist for few hundred years (or few billions of years, as assumed by Miller) one can estimate the number or gears. In the absence of backlash one would like to rely on elasticity and estimate how much torque can be applied on the last gear before it breaks. (This can be estimated from its dimensions, and the knowledge of the material from which it is made.)

## Here is what Miller actually wrote:

Let's assume that these gears are relatively finely machined, such that the backlash at each gear is 1/100 of a revolution of the worm. Let's also assume that the motor is solar powered, and that the solar cells, motor, gears, bearings, etc will last forever. BUT, our sun will only be around for ~1,000,000,000 years or so. If the motor runs at 212 rpm for 1*109 years, it will rotate 1.1*1017 times. Getting back to the backlash, the last worm needs to rotate 1/100 revolutions to "lock-up" or break something. This means the previous worm must rotate 50/100 revolutions plus its own back-lash or 0.51 revolutions. The next worm must rotate 50 * 0.51 revolutions or 25.5 revolutions plus its own backlash or 25.51 revolutions. The backlash starts to become insignificant, and the motor revolutions required to take the slop out of the system are ~5*10 16 for 12 gear sets, or ~2.5*1018 for 13 gear sets. With our solar life expectancy assumed to be 1.1*1017 revolutions of a 212 rpm motor (or 1,000,000,000 years) then we can safely say that the sun will burn out prior to the last shaft needing to rotate.

## This is how MIT Museum explains its own exhibit.

http://star.tau.ac.il/QUIZ/