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It's That Pumpkin Drop Time of Year!

What is the sound of a pumpkin plummeting 100 feet to the ground from atop the tallest building on the Old Dominion University campus? Listen to the answer (mp3).

This year, that sound will be repeated dozens of times at the ODU Society of Physics Students' annual Pumpkin Drop at the Batten Arts and Letters (BAL) Building on Thursday, Oct. 30, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

If all goes as planned, pumpkins are dropped into student-built pumpkin catchers designed to soften their landing. But some the pumpkins miss the catcher, and some destroy the catcher, which cause more pronounced "splats."

As befits a serious scientific enterprise, students will conduct many different experiments using the plummeting pumpkins.

They will study the effectiveness of different pumpkin catcher designs for harmlessly dissipating the pumpkins' kinetic energy. Past pumpkin catchers have ranged from a simple bucket of mud to complicated counterweighted structures.

Students will insert a video camera in the pumpkin to provide a pumpkin's-eye-view of the fall. They will also repeat Galileo's classic experiment using pumpkins instead of cannon balls.

Prizes will be awarded for the most creative and the shortest working pumpkin catchers. To participate in the pumpkin catcher contest, entrants must contribute three 8-10 pound pumpkins by Tuesday, Oct. 28, and bring their catcher to the BAL Building by noon on the day of the event.

More extensive rules are at http://www.physics.odu.edu/~weinstei/pumpkindrop2007.html. Contacts for the event are Larry Weinstein, professor of physics, at Weinstein@odu.edu, or Brian Wieland of the Society of Physics Students at bwiel001@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: October 28, 2008

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