Overview: Wuzzlers, short for Web Puzzlers, are questions on the world wide web (often multimedia in character) designed to pique one's curiousity for reading some educational material. See if any of these work for you.
For source, cite URL at http://newton.umsl.edu/infophys/wuzzlers
Version modification date: 14 Apr 2005.
``What If'' Resources
We are collecting links to books and web resources, and doing calculations, on the following alternative points of view. If you know of resources along these lines, drop a note with subject heading "what if..." to firstname.lastname@example.org. (Thanks. /pf :)
What if there were not three "big" space dimensions, but e.g. only two?
How do flatlanders keep houses from collapsing when they open the door?
What does the periodic table look like in 2D universes?
Who invented the first 2D-Lock/Key? 2D-Steam Engine? 2D-Automobile?
Who is A. K. Dewdney, and when was the last conference on 2D R&D?
What is the physical world like on the micron size-scale?
Would seatbelts be superfluous for fleas, and if so why?
How could relay-racing microbes pass the baton without hands?
How can one eliminate dust too big to be electron transparent?
Who invented the quartz-fishpole balance to weigh single cells?
How are things different on the nano-meter size-scale?
What is the minimum rate at which you can spin a virus?
Would fly-balls in a nano-baseball game ever return to earth?
Why call atom-scale replicators "Engines of Creation"?
Are nano-machines, or quantum-computers, closer to reality?
The High Frontier
What if we lived in orbit, rather than on a planet?
Who was Gerard O'Neil, and what is L5?
How do they grow bananas in Iceland?
What are some incentives for colonizing space?
Will cars in orbiting-habitats be electric or gas powered?
What if the speed of light was smaller, e.g. c = 40 miles per hour?
Would refrigerator magnets hold up more paper, or less?
Would parachutes still work?
Who wrote "Mr. Tompkins & his Relativistic Bicycle?"
Would speed limits be in distance per unit map, or traveler, time?
Bigger Quantum of Action
What if Planck's Constant were bigger, e.g. h = 1 [kg m^2 / sec]?
Who wrote "Mr. Tompkins in the Quantum Jungle?"
Would the uncertainty principle make calling basketball fouls impossible?
Would "still photos" be blurrier than photos of moving objects?
Would money in banks occasionally tunnel out by itself?
Excerpts from the Star-Fleet Survival Manual:
If you wake up on a beach, with a clear sea-horizon view of the sunrise or sunset, but are not sure about the planet you are on, you can determine the diameter of the planet by watching the sun pierce the horizon twice, once while standing and once while lying down, with only your height and an ability to COUNT your own heartbeats as yardsticks in the measurement. How?
With only a plastic soda straw, a short string, a handful (say 12) of steel or aluminum washers, and a knowledge of the RATE at which your heart beats (or a Chronometer, of course, if you have one), you can further determine the acceleration due to gravity on that same unknown planet. How?
Given the radius of the planet and its surface acceleration due to gravity, as measured in the foregoing problems, you can further estimate the mass and density of the planet as well! How so?
Information Physics Puzzles:
Most people know that the temperature of absolute of zero can be approached, if not actually achieved, by cooling things down from the POSITIVE ABSOLUTE temperatures that we usually find them at. Not many know, however, that absolute zero can also be approached from the NEGATIVE direction. This can be done simply, for example, with a set of dominos in the comfort of your own living room! How so? *More*
Information Engines may be defined simply as Steady State Systems which Thermalize Available Work while creating Correlation Information in their Environment, like photocopies of a manuscript or maps of the sky in a book. Did you know that, seen as information engines operating at room temperature, the thermodynamic upper limit on OUR rate of correlation information output PER DAY, given an available-work intake of say 2100 kcal for a typical human being, is around 10^24 megabytes of information! What gives rise to this limit, and in comparison how much new information have YOU managed to put into your reading file of discoveries today?
Space Time Puzzles:
Einstein's theory of special relativity is often quoted as saying that objects never travel faster than the speed of light. It is seldom pointed out, however, that this same theory also permits a traveler, undergoing a constant acceleration of 1 earth gravity for 50 years of her time, to travel not only the 50 light years one might expect for a 'speed-of-light' traveler, and not only the 1250 light years that would have been predicted before Einstein's theory, but rather something closer to 10^22 light years, i.e. a trillion times the breadth of the present expanding universe! How so?
Traversible Wormholes which would allow travel by human beings between parts of our universe distant in both space and time MIGHT be possible to build, albeit at considerable cost. How light would interact with such 'portals to a distant universe' is relatively easy to predict. It also appears possible that a door to block passage through such a portal, in the form of a threaded manhole cover, might act as its own door-jamb (and its own matching 'threads') in the curved space time geometry of the wormhole itself. How so?
Check out our expansive set of 1D acceleration mini-puzzlers, with hints and some solutions as well.
Check out Richard Gonsalves' light-memes and wuzzlers (i.e. transparency imprints and worked problems) on his course home pages at SUNY-Buffalo. If you make use of them, please make sure you cite their author.