1. 2012

    Square wheels

    It hasn’t escaped my notice that Mythbusters is back with a new season! Actually, it’s not really that new, since we’re now three (well, now four) weeks in, but I missed the first two episodes since I was out of the country. But it works out because this (actually last) week’s myth is full of interesting physics to analyze!

    This past Sunday, Adam and Jamie tested the myth that if you’re driving fast enough, square wheels can actually provide a surprisingly smooth ride. At first, the idea of square wheels working at all, much less actually being smooth, can seem a little wacky, but with a bit of physical intuition, it’s not hard to convince yourself that it’s actually pretty plausible. As they explained in the show, the reason a square wheel is expected to bounce you up and down is that the distance from the axle to the bottom of the wheel changes as it turns. If you’re going slowly, every time the wheel tips over another corner, it’s going to fall down until its side is resting against the ground, taking you with it. But if you speed up …