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July 29, 2004
random musings

Happy Birthday doggie!

Now, a little story:

When I was a freshman in highschool, the physics class (which consisted 
primarily of seniors) put on an egg drop contest, to see who could build 
the best device to cushion a raw egg dropped (in the device) from various
heights. There was about a week between when I learned of this contest
and the contest itself, and I was interested. So I thought about it for
a few days, trying to figure out something that would work good and not
be the usual bubblewrap-to-hell kind of thing. Eventually I decided I 
would try a liquid suspension system, where the egg was suspended between
two different liquids, one that was more dense than the egg, and one that
was less dense than the egg. The liquids should ideally not mix, or at 
least mostly not mix. Initially I wanted to do Glycerine for the denser
liquid, since it was very viscous and I thought it would work well. But,
unfortunately I couldn't find any in the quantity I needed, and Glycerine
soap was all expensive. So I decided to do something Glucose-like, which
involved me heating up some water and adding sugar until it was a thick
nasty sweet syrup. For the thinner liquid I used vegetable oil. For a 
container I used what I had handy, and since I did a lot of hiking in
highschool I had a few of the soft white Nalgene Trail 1L bottles. I 
don't know if you are familiar with these, but they are pretty common
and generally pretty tough. So the egg was floating in the Glucose, 
sinking in the oil, all inside this water bottle. I wanted the bottle
to land bottom-first (which later on turned out to be less important
than I had thought, since the liquids seemed to adjust accordingly if
the bottle was rotated even reasonably fast), so I used some soft clay
packed on the bottom to offset the balance a bit. I did a few tests from
around 10 or 12 feet, and it seemed to work. On the day of the contest,
it worked remarkably well from the 20ft or so drop point we had, so good
in fact that we started playing around with shooting it up from a water
balloon launcher. Or shooting it down. The circumstances in which the 
egg did eventually break were a little bit suspect (I think someone hit 
the side of it on purpose, or something), but the design had flaws that
I noticed, primarily that the bottle started leaking, from little holes 
where the bottle landed and was punctured. It still had plenty of liquid
in it, but boy oh boy did it make a mess. 

This next part, I didn't really remember until today, and it definitely
amused me. When I was a senior, there was a group of studens going to an
egg drop contest at NAU, the university an hours drive a way from my
school, and I forget why but I wasn't going (I think I may have had the
SATs or something that day). I suggested that they use my design from
years past, but that they use a hard Nalgene plastic bottle, which I
thought were even more indestructable (we would usually call them Lexan
or what not, though I'm sure they were just a good hard plastic). I
definitely enjoyed drinking from the hard plastic bottles (the water
would taste better), and I figured it wouldn't leak as easily. They
seemed receptive.

So apparently, they went to this competition, using my design, and it
performed so amazingly well, that everybody was PISSED OFF at them.
OK so that was some sarcasm in there, but everybody was in fact pissed
off. Because on the first drop of their device, when the bottle hit
the target, the bottle burst, sending super sticky sugar water and
vegetable oil (and I suppose an egg yolk and whites) EVERYWHERE. A lot
of people got a good dose apparently, and that group of students were
pissed in turn at me. To which I replied "oh, I guess the hard bottle
was a bad idea." 

Now, when I thought of this today, I really couldn't believe what they
had done, and how stupid it was. They went to an egg drop contest, using
somebody elses design, and DIDN'T EVEN BOTHER TO TEST IT. They had so
much time to prepare, and what did they do? They used my design, but 
didn't even think to test it. Cynicism is definitely wise. Perhaps 
self-doubt is wise, too. 

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