Conceptual Physics in Action, 1 of n

I love archery. Not only is it excellent moving meditation and a great upper body + core workout, but it's also lots of fun, a great motivator to get really strong and well-conditioned, and most of all, it is an amazing tool for teaching basic physics concepts and possibly piquing some curiosity for all age groups. Not too long ago, I had a conversation with a very young archer who was getting frustrated with the fact that her arrow speeds were really slow compared to everyone else's, not that anyone was shooting particularly well given it was at a medieval fair with minimal fiberglass equipment with maximal safety features for shooting at live human beings in armor.

Archer: My bow is too weak, I can't get it to make it to the target without aiming into the trees! [she only draws to a little short of her face]

Me: Let me try. [I draw back to full anchor and use my arrow, which is actually heavier than hers... and I shoot *over* the target]

Archer: How did you do that?

Me: I pulled back further. The further back you pull on a bow, the more energy you can store. The more energy you can store, the faster the arrow can go because there's more to push the arrow out. If you come all the way back to the corner of your mouth instead of stopping in front of your face, your arrow will go faster and further. [so tempted to bring up potential and kinetic energy in more detail but I'm dealing with a flustered child at a medieval fair and I'm pretty much just keeping a sharp eye on about five more archers as well as the field conditions]

[Archer pulls back as I instruct her and nearly hits the target]

Archer: Where did you learn that?

Me: Lots of trial and error and I studied physics. You can also use physics to find out the best way to hit your target and how to be an even better shot. [The little girl finishes taking her shots and hits one of the guys up front]

Archer [to her parents]: Can I learn physics so I can do better here?

I hope the little girl does end up taking a good physics class that'll bring it to life for her and keep her interested in the physical sciences... and who knows, maybe recruit another young traditional archer into the scene as well.


Helen C.

Strong Mind, Strong Body - Math, Test Preparation, and Fitness

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