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Q & A: Twisting and Turning

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Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
Q:
HI, I am doing a project in math on the Physics involved in Twisting. I am especiall interested in the Angles of somersaults and twist and tilt. Thank you,
- Alexandra (age 17)
Milton, WI
A:

Hi Alexandra,

That sounds like an excellent project to work on! And a difficult one, too. We usually leave the topics of rotation and angular momentum to the end of the introductory college-level mechanics courses, and there is quite a lot of material to cover. I would recommend looking in the section on "rotational motion" in a physics textbook.

Even in physics textbooks, you may find little about "twisting", and more about things that turn or fly through the air or both at the same time. Twisting, however, means that the object is changing shape, which is very important in gymnastics and dance and is a complicated subject because of all the different ways that an object can twist and bend, and how the different parts pull on one another to change the motion of the whole. As an example, cats always fall paws down when you drop them. They do this, by twisting their bodies (and tails) in just such a way that one part turns first and then the other, yielding a net change in the direction the paws are pointing even though there is no rotational angular momentum (a neat trick!).

Tom J.


(published on 10/22/2007)

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