Friday, July 12, 2013

Chocolate Physics of Monopoly

Hershey Park is a very deceptive name. You would think that the park would be themed around chocolate and sweets - well, it was partially chocolate - but, no, they deceive you into thinking you're going to have a candy sensation. I had already known that the park was mainly about roller-coasters, but I didn't think the park had that much variety. After today, I can certainly say that Hershey Park engineers are far more creative than the other theme parks I've been to. 

We chose to collect data on Storm Runner - a ride that accelerates to 72 mph in two seconds. We did the calculations for it, the riders feel a force about 5Gs. To put this in perspective, this would be the acceleration that a person would feel after five seconds of falling in free fall. However, our plans met its demise (well, not really). 

In order to get data for examination, we used a GXL. It's an accelerometer so it records acceleration in XYZ. In the picture, you'll see me in the vest that we had to wear to hold the GXL. As you can see, I look like a terrorist. That's probably because of the "switch" that I have in my mind. In actuality, the "switch" is the object that is used to detect changes in XYZ. Unfortunately, the comedic effect because of the vest was not enough for the conspicuous nature of it... We tried getting on Storm Runner with our gear, but they wouldn't allow us because it appeared "loose". Seeing as how the ride accelerated to 5 Gs, I can see why. However, it's disappointing because we weren't able to obtain interesting data from the ride... Although, we did choose another ride - the Frontier Flyers - and although it was much more boring than the other ride, the data we got from it was fairly interesting. The ride had a circular motion so we'll be able to use trigonometry to figure out some very interesting physics. By investigating the changes on the graphs and using mathematics, we will be able to construct an interesting free-body diagram. With centripetal force in mind, we'll be able to learn much more about circular motion. 

We also visited the chocolate museum. Like any other attraction, it had an enormous amount of products. Funny thing is that all the products were just chocolate... There was literally an entire section devoted to Hershey kisses. Wow... I saw a chocolate bar the size of my body, but sadly I did not get a picture with it. At the end, my friend (the person in the picture on the bottom) took a "ride" through a Hershey factory. 

On the ride back to Philly, I had an enlightening conversation with Bill. At first, we were conversing about the mechanics behind Storm Runner. I originally thought that the ride was completely electrically powered. However, that wouldn't be enough to accelerate more than 1000 pounds of material to 5 Gs. Both Bill and I came to a conclusion that the ride used a pneumatic system to supply the 2 seconds of acceleration. A pneumatic system works by using stored gas pressure to supply a force (Pressure x Area = Force). Instead of constantly pumping a pressure valve with gas, engineers reduce the volume of the pressure valve to increase the pressure (Boyle's Law - PV = constant, they are inversely proportional). Although they still pump the container with pressure, reducing the volume makes it much easier. Both Bill and I were wondering how small they had to make the volume for it to be able to supply 5 Gs worth of acceleration. If we had gotten data, we could have done that with the ideal gas law... Other than that, Bill and I talked about biophysics. Because of this program, I've become very interested in doing biophysics at Penn. The applications of physics to biology has so much potential such as cancer. There's a cyclotron, which is owned by the hospital, that emits photons to kill cancer cells. Physicists have to calculate and test for the optimum energy of the photons. Photons penetrate through the body but if the energy is controlled, the photons become absorbed by the body at one point. This extends to exterminating cancer cells. This method of killing cancer cells is similar to chemotherapy but it does not affect the environment around the cancer cells. Chemotherapy kills not only the cancer cells, but the cells around it. This has killed patients and is a very dangerous process; however, the photon-radiation method may be safer and better. This has a lot of potential and I'm extremely interested. Luckily, a professor of Penn that is doing this type of research (and with the cyclotron) will be coming next week to tell us about the project - I cannot wait! 

I later played Monopoly with my roommates. Playing the game as a more wise student has given me a lot more perspective. The game divides two types of players - the rich and the poor (obviously). Much of the game is based on luck but there are trends that exist in practically every match. The poor, at some point, start acting a certain way. By the way, I was "poor". The poor start to not worry about gaining territory but rather just preventing themselves from becoming bankrupt. This mentality affects our actions. We begin to decide who we want to help (out of the rich) and it becomes a game of dependence and "monopoly". We start to have the mentality: "I'm going to lose the game so I might as well support the person I want to win". The game, at that point, becomes a collective effort of the poor to support a member of the rich and that usually tends the game towards their favor. As a poor player, we obviously lose more territory as the game progresses. However, we can choose who we want to give the territory to. Also, the poor tend to worry more about their money pile compared to the rich. At any point in the game, I could recall how much money I had, but for the rich, they could not. This is probably not an accurate representation of "real life", but I found it hilarious. When the poor are at the brink, the rich start to persuade harder at forcing the poor to make decisions that help them. Under pressure, the poor do not make the best of decisions. However, because of their situation, they have to make a decision and that usually tends to failure. I think playing as a poor player in Monopoly is much more interesting than playing as a tycoon. I would consider myself an anti-poor; I manipulate the rich. Of course, I lose the game because at some point, I lose all my money, but until that point, I like to start making ridiculous offers that seem profitable for the rich but really aren't. For example, I offered three mortgaged lands for $100 and although they gained land from that, it didn't help them because the other rich person was half a way across the board. Through that exchange, the other rich person had the opportunity to control the other side because the land was mortgaged. I'm planning on playing some more Monopoly and blogging about my analysis. This is probably not the best analysis of the game, but I hope to read and learn more about it. This is silly because it's just Monopoly, but I'm having fun with it. 

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