Physics Olympiad Preparation Books

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"An Introduction to Mechanics" by Kleppner and Kolenkow "Classical Mechanics" by John R. Taylor "Introduction to Classical Mechanics with Problems and Solutions" by David Morin "Classical Dynamics of Particles and Systems" by Jerry B. Marion and Stephen T. Thornton "Special Relativity" by A.P. French "Vibrations and Waves" by A.P. French "Introduction to Electrodynamics, 3rd ed." by David J. Griffiths "Electricity and Magnetism" by Edward M. Purcell "Electromagnetic Fields and Waves" by Paul Lorrain and Dale Corson

Physics Limericks
For your viewing pleasure, and perhaps for your educational pleasure, I've included some physics limericks here. Some are funny. Some are stupid. But at least they are all physically accurate (give or take). Many of them can be found scattered throughout the textbook for the Physics-16 course here at Harvard. (Some more physics humor is located here.) — David Morin

No pain, no gain. Alas, there are no shortcuts to learning physics... The ad said, for one little fee, You can skip all that course-work ennui. So send your tuition, For boundless fruition! Get your mail-order physics degree!

Always check your units! Your units are wrong! cried the teacher. Your church weighs six joules — what a feature! And the people inside Are four hours wide, And eight gauss away from the preacher!

. "A body moves with constant velocity (which may be zero) unless acted on by a force. Forget your aversion To unit conversion. Of course.And check the limiting cases. but no one would know what you were talking about if you said you could run a 1min2/10s mile. This inertial frame is then used as the setting for Newton's second law. And then head on for more. in converting minutes to seconds. The skill to do math on a page Has declined to the point of outrage. a problem where the goal is to simply obtain the nearest power-of-10 estimate is known as a "Fermi problem". To figure the inches you’ve run. The minutes cancel. and you're left with seconds. you could also multiply by 1 in the form of (1min/60s) to obtain 1min=(1min)(1min/60s)=1min2/60s. Newton's first law. People tend to rely a bit too much on computers and calculators nowadays. Equations quadratica Are solved on Math'matica. And weeks with ten dates.. And the one-hundred states. With one step and two steps they pace. too! The lemmings get set for their race. all you have to do is multiply by 1 in an appropriately chosen form. In particular. Without checking the limiting case. They take three and four. In the words of Sir Arthur Stanley Eddington. sometimes in life you need to know things to better accuracy than the nearest power of 10. Enrico Fermi was known for his ability to estimate things quickly and produce an orderof-magnitude guess with only minimal calculation. wings.. Of course. it gives a definition of an "inertial frame" (which is defined to be one in which the first law holds). This does indeed equal 1 minute. And birds that all fly with one. How Fermi could estimate things! Like the well-known Olympic ten rings.. without pausing to think about what is actually going on in a problem. When converting the units of a quantity." appears at first glance to be rather vacuous. Or to find the slug mass of the sun. Just multiply (wisely!) by 1. For example. just multiply 1min by 60s/1min (which equals 1). And on birthdays we don't know our age. it says that "every particle continues in its state of rest or uniform motion in a straight line except insofar that it doesn't. Hence.." But the first law actually does have some content. to obtain 1min=(1min)(60s/1min)=60s.

. thinking he's being clever. "To three. they both fall the same distance relative to where they would have been if there were no gravity..and y-motions in projective motion is the "hunter and monkey" problem. there are only two things you need to do to solve them: (1) Write down the F=ma equations for all the masses (which may involve relating the tensions in various strings).. The monkey. using the fact that the lengths of the various strings don't change (also known as "conservation of string"). tries to avoid the arrow by letting go of the branch right when he sees the arrow released. you see. because the arrow is initially aimed at him.. What really happened on that hill. What would you have thought. But you just need to say That F is ma. If a monkey lets go of a tree. And told us the next prime was nine. because gravity acts on both him and the arrow in the same way. Galileo. The unfortunate consequence of this action is that he will get hit. and seven.For things moving free or at rest. Who knows what he would have concluded if we lived in a thicker medium. And use conservation of string! Galileo's experiment worked because the air is sufficiently thin. a hunter aims an arrow at a monkey hanging from a branch in a tree. "Oh! To lessen the sound Of the moos from the ground. Inertial by name. Because both heights are pared By a half gt2 From what they would be with no g. But no matter how complicated they get. That an Atwood's machine's a harsh thing." the prof said. "we'll define. Observe what the first law does best.. In it. but it shouldn't be abused. assign A name. It defines a key frame. The arrow will hit him. and (2) relate the accelerations of the masses. And the monkey would get hit in such a case." But he botched the instruction With woeful induction. If instead you dropped cows and did say.. with the angst it can bring. Where the second law then is expressed. They should fall not through air but through mayo!" The classic example of the independence of the x. It may seem. five. Induction is a wonderful tool. . Atwood's machines can be pretty hairy.

He said. torrential. You never know when this technique might come in handy. Newton looked at the data. A potential may look quite erratic.In Boston. as did Jill. and stars all behave in the same manner. dependent on the 1/r form of the gravitational potential. empirical. moons. You can say with a grin. And its study may seem problematic. Newton's law of gravitation holds over a vast range of distance scales. or fuel — big mistake! So he thought like a rocket. With no wind. Roger Clemens was stuck on a lake." Jack tripped on some trash in the sand. numerical. oars. "It behaves like a simple quadratic!" ." The realization was nice. this is just grand. Who gained mgh on a hill. kx2/2. And then observations. by ejecting small particles with very large speed. In their liquid pursuit. A quick application of the Taylor-series expansion shows that any potential looks basically like a quadratic. so much. but then it took him another 20 years to develop calculus so that he could prove it mathematically. Apples. He changed his potential To kinetic. of course. But not before grabbing Jill's hand. But down near a min. "But. It's no coincidence that physicists study the harmonic-oscillator potential. We get the same force From a point mass and something that's spherical!" Rockets make use of conservation of momentum. Jill exclaimed with a hoot. "Oh. Newton said as he gazed off afar. And left all his change in his wake. And emptied his pocket. lived Jack. These wond'rous ellipses And solar eclipses All come from a 1 over r. if you look at a small enough region around an equilibrium point. "From here to the most distant star. " I think we've just climbed a landfill!" While noting.

Just add up two things. And p? He was clueless as well. then ∆ L is proportional to ∆ p. By some fiend always pushing him right. He wrote down the right guess For their quotient: the lever-arm's l. What L was. It's CM's and fixed points for me. we know what their ratio is. On a merry-go-round in the night. (2) The origin is not accelerating. But given w . I'll stick to just two. Even if we don't know what ∆ L and ∆ p are. my dear class.Given a sufficiently long lever-arm. . the Coriolis force always points in the same direction relative to the direction of motion. you can produce an arbitrarily large torque. 'Twas like he was stalked. or (3) The acceleration the origin is parallel to the vector from the origin to the center of mass. τ =dL/dt is valid only if the origin (the point around which τ and L are calculated) satisfies one of the following conditions: (1) The origin is the center of mass. To calculate E.. This fact led a well-known mathematician from long ago to claim that he could move the earth if given a long enough lever-arm. This third condition is rarely invoked. you're stuck with one or the other. At the end of which grinned Archimedes. The cause for alarm Was a long lever-arm. Despite how he walked. just play it safe and heed the following. he just couldn't tell. If a force is always applied at the same position relative to the origin around which the angular momentum is calculated (as in the case for a quick blow to an object)." But though they're all true. One morning while eating my Wheaties. Take the CM point's E. with the constant of proportionality being the leverarm of the force. Coriolis was shaken with fright. On a rotating platform. "Torque is dL by dt. The kinetic energy of a body can be found by treating the body as a point mass located at the CM. The E 'round the center of mass. Whether it's to the left or to the right depends on the direction of rotation.. And then add on with glee. and you'll pass. But despite his distress. We say. For conditions that number but three. when choosing an origin. and then adding on the kinetic energy of the body due to the motion relative to the CM. So. I felt the earth move 'neath my feeties.

But despite his persistence.When studying central forces. Take dv by dx. It may seem cheap. we give you permission To take you solutions. And add them in superposition. It has the effect of keeping the particle from getting too close to the origin. Remember the one main objective: The goal is to shun All dimensions but one. This is our method. but it works. It gets the job done. The standard method for solving differential equations is to simply guess an exponential solution. We just try a routine exponential. heck!"'s. with a modified "effective" potential. effective. essential. He was kept at a distance By that darn conservation of L. "Oh. For equations with one main condition (Those linear). When using potentials. And then view things with 1-D perspective. P= r gh . The attraction was easy to tell. When solving an F=ma differential equation. differential. thereby reducing the problem to an ordinary 1-dimensional one. As he walked past the beautiful belle. And then write down its product with v. The L2/2mr2 term in the effective potential is sometimes called the angular momentum barrier. conservation of angular momentum is utilized to write the angular dependence in terms of the radius. For equations we solve. Is this useful? There's no guarantee. a is dv by dt. Linear differential equations have the extremely important property that the sum of two solutions is also a solution. sometimes you want to write a as dv/dt. One of these generally works much better than the other. And it's even quite fun. and sometimes you want to write it as v dv/dx. If it leads to. With firm resolutions.

I know they're all there. A harmless and still wooden horse. . And although I don't see Where they walk next to me. The minimal-action (more precisely. Symmetries and conservation laws go hand in hand. the stationary-action) method for solving problems yields all the same results as the standard F=ma method. It just stood there and did nothing. In fact. When an archer shoots an arrow through the air." in that it seeks to take the path that produces the minimum action. Just write down del L by del z. But the minimal action Was just a distraction. which may be pointing in all sorts of complicated directions. And equate the results (but quickly!) It is sometimes said that nature has a "purpose. just the same. Then t-dot what you've got. each with essentially the same action. the aim is made possible by all the other arrows taking all the other nearby paths. A quantity must be conserved. We simply end up seeing the path with a stationary action. The Euler-Lagrange equations in verse: When jumping from high in a tree. writing down these energies (which are scalars) proves to be much simpler than trying to write down all the forces (which are vectors). The plan involved no use of force. As Noether most keenly observed (And for which much acclaim is deserved). but it avoids the use of force. and then take some derivatives. When walking. nature does exactly the opposite. treating them all on equal footing. Where the pressure and depth guarantee That all the frustrations Of mighty crustaceans Won't help when they have to go pee. I know that my aim Is caused by the ghosts with my name.Larry Lobster crawls deep in the sea. You simply have to write down the difference between the kinetic and potential energies. In many cases. due to the way the quantum mechanical phases add. when you walk down the street with a certain destination in mind. It takes every path. We can easily see That for each symmetry.. Likewise. you're not alone. of course. Take del L by z dot..

Two events that are simultaneous in one frame are not necessarily simultaneous in another. but they just couldn't find it.there are no special places in the universe. They searched and searched. As is time dilation. The loss of events. When crossing your vectors at school.. . And then you'll see clearer. indeed. The findings of Michelson-Morley Allow us to say very surely.The "right-hand" rule for calculating vector cross-products and such things is just a convention. The results may be scary." Perhaps the most fundamental effect of relativity is the loss of simultaneity. You would get all the same answers to any physical questions if you (consistently) used the "left-hand" rule. Allows A to claim There's no pause in B's frame." Everything is relative . .. miscellaneous. " If this ether is real. Relativistic limericks have the attraction Of being shrunk by a Lorentz contraction. unwary. simultaneous. Where this last line is not so extraneous. Of the many effects.. Copernicus gave his reply To those who had pledged to deny. . When a fraction ... But for readers. And shows itself off rather poorly. Relativistic length contraction is a strange thing. either.. so let's not give any other point a chance. You could just use the "left-handed" rule. Then it has no appeal. "All your addictions To ancient convictions Won't bring back your place in the sky. But look in a mirror. You'll use your right hand as a tool. We gave up having the earth as the center.

Which you'll see is not terse. Observe that for muons. All inertial observers agree on the value of s2. Where a half plus a half isn't one. of such a definition is to have a relativistic particle of mass m behave exactly like a Newtonian particle of mass γ m." Said the driver when starting to pass. strange. But wrong when he stepped on the gas. He was right when he turned. this verse. it turns out that F=(γ 3m)a. or x2+y2 for rotations. apparently. This goal. The fact that s2=c2t2-x2 is invariant under Lorentz transformations of x and t is exactly analogous to the fact that r2 is invariant under rotations in the x-y plane. you can show that F=(γ m)a. "And of course it's tomahto. On relativistic velocity addition: For a bullet. a train. A quick look at F=dp/dt shows why. which does take the desired form. The goal. and a gun. length contraction explains in the muon frame. created. you see." The concept of the "relativistic mass". is futile. The reason why those pesky muons reach the earth depends on your point of view. The dilation of time is related To Einstein's insistence Of shrunken-down distance In the frame where decays aren't belated. Adding their speeds can be fun -Take a trip down the path Paved with Einstein's new math. In your frame. But for a longitudinal force. which does not take the desired form. however. But from what we've just learned. . and sublime. For a transverse force. Can be read in the same amount of time it takes someone else in another frame to read a similar sort of rhyme. remains the same. The coordinates themselves change under the transformation. But the square of ct Minus x2 will be Always something on which we agree. independent of what they measure for the actual coordinates. γ m. is an unfortunate one. but the special combination of c2t2-x2 for Lorentz transformations. "Force is my a times my 'mass'.The effects of dilation of time Are magical. "Potato?! Potahto!" said she. What time dilation explains in the earth frame.

The power of m's and c-squares Provides us with just cause for scares. or somewhat simplistic. Our childhood fright Of a bump in the night Is now mushrooms bequeathed to our heirs. As can be shown using the equivalence principle that high clocks in a gravitational field run fast. nonrelativistic. . " I've added some stringent selectors. Of gravity's great imitators... profound. to the good old results from Newtonian physics. One is the clause That your physical laws Shall be written in terms of 4-vectors. He eyed as suspicious.. it is possible to hang on to Newton's F=ma law. it impossible to perform a local experiment that differentiates these from the actual forces. God said to his cosmos directors. bar none. True." What they meant wasn't quite as much fun.And here's how one particular law reduces: They said. The forces. or just mystic.Results from relativistic physics must of course reduce. only by a fractiongh/c2 . . Or boring. in the nonrelativistic limit. so must we use only 4-vectors to describe a theory that is invariant under Lorentz transformations. fictitious. but you never know who might notice. A theory must lead To results that we need In limits. A twin from Denver will have aged more than a twin from Boston. Just as we must use only vectors to describe a theory that is invariant under rotations.. Whether abstract. Although these are not true forces. And studied the spinning ice-skaters." In an accelerated reference frame. Which just happens to be Good ol' ma when γ is 1. "F is ma. but only if you introduce new "fictitious" forces. It's dp by dt. As Einstein explored elevators. Any quantity with a few factors of c is bound to change the face of the world. This fact led Einstein to his General Theory of Relativity.

A cosmos expandable Was not understandable. Why? Because we can. With our new-found abilities of the late 20th century. And please tell me why My lower left thigh Hasn't aged quite as much as my shoulder. (But the answer may not be. Exploring the cosmic frontier. but why?" Well. We turn in our cage." he said. All alone on a tiny blue sphere. There was one thing that did make him squirm. Though Einstein's equations were firm. "It's so blue. But all the kings horses And men with their forces Couldn't render his entropy small. There's nothing like Rayleigh scattering to make the sky blue. blue scatters more (There's this power of 4). And said.Greetings! Dear brother from Boulder. As we grow up. he had a great fall.. It's just a very big one in this case. he sat on a wall.. The cosmological constant. we've started searching for friends out there. So it rarely comes straight to your eye. Then Humpty. So he tacked on that ill-fated term. In this coming of age.) The cosmos according to Hubble Expands like the soap of a bubble. The universe is expanding.. It would then be disposed To shrink to a point. .. The second law of thermodynamics. A child looked up in the sky. but will it do so forever? The question is open. and that's trouble. Humpty. Let's hope it's not closed. we open an ear. I hear that you've gotten much older... "The biggest blunder of my life. Mom. It never hurts to look under the lamppost.

when seeking gestalts.. so you learn to settle for the things you can't disprove. with the observed value being an eigenvalue of the matrix. but a little luck now and then certainly doesn't hurt. or wrong. These blasted pollutants Will make us all mutants. If the theory is consistent. Hermitian matrices have nice property that their eigenvalues are real. And speaking of limiting cases of more correct theories. However. You can't prove anything. It's just that we can't say they're false. observables are represented by Hermitian matrices. They said. complex worlds have no appeal. we test a theory by performing experiments. In science. As acid rain falls on the leaves. God's first tries were hardly ideal. You see. In quantum mechanics. it seems. then odds are that it's actually not true. Progress without prudence. It's not that they're known To be written in stone.. The theories that science exalts. who will ever know the difference. There once was a classical theory Of which quantum disciples were leery. And Mother Earth quietly grieves. all an experiment can show is that the theory is either consistent with experiment. since no one is going to go out for a jog of 6+9i miles.. He made things Hermitian.. So in the present edition. Besides. but simply the limiting case of a more correct theory. . And this world. “Why spend so long On a theory that’s wrong?” Well. And our kids will wear coats with three sleeves. it sometimes will freeze. And runs off when put in a squeeze. or pay an electric bill for 17-42i kilowatt-hours.. Though agoraphobic. is quite real. When spread out. of course..On the uncertainty principle: An electron is sure hard to please. This is very fortunate. it works for your everyday query! Brains are great for doing physics. It's still claustrophobic. That's how science works. Consider.

But some say it's luck. 'Cause your theory's not what you intended! . you should be commended On your theory so geniusly splendid.Professor. And you really just suck.

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