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Elevator Physics

Ghostly Elevator!

My physics experience of the week was the hackneyed up and down an elevator one.  I ride the elevator in my apartment building everyday but this particular day was special.  My grandfather, on an around the world trip, arrived in Hawaii as his last stop and came to our place.  

As we went up the elevator this time, I had the sudden impulse (not in the physics sense) to explain the present physics of the situation.  From a position of rest, the elevator accelerated upwards.  Since Fnet=ma and the normal force was much larger than weight (mg), I felt heavy and bogged down.  During the long elevator ride, I explained the concept to my family members in Chinglish (an exotic mixture of Mandarin Chinese & English) since my grandfather can’t understand my English when I’m supposedly talking too fast.  It felt very good to be breaking through a language barrier!  My experience wasn’t so clichéd after all!  ^ ^ 

An hour later, on the way down, the net force was now downwards.  I explained how that since weight was now greater than the normal force, we felt much lighter.  I think that my parents and grandfather really understood what I was saying…either that or they were just oohing and nodding to humor me.  On the other hand, my brother completely ignored me and started jumping up and down which made the elevator feel shaky.  Afterwards, he would also throw a projectile motion french fry at me by “pure accident”…twice…aren’t siblings just bundles of joy?

The next day, my grandfather went back to Shanghai.  Hopefully, he’ll spread the word about the wonders of physics!  He promised me he would at least try and act as my ambassador…since there’s an elevator in his apartment building too.  He also gave me 1,000 rmb.  Maybe I could use the money and start a ‘physics of an elevator’ awareness program!  : )

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