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Sunday, March 3, 2024

Why the Polar Vortex Is Dangerous for Balloon Artists


It has been loopy chilly this week, even down the place I dwell in Louisiana, because of an outbreak of a polar vortex. This frigid air is unhealthy for all types of issues, together with soccer helmets, apparently. But it surely’s truly a good time to show one of many fundamental concepts in science: the best fuel legislation.

You in all probability have some balloons someplace round the home, perhaps left over from New Yr’s. Do that out: Blow up a balloon and tie it off actual tight. Obtained it? Now placed on the warmest jacket you could have and take the balloon outdoors. What occurs? Sure, with the drop in temperature the balloon shrinks—the quantity inside decreases—despite the fact that it nonetheless incorporates the identical quantity of air!

How can that be? Properly, in response to the best fuel legislation, there is a relationship between the temperature, quantity, and strain of a fuel in a closed container, in order that if two of them you may calculate the third. The well-known equation is PV = nRT. It says the strain (P) instances the quantity (V) equals the product of the quantity of fuel (n), a continuing of proportionality (R), and the temperature (T). Oh, by the “quantity of fuel” we imply the mass of all of the molecules in it.

There is a bunch of stuff to go over right here, however let me get to the principle level. There’s two methods to take a look at a fuel. The one I simply gave is definitely the chemistry manner. This treats a fuel as a steady medium, in the identical manner you’d have a look at water as only a fluid, and it has the properties we simply talked about.

However in physics, we like to think about a fuel as a set of discrete particles that transfer round. Within the air, these could be molecules of nitrogen (N2) or oxygen (O2); within the mannequin, they’re simply tiny balls bouncing round in a container. A person particle of fuel does not have a strain or temperature. As a substitute it has a mass and velocity.

However here is the essential level. If we’ve got two methods to mannequin a fuel (as steady or as particles), these two fashions ought to agree of their predictions. Particularly, I ought to be capable of clarify strain and temperature through the use of my particle mannequin. Oh, however what concerning the different properties within the supreme fuel legislation? Properly, we’ve got the quantity of a steady fuel. However since a fuel takes up all of the area in a container, it is equal to the quantity of the container. If I put a bunch of tiny particles in a field of quantity V, that will be the identical as the quantity of the continual fuel. Then we’ve got the “quantity” of fuel designated by the variable n within the supreme fuel legislation. That is truly the variety of moles for that fuel. It is principally simply one other technique to rely the variety of particles. So, the particle and steady mannequin additionally must agree right here. (Wish to know extra about moles? Here is a proof for you.)

Particle Mannequin for the Ultimate Fuel Legislation

OK, should you take an inflated balloon, it’ll have a LOT of molecules of air in it, perhaps round 1022 particles. There isn’t any manner you could possibly rely them. However we will construct a physics mannequin of a fuel utilizing a a lot smaller variety of particles. Actually, let’s begin with only one particle. Properly, I can simply mannequin a single object shifting with some fixed velocity, however that is hardly a fuel. I no less than must put it in a container. To maintain it easy, let’s use a sphere.

The particle will transfer contained in the sphere, however it’ll must work together with the wall sooner or later. When that occurs, the wall will exert a power on the particle in a course perpendicular to the floor. With a view to see how this power modifications the movement of the particle, we will use the momentum precept. This says {that a} shifting particle has a momentum (p) that is the same as the particle’s mass (m) instances its velocity (v). Then a web power (F) will produce a sure change within the momentum (symbolized by Δp) per unit of time. It seems like this:

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