Every Monday for the next few months, we'll be posting a short video clip here at You Do the Math. All will have at least a tenuous connection to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics. Teachers can use these as writing prompts or as starting points for larger lesson plans (I'll try to include some hints now and then), but the main purpose is simply to have a little fun.
Our debut clip features one of my favorite pieces of cool technology, the rail gun. The following shows declassified footage of the test firings of the latest model.The soundtrack doesn't actually add that much so I would probably leave it off and either talk to the class or play music while the video was running.
Here are some of the highlights from the Wikipedia entry:
[The Navy] gave the project the Latin motto "Velocitas Eradico", Latin for "I, [who am] speed, eradicate"....
In 1944, during World War II, Joachim Hänsler of Germany's Ordnance Office built the first working railgun, and an electric anti-aircraft gun was proposed. By late 1944 enough theory had been worked out to allow the Luftwaffe's Flak Command to issue a specification, which demanded a muzzle velocity of 2,000 m/s (6,600 ft/s) and a projectile containing 0.5 kg (1.1 lb) of explosive. The guns were to be mounted in batteries of six firing twelve rounds per minute, and it was to fit existing 12.8 cm FlaK 40 mounts. It was never built. When details were discovered after the war it aroused much interest and a more detailed study was done, culminating with a 1947 report which concluded that it was theoretically feasible, but that each gun would need enough power to illuminate half of Chicago....
In 2003, Ian McNab outlined a plan to turn this idea into a realized technology. The accelerations involved are significantly stronger than human beings can handle. This system would be used only to launch sturdy materials, such as food, water, and fuel. Note that escape velocity under ideal circumstances (equator, mountain, heading east) is 10.735 km/s. The system would cost $528/kg, compared with $20,000/kg on the space shuttle.
And here are some quick lesson ideas.
This one is fairly easy.For younger kids, you could give them a scenario involving, for instance, a moon base. Have them talk about how railguns and other technologies might be used. You might also have them include an illustration. For older kids, the focus would be a bit more serious and realistic and might include potential problems with applying this technology.