By Donald Simanek


Puzzle of the Crowned Pulleys

Real-world problems in physics sometimes take quite a while to figure out, unlike the contrived problems in textbooks that must be solved by next week.

» One such real-world problem first came to my notice when I was a child growing up on an Iowa farm in the 1940s. At that time few farmers could afford grain-threshing equipment, and the custom was to share a threshing machine that would go from farm to farm.

The farmers brought the shocks of grain from the field to the machine, and then took the threshed grain to storage. The machine blew the straw into a huge pile. Too young ...

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