Interactive course — Foundational Science

Physics of the Everyday

Investigate everyday physics, from household objects to weather patterns.

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Overview

Discover physics in unexpected places: from refrigerators and toilets, to traffic jams and water towers.

By the end of this course, you'll use powerful ideas like forces, energy, and estimation to solve crimes, design bridges, and throw axes through the lens of a physicist.

Topics covered

  • Estimation
  • Forces
  • Heat
  • Kinematics
  • Kinetic Energy
  • Momentum
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Potential Energy
  • Pressure
  • Rotational Dynamics
  • Torque
  • Weather

Interactive quizzes

37

Concepts and exercises

440+

Course map

Prerequisites and Next Steps

  1. 1

    In the House

    From the fridge to the toilet.

    1. Refrigerators

      Each component of your fridge does something different. How do you put them together to keep food cold?

      1
    2. Toilets

      Take a deep dive into the physics of the flush.

      2
    3. Helicopter Toy

      Propellers are fun to play with, but they're also a product of natural selection.

      3
  2. 2

    On the Field

    A workout for your body and mind.

    1. Axe Throwing

      Hitting a target is easier than you think, if you know where to stand.

      4
    2. BMX

      Use the concept of torque to land a wallride and grind a curvy rail.

      5
    3. Motocross

      If you want to land a front flip, you'd better have a grasp on angular momentum first.

      6
    4. Tug of War

      Brute strength won't help you in your next tug of war—find out what will.

      7
    5. Skiing

      Ski the highest line in the solar system: Olympus Mons.

      8
    6. Gymnastics: Spinning

      You're on a roll. Why is it an advantage to be small in gynmastics?

      9
    7. Gymnastics: Flipping

      Judges know not all flips are created equal. How much energy does a gymnast need to flip?

      10
    8. Baseball: Hitting & Catching

      Crack! A baseball bat turns to Jell-o under the crushing impulse of a homerun.

      11
    9. Baseball: Throwing & Running

      Turn two! Turn two! Use the concept of average speed to perfect your throw in baseball.

      12
  3. 3

    Fuel the World

    A series of high energy experiences.

    1. Fossil Fuels

      Most energy on Earth is just stored solar energy, including oil. So why are fossil fuels unsustainable?

      13
    2. Mammalian Caloric Intake

      What fraction of its bodyweight does an elephant need to eat to survive? What about a mouse?

      14
    3. Solar Power

      Weigh the pros and cons of solar energy. Can solar power meet the demands of modern society?

      15
    4. Nuclear Energy

      Nuclear fusion powers the Sun, but how can something as small as an atom release so much energy?

      16
    5. Nuclear Reactors

      Fission reactions are what powers nuclear power plants. Find out how this really works.

      17
    6. Dyson Sphere

      What if we could harvest all of the energy from a star?

      18
  4. 4

    Out in Nature

    Don't forget your jacket.

    1. Seasons

      Find out the real reason for the yearly cycle of seasons.

      19
    2. The Greenhouse Effect

      How Earth found warmth in a cold, dark place.

      20
    3. Weather Systems

      Low pressure, high pressure, cold front, warm front — decode the jargon in your weather report.

      21
    4. The Water Cycle

      Earth's water can be solid, liquid, or gas. How long does it spend in each phase?

      22
    5. Hurricanes

      It's hard to move in a straight line on a rotating planet.

      23
    6. Tides

      High tide would come but once a day were not the Moon to have its way.

      24
  5. 5

    Infrastructure

    The spice must flow.

    1. Fluoridated Water

      Is it a public health intervention, or a repressive government's mind-control tactic?

      25
    2. Airplanes

      What is lift? More importantly, what is a lift dumper?

      26
    3. Traffic

      Traffic jams aren't modern inventions, they're a force of nature.

      27
    4. Water Towers

      Find out why the water to your house stays on even when the power is off.

      28
    5. Beam and Truss Bridges

      You may want to tread softly on these bridges.

      29
    6. Arch and Suspension Bridges

      From the Brooklyn Bridge to the Golden Gate — these majestic bridges stood the test of time.

      30
    7. Skyscrapers

      Skyscrapers aren't as sturdy as you may think. Find out what's on their roofs to keep them from swaying.

      31
    8. Water Contamination

      How much meth is in your tapwater? Hopefully, not the same amount as in your sewage.

      32
  6. 6

    Crime

    Whodunit?

    1. Bike Tracks

      Crack a tricky murder investigation with the physics of bicycle tracks.

      33
    2. Blood Splatter

      Analyze blood splatter patterns to help reconstruct the events of a crime scene.

      34
    3. Auto Collisions

      Use clues about the tire skids and the extent of the damage to reconstruct a fatal collision.

      35
    4. Stray Bullets

      Can you predict where these stray bullets will end up? Kinematics can help.

      36
    5. Stray Bullets in the Wind

      Stray bullets are more unpredictable when you factor in the motion of air around them.

      37