Evan's Space

Wonders of Physics

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Fiery Re-entry into Earth’s Atmosphere



SpaceX’s Crew Dragon heat shield shown off after first orbital-velocity reentry

How do spacecraft re-enter the Earth? | HowStuffWorks

Why Is It So Difficult For A Returning Spacecraft To Re-Enter Our Atmosphere?

Returning from Space: Re-entry – PDF format

SpaceX In-Flight Abort Test

SpaceX Falcon Heavy- Elon Musk’s Engineering Masterpiece

Shuttle Atlantis STS-132 – Amazing Shuttle Launch Experience

How to Land the Space Shuttle… from Space

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Metal is a good conductor – paper over metal gets burned slower

The paper over metal or over plastic/wood will get burned faster?

Everyone knows that metal is a good conductor of thermal energy. But for experiments like this, many would have guessed it wrongly.

A paper is wrapped over metal and insulator (plastic, wood etc) and is exposed to the flame, the paper over the insulator becomes charred faster and burned faster.

The paper over the metal takes a longer time to be charred and burned. This is because metal is a good conductor of thermal energy. When the spot (paper over metal) is exposed to the flame, the metal conducts the thermal energy away from that spot to other parts of the metal. So the temperature increase at that spot is slower, hence the ignition temperature of the paper (approx. 230oC) will be reached much slower, compared to the spot where the paper is over an insulator.

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Boiling water at reduced pressure – Water boils at 75 oC

At sea level (where most of us are), the standard atmospheric pressure is about 101325 Pa. The boiling point of water is at 100 oC which we are familiar with.

But as you climbed up e.g. Mount Everest at 8,848 m, the pressure is low and the boiling point of the water is about 71oC. So that’s the hottest cofe you can have on top of the cold mountain!

Hence as the pressure decreases, the boiling point of the water decreases. As with lower pressure, the water molecules requires lesser energy to break the intermolecular forces to escape into the atmosphere, hence boiling point is lower.

This video shows the same effect. Using the syringe, the air is pumped out of the container to reduce the pressure. The water at 75 oC , (below the usual boiling point of 100 oC) will start to boil and you can observe the bubbles forming!


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Gas expands and contracts the most

The 3 states of matter –  solid, liquid and gas.

In general, when a body is heated, it expands and volume increases. The mass remains the same. Since density = mass/volume, its density decreases (less dense). For instance, warm air rises as it is less dense. In terms of kinetic theory, the particles will increase in kinetic energy. The average spacing between the particles increases (assuming not in a closed container).

Likewise, when a body is cooled, the opposite occurs. The body contracts and volume decreases. It becomes denser.

Due to the differences in particles arrangement of solid, liquid and gas, each expands by different amount when heated and vice versa. Which expands the most when heated and contracts the most when cooled?

The following demonstration of the ‘Pee Boy’ is a good video to show the concepts.


The tiny hole at the penis is too small for any water to enter on its own. So using thermal transfer in the different states, the following steps are taken:

  1. Put the hollow empty boy into the hot water. [air inside the boy expands more than the solid ceramic, hence bubbles are seen coming out of the hole]
  2. Put the hollow empty boy now into the cold water. [The air inside contracts and volume decreases. This creates a low pressure and water is then sucked into the boy through the tiny hole]
  3. Place the boy on a platform. [The boy is only partially filled with water. The head portion is filled air while the bottom portion is filled with water]
  4. Pour hot water over the head. [As the whole boy is heated by the running hot water, the air in the head portion expands much more than the water at the bottom and the solid ceramic of the boy. Hence the air pressure increases and it pushes the water out of the boy]
  5. And he pees!!! Quite powerful indeed!