Lever an Obelisk
Perhaps you don't think too much about using "The Advantage," but there's no way you can
live through a day without utilizing it in some way. No, we're not talking about a type
of computer, or a brand of clothing, or even a credit card. We're talking about mechanical
advantage—more specifically, about one of the most basic of all machines that makes
use of mechanical advantage: the lever.
Levers are everywhere. The light switch on the wall, for example, and the stapler on your desk.
You use levers when you shift gears on a bike and when you hit the brakes. A doorknob is a
type of lever. And then there's your body. Your body contains many, many levers—wherever
there's a movable joint there's a lever.
This activity is about the lever as a basic tool. The ancient Egyptians used levers in building
the pyramids. Although it is not known exactly how they erected the great obelisks, it's
a pretty sure bet that they used levers in some way.
In the following activity you're asked to lift one end of a relatively small obelisk three
feet. You have a lever, a movable fulcrum, weights, and supporting stones at your disposal.
Your goal is to lift the obelisk using as few of the weights and support stones as possible.
- Lever an Obelisk Shockwave (75K)
To play Lever an Obelisk, you need a copy of Macromedia's Shockwave plugin.
For information about Shockwave, including a link to download the free plugin,
go to the
Shockwave section within NOVA's Technical Help.
- Download Lever an Obelisk
These will run as mini-applications on your computer:
Windows 95/98/NT: lvzip9.exe (1.3MB)
Windows 3.x: lvzip3.exe (1.5MB)
Macintosh: lever.sit.hqx (1.6MB)
The Windows downloads are self-extracting ZIP archives: double-click the .exe file (sdzip9.exe or sdzip3.exe) to extract the Skydive mini-application
(skyd95.exe or skyd31.exe), then run the mini-application.
- Non-Shockwave version of Lever an Obelisk
You can't play this version, but you do have
access to all of the activity's content.
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