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Spinning With Newton

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Michio Kaku quoted Albert Einstein, saying, “If a theory can’t be explained to a child, it’s probably worthless.” My job as a writer for children is to explain science ideas in a way they understand. Having just turned in my latest children’s book to Rourke Publishing, Kaku’s comments about Newton and spinning on the ice made a lot of sense to me.

The book is for grades 4–6 and titled “Forces and Motion at Work.” And I’ve always been fascinated by ice skating.

I enjoyed learning about Sir Isaac Newton during my research for the book. I don’t know theoretical physics much at all, but the idea of putting together the science of Newton and ice skating spins into physical science sounded like great fun.

So what would we call ice skating spins if Sir Newton were to have been a skater? Here’s what I think.

Apple drop spin—skater looks up and then down, sinking to the ice in a sit-spin wearing a puzzled look.

Newton-Hooke pairs attitude spin—two skaters spin in contradictory styles.

Alchemical backspin—skater completes a series of spins, moving backwards across the ice.

The Plague death drop-spin—skater leaps into the air, as if to escape contagious germs, and then sits in a safety spin.

“Principia” spin—the spin with a tendency to never return stop spinning.

An apple a day keeps the ice skaters at play

Farmer spin—a little-known spin that brilliant skaters refuse to perform.

Cambridge undistinguished spin—a free-thinking skating spin frequently executed by “C” average students.

Universal gravitational spin—backwards spin where the skater leans backward and lets gravity pull him down as low as he can go without falling.

Equal reaction spin—a spin performed by a skater who must regain her balance in the opposite direction after a spin move goes wrong.

Compulsory Einstein spin—skaters must carve an equation into the ice that involves one of Einstein’s mathematical calculations.

Elliptical spin—the skater must use his spinning inertia to carve a pattern that follows a planetary orbit shape.

Crossfoot force spin—skaters must match their spinning force to their mass times acceleration.

Color and light spin—skater attempts to spin at the speed of light.

Scratch spin—skater’s head and arm movement when above spin cannot be completed.

The Albert Einstein unified field combination spin—all the spins executed in a row within a one square-inch section of ice.

No skater has successfully executed this last spin, but it is certain to be done in the near future.

Maybe even by Michio Kaku.

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Shirley Duke

    Shirley Duke writes for children in a variety of genres. She is the author of a picture book, “No Bows!,” a YA novel, “Unthinkable,” and most recently, two science books, “Infections, Infestations, and Disease” and “You Can’t Wear These Genes.” She’s written commissioned novels, teacher guides, and teen magazine articles. She taught science and ESL in public schools for twenty-five years at the elementary, middle, and high school levels. She holds degrees in Biology and Education. She’s on a TWU book review committee and blogs weekly about books and science ideas at SimplyScience. Shirley is excited about science and loves NOVA.