Teaching Physics with the Physics Suite

Edward F. Redish

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Taking Cyrano to the moon

In Edmund Rostand's famous play, Cyrano de Bergerac, Cyrano in an attempt to distract a suitor from visiting Roxanne, claims to have descended to earth from the moon and proclaims to have invented 6 novel and fantastical methods for traveling to the moon. One is as follows.

Sitting on an iron platform--thence
To throw a magnet in the air. This is
A method well conceived--the magnet flown,
Infallibly the iron will pursue:
Then quick! relaunch your magnet, and you thus
Can mount and mount unmeasured distances!
In an old cartoon, there is another version of this method. A character in the old west is on a hand-pumped two-person rail car. After getting tired of pumping the handle up and down to make the car move along the rails, he takes out a magnet and holds it in front of the cart hanging from a fishing pole. The magnet pulls the cart towards it, which pushes the magnet forward, which... so the cart just moves forward continually. What do you think of these methods? Can some version of them work? Discuss in terms of the physics you have learned.

*Translated from the French by Gladys Thomas and Mary F. Guillemard, etext prepared by Sue Asscher, distributed by Project Gutenberg

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Page last modified October 8, 2002: P&E01