Sunday, February 15, 2009

And then the mechanical engineer said to the astrophysicist...

Get the new season nerd line here!

A friend of mine is a bit of an armchair physicist and has been reading up on different types of electric motors over recent weeks. I often have to sound the 'nerd!' alert when such readings take place, but no matter, the neighbours are used to it.

My Friend the Nerd (as we shall call him) often reads snippets of his scientific findings out so happily we all benefit from his learning and add to our stores of under-used pub trivia answers.

From these recitations I have learnt more about Kuiper Belt objects, how to teleport photons, and just what kind of concrete can absorb carbon than your average kettle could ever hope to know.

But one thing I didn't know until today is just how funny physicists could be. In the course of his investigations into electric motors My Friend the Nerd came across some lecture notes from John Storey, Professor of Physics at the University of NSW. Professor Storey's interests include infrared and millimetre astronomy, Antarctic astronomy and energy efficient vehicles, making him possibly the coolest dinner party guest on the planet (and probably in the Kuiper Belt too).

Let me share with you Professor Storey's comments on printed circuit motors:
Sometimes called "pancake motors", these are a particular cunning motor configuration whose operation is in some ways is easier to visualise than that of a conventional motor. They fit into confined spaces (say inside a car door, to make the windows go up and down) and, because the rotor is light and has little rotational inertia, can accelerate to full speed and stop again very rapidly.

This feature isn't so important for car windows (unless you’re into drive-by shootings), but is essential for industrial robots and other servo mechanisms.
Unless you're into drive-by shootings! For all the years I spent at uni and all the arty farty subjects I studied I never came across a lecturer who was a. as creative in his or her jokes, and b. as bloody funny.

I raise my photovoltaic array to you, Professor Storey.


Anonymous said...

You have a fabulous talent to see the funny side kettle. Storey's comments on printed circuit motors makes my head hurt

Kettle said...

Dear Anon, too kind! You are most welcome here anytime ;)

I'm still trying to figure out how 'printed circuit motor' gets shortened to 'pancake motor'... I'll work on this while Professor Storey gets on with the big stuff.

words, wine, coffee, art said...

Kettle, I too have a physics/electronics person (I hesitate to use the word 'nerd'.)
I ran your post by him, and yes, he knows all about printed circuit motors. And get this, he even has one lurking in his garage! It's not new, so it would have to be a prototype of your Prof. Storey's one.
They are of course called 'pancake' motors cos they're flat.
It's great to know a physicist has such a sense of humour!

Kettle said...

Words and Wine how fabulous that you have access to an actual, real, honest-to-god pancake motor!

One of my many problems with understanding pancake motors is that the name is so delightful that I'm completely distracted from the actual, real, honest-to-god science of them.

See, I'm feeling a little peckish now. I'll get straight back to the whole physics thing as soon as I've had something to eat...

Alpha Whale said...

I really need one of these motors in my car.

squib said...

I need a friend like that. When I read quantum mechanics-ey type articles in New Scientist my brain implodes

By the way I've tagged you for a meme

Kettle said...

Whale, that's a photo I've gotta see: a whale driving a car with pancake motors powering the windows.

Squib, that sounds painful! Perhaps My Friend the Nerd and Words and Wine's physics/electronics person should start some kind of public service website to help reduce the incidence of brain implosions. It would free up health funding and increase the subscription numbers for science magazines everywhere, I'm sure.

Thanks for the meme! I've made a list of Ts and will write them up today (if only 'list' started with 'T'; lists are one of my top three defining features).