The Trebuchet Challenge | Space Time

Do you have what it takes to calculate the awesome power of the trebuchet?

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Kinetic and potential energy are defined as combinations of more basic quantities: position, velocity and mass. These combinations are chosen so that their sum is conserved. It’s actually remarkable that there’s any such combination of quantities that is conserved. This fact gives us insight into the fundamental symmetries of nature. It’s something we’ll get back to. Today I want to highlight the power of energy as a tool in calculation. We could get into fluid or stellar dynamics, or even quantum mechanics. But no, we’re going talk about something cooler – the trebuchet.

If you’re not familiar, shame on you, but here’s the deal: the trebuchet is, I suppose, a type of catapult, but it’s so much more. The internet agrees that the trebuchet is the greatest of all medieval siege engines. Opinion is divided on whether Chuck Norris would win a fight against a trebuchet. The hyperbole is kind of warranted. The trebuchet is incredibly efficient at converting the potential energy of a massive counterweight into the castle-destroying kinetic energy of a projectile. It relies on the mighty power of the lever.

Hosted by Matt O’Dowd
Written by Matt O’Dowd
Produced by Rusty Ward
Graphics by Grayson Blackmon
Assistant Editing and Sound Design by Mike Petrow and Linda Huang
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