The study of the mechanics of tumbling toast provides an informative and entertaining project for undergraduates. The relatively recent introduction of software packages to facilitate the analysis of video recordings, and the numerical solution of complex differential equations, makes such a study an attractive candidate for inclusion in an experimental physics course at the undergraduate level. In the study reported here it is found that the experimentally determined free fall angular velocity of a board, tumbling off the edge of a table, can only be predicted at all accurately if slipping is taken into account. The size and shape of the board used in the calculations and in the experiments were roughly the same as that of a piece of toast. In addition, it is found that the board, tumbling from a standard table of height 76 cm, will land butter-side down (neglecting any bounce) for two ranges of overhang is defined as the initial distance from the table edge to a vertical line drawn through the center of mass when the board is horizontal. For our board (length 10.2 cm) the approximate ranges of overhang are 0–0.8 and 2.7–5.1 cm. The importance of the 0–0.8 cm (only 2% of all possible overhangs for which tumbling is possible) favoring a butter-side down landing should not be underestimated when pondering the widely held belief that toast, tumbling from a table, usually falls butter-side down.
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PAPERS| January 01 2001
A closer look at tumbling toast
M. E. Bacon;
M. E. Bacon, George Heald, Matt James; A closer look at tumbling toast. Am. J. Phys. 1 January 2001; 69 (1): 38–43. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.1289213
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