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2009 High School Physics Photo Contest

Winner's Showcase

 

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Second Place - Natural

Title: Physics Found in Snow Curls
Student: Bethany Jeanne Schmitkons
School: Amherst Steele High School, Amherst, Ohio
Teacher: Chas Deremer

This happened when, after a big snowfall and a lot of really cold weather, there was one very sunny, yet very cold day. The sun shining on the snow made the top begin to melt. The water sunk to the bottom and compressed the snow on the bottom to make it heavy and slippery. The angle of the roof, the gravitational pull of the earth on the snow, and the reduced friction surface caused by the melting snow made the entire sheet of snow slide off the roof. The water molecules that make up snow are polar, so the opposite charges of the different sides of water molecules attract each other. That electromagnetic attraction is greater than the gravitational force pulling down on the snow and holds the entire structure up. The angle of the roof is perfect to give the snow a velocity that is slow enough that the pull of gravity warped the snow, but the rest of the snow kept moving to be bent down by gravity in turn. This created the round shape of the snow, and the denser layer of snow underneath froze in that shape by the cold weather and wind to support the structure of the curve. The corrugated impression left by the roof also strengthens the structure because it spreads the pressure of the weight of the snow out over a greater surface area and therefore puts less pressure on every point throughout.

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