Pumpkin Chunkin': Physics is All Around Us
I am as guilty as anyone of taking things too seriously. Being a physics geek, I guess I look at things very differently than most people. When you have had to think about physics and higher level math many hours a day for years that’s what happens! Ultimately, when it comes to good physics and good pumpkins, it’s a match made in heaven – or, at least in Delaware!
Part of the way between Bridgeville and Georgetown, DE, in a field that might be identified on a map as “Coverdale Crossroads,” you will find the 25th (YES 25TH) annual Pumpkin Chunkin contest, sponsored by the World Championship Punkin Chunkin Association of Nassau, DE. These chunkers of the seeded roundish orb of Fall that we associate with things like pie and Charlie Brown have found an exquisitely physics way to view the pumpkin. Once a year, it becomes the subject of a heated competition in projectile motion, with the pumpkin as the projectile. In lay person’s terms: who can fling the pumpkin the farthest.
If you dare venture to the rules page, you will find that there are specific rules worthy of an Olympic event. “No explosives allowed.” This three-day festival of flinging or “chunkin” pumpkins has many different categories even – consider the “Theatrical Class” where it isn’t about chunkin the pumpkin but chunkin it with drama! But the object is still same – get the thing to go far.
Because of that, there are some basic rules of motion that apply here. Think about it. Should the chunker maximize height? Should they chuck a line drive pumpkin? How does friction affect the (I can’t believe I am typing this phrase) “aerodynamics of the pumpkin”? These are all things that the great chunkers of all time have mastered. Take a look...
Note that this event draws numbers of people that are in the thousands! Maybe you know a closet pumpkin chunker!!
I hope to trek with my son to take part in the festivities, and if I do, you can expect a twitter feed about the event. Otherwise, you could help me out by answering a couple questions!
- What events are there that are like this in your area that merge good physics with a traditional gathering or festivity?
- What other physics that I haven’t talked about do you think is involved in pumpkin chunkin?
If enough of you are interested, maybe at Pumpkin Chunkin 26 a group of k12 learners and parents can descend on the little field in Delaware that comes alive every year!