EDUCATION: The Physics Answer Man

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Science  01 Oct 2004:
Vol. 306, Issue 5693, pp. 25
DOI: 10.1126/science.306.5693.25c

How do those parabolic microphones that TV networks use at football games work? Stained glass windows in cathedrals are often thicker at the bottom than at the top. Is the glass oozing downward? Find the answers to these and many other puzzlers at How Things Work from University of Virginia, Charlottesville, physicist Louis Bloomfied.

For 8 years, Bloomfield has explained the science behind everyday technology to stumped grade-school students, professionals, and consumers besieged by dubious-sounding sales pitches. Their inquiries are equally diverse, ranging from how rockets fly to how paper towels absorb water. For example, Bloomfield writes that stained glass doesn't flow; medieval glassmakers couldn't produce uniform sheets, and the panes were usually installed with the thick edge down. And the curved surface of a parabolic microphone ensures that the sound waves it picks up are in phase, thus amplifying the volume.

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