Measuring drag force in Newtonian Liquids

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The Biology and Physics departments are currently in their fourth year of a Science education grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. This grant, focused on the integration of biology, physics, and quantitative analysis, has provided for the development of two new courses, Molecular and Cellular Biophysics, taught by new faculty member and biophysicist, Dr. Edwin Li, and Biomechanics, taught by Dr. Jonathan Fingerut (Biology) and Dr. Piotr Habdas (Physics). The Biomechanics course has provided access to new instrumentation and technologies to Biology and Physics majors enrolled in the class.

For example, in one laboratory experiment, students use high-resolution force sensors and an accompanying graphing datalogger to measure drag forces exerted on objects moving through different liquids. Changing the shape, velocity and even the medium through which they are moved allows students to isolate each factor and emulate and quantify the physical forces that different organisms face in their natural environment. The graphical interface provided by the PASCO Explorer GLX datalogger allows students to isolate specific portions of their data, easily visualize changes over time, and quickly identify problems in their setup and data collection protocols. The GLX are designed to work with over 70 different probes useful to many disciplines including the physical (e.g. force, magnetic fields), chemical (e.g. pH, temperature) and biological sciences (e.g. dissolved oxygen, light levels).

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