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Treebeard's Stumper
of the Week!
November 14, 2003

Pothole on the Road
November 14, 2003

All at once it's the winter season, and I have chores to do, like fixing that bad pothole in my road. Even the name "pothole" is a stumper! Sometimes a road just is in bad shape, but sometimes a pothole suddenly appears in a perfectly good road, like a gopher made a wrong turn. I understand how these "axle busters" are formed by frost heaving in colder climates, but why do we get them here in central California? Why are some roads worse than others? Why are potholes usually round, though we always drive across them in the same direction? (I'm sure it's not the gophers!)

Here are a few stages of pothole formation:
Step 1 - Cracks in the road. Note there is already a roundness to the cracks. (This is East Camino Cielo, my road home.)
Step 2 - More cracks, and they now penetrate the asphalt. A few chunks are missing, but the gaps are not round.
Step 3 - A proper round pothole, though it's not yet an "axle buster". It's in the middle of the road, so it gets traffic in both directions.
Step 4 - The pothole that ate the road! (This is Manzanita Lane at Paradise.)

I reckon the real stumper is why these potholes are usually more-or-less round, at least in stage 3. Cars always drive across them (in both directions up here in the mountains!), so why aren't they usually much longer than wide? What other natural processes is this related to?

Send your answers to Treebeard at mkummel@rain.org


About Last Week's Stumper...

Lacrosse Sticks
November 7, 2003

Lacrosse is an exciting team sport that I never got to play as a kid. Art is teaching the basics in his P.E. classes. I find it interesting how different the sticks are. Some lacrosse sticks are short (40-42") with a small pocket to catch and throw the ball. Others are long (52-72") with a small pocket. One stick is short with a very large pocket. Why are there different sticks? If short and long are good, would shorter and longer be better? Where does lacrosse come from, and when was the first game (or a related game *hint*) played near Santa Barbara?

Dunn Middle School students modeling the three basic kinds of (men's) lacross sticks. The men's game is a contact sport and special protective gear is required, including helmet, gloves, and arm and shoulder pads. It's an expensive outfit. The women's game is less physical and has different rules and equipment. For example, women's sticks are all short and have a shallower pocket. We're just learning the basics of passing and ball handling, without getting rough.

We use a crowbar to magnify force over a small distance. Lacrosse sticks reduce force to magnify distance and speed. A stick with a longer "lever arm" will throw the ball farther, but a player can't maneuver it as fast. That's physics. The longer and slower sticks are also too big a target. Form follows function, so the long sticks are defense sticks and the shorter ones are attack sticks. The goalie stick is short for speed with a bigger head for maximum catching area. The local Chumash played the related game shinny with wooden sticks and ball!

Notes:

Goldilocks had to search for the right porridge that wasn't too cold or too hot. So in sports (and life!) we often have to find a balance between not enough and too much. You can't throw a ping-pong ball very far because it's too light, and you can't throw a lead ball very far because it's too heavy. But in between the extremes there is a ball that's just the right size and weight to throw. Similarly, there is a right length for a lacrosse stick.

(It's my son's birthday and I have no more time today. I'll get back to this as soon as I can!)


About Treebeard's Stumpers...

I post a stumper in the Dunn Middle School Friday Newsnote most every week during school that involves science, natural history, math, and/or logic. Stumpers can be tricky, but they are usually solvable with just your wits or a Web search. We donít usually spend class time on these stumpers. They are for family fun and mental exercise, not a grade.

These stumpers are written for kids and families at Dunn Middle School. The students are in grades 6-8. Some of these stumpers are my own, some are classics, some come from books, and some are from rec.puzzles and other sources on the Net. I'm usually limited to about 10 lines of text in one column (of two) for both stumper and answer, so space is tight. But I have more room here on the Web which I've been using more and more. Sometimes I spend more time on questions than answers, or I'm late with extended answers because of school and family commitments. I'm trying to make time for my new Treebeard's Photos page at fotolog. Life is full. I do the best I can!

I donít always know the answer, so please help me with both answers and new problems! Send email to mkummel@rain.org for a fast response. I'll give credit, unless you ask me not to.


Past Stumpers... and answers!

You can Search Treebeard's Stumpers!

[*] Pothole on the Road 14 Nov 03
[*] Lacrosse Sticks 7 Nov 03
[*] Devil Winds 31 Oct 03
[*] Looking-glass World 24 Oct 03
[*] Autumn Light 17 Oct 03
[*] Alice Big and Small 10 Oct 03
[*] Stumper 200! 3 Oct 03
[*] Chicken and Egg Problem 26 Sep 03
[*] Hurricanes and Seasons 19 Sep 03
[*] Close Encounters 12 Sep 03
[*] Tasty Waves 16 May 03
[*] Sackcloth and Ashes 9 May 03
[*] A Grand Tour of Dunn Middle School 2 May 03
[*] Google Whacking 25 Apr 03
[*] The Birds and the Bees 4 Apr 03
[*] Howling Wind 28 Mar 03
[*] A Real Piece of Cake 21 Mar 03
[*] Gas Mileage, with Seasoning 14 Mar 03
[*] Our Hot and Cold House 7 Mar 03
[*] World Record Breaking Stumper 28 Feb 03
[*] Telephone Call To Babel 14 Feb 03
[*] Weight Loss 7 Feb 03
[*] Fifteen Minutes of Fame 31 Jan 03
[*] Sunbeams and God Light 24 Jan 03
[*] Peaceful Knights 17 Jan 03
[*] Plugged In 10 Jan 03
[*] Size Shifting 13 Dec 02
[*] Time and Tide 6 Dec 02
[*] Forgotten Harvest 22 Nov 02
[*] Catch a Falling Star 15 Nov 02
[*] Sound Tracks 8 Nov 02
[*] Fifteen Men on the Dead Man's Chest 1 Nov 02
[*] The Sound of Sound 25 Oct 02
[*] Water Stress 18 Oct 02
[*] Bikes and Boards 11 Oct 02
[*] Stumper Birthdays 4 Oct 02
[*] National Defence Light Show 27 Sep 02
[*] Stay in School 20 Sep 02
[*] Catalina Crossings 6 Sep 02
[*] Tangled Up Puppet 3 May 02
[*] Hanky Panky 26 Apr 02
[*] Line Dance of the Planets 19 Apr 02
[*] A Plumbing Story 12 Apr 02
[*] Roadside Attractions 22 Mar 02
[*] Gearing Up For a Ride 15 Mar 02
[*] Over The Rainbow 08 Mar 02
[*] Redivider Words 15 Feb 02
[*] The Perfect Light 8 Feb 02
[*] The Big Chill 1 Feb 02
[*] Frosty Leaves 25 Jan 02
[*] Show Me a Million 18 Jan 02
[*] Winter Stars 11 Jan 02
[*] Secret Santa 21 Dec 01
[*] Christmas Cut-Ups 14 Dec 01
[*] Burned Again 7 Dec 01
[*] AM/FM Radio Blues 30 Nov 01
[*] Another Harvest Feast 16 Nov 01
[*] Soil Matters 02 Nov 01
[*] Tricky Tetrahedra 26 Oct 01
[*] Mediterranean Climates 19 Oct 01
[*] Late Bloomers 12 Oct 01
[*] Palindromic Dates 05 Oct 01
[*] The Sound of Boiling Water 28 Sep 01
[*] Six Degrees of Connection 21 Sep 01
[*] Imagine Peace 14 Sep 01
[*] Thinking About Sinking 7 Sep 01
[*] Go The Extra Mile 11 May 01
[*] The Mind's Ear 4 May 01
[*] Kinky Chains 27 Apr 01
[*] Blowing in the Wind 6 Apr 01
[*] Catch an ISS Pass 30 Mar 01
[*] The Universal Library of Stumpers 23 Mar 01
[*] Too Many Toads! 16 Mar 01
[*] Bicycle Tracks 9 Mar 01
[*] Keeping Warm 2 Mar 01
[*] Julie Time 16 Feb 01
[*] Round Robin 9 Feb 01
[*] Paper Trees 2 Feb 01
[*] Earthrise 26 Jan 01
[*] Frosty Windows 19 Jan 01
[*] Power Lines 12 Jan 01
[*] Rain or Shine 5 Jan 01
[*] Four-Color Christmas 15 Dec 00
[*] Obfuscated URLs 8 Dec 00
[*] The Cold Season 1 Dec 00
[*] Burning Bogs and Exploding Pancakes 10 Nov 00
[*] Beautiful Death 3 Nov 00
[*] Halloween Number Trick (& Treat) 27 Oct 00
[*] Red-Eye Blues 20 Oct 00
[*] Black and White Clouds 13 Oct 00
[*] There and Back Again 29 Sep 00
[*] Olympic Number Rings 22 Sep 00
[*] Deep Secrets 8 Sep 00
[*] Science Fair Crossword 12 May 00
[*] Endangered Species 5 May 00
[*] Are We There Yet? 28 Apr 00
[*] Wet Sand, Dry Sand 14 Apr 00
[*] Double Meaning 31 Mar 00
[*] Equal Days? 24 Mar 00
[*] Harry Potter's Puzzle 17 Mar 00
[*] Strange Views 10 Mar 00
[*] Snow on the Hood 6 Mar 00
[*] The Sky is Falling 3 Mar 00
[*] Crunching 2000 25 Feb 00
[*] An Elementary Scavenger Hunt 18 Feb 00
[*] A Slow Sort of World 11 Feb 00
[*] Peaceful Queens and Warriors 4 Feb 00
[*] Stumper 100! 28 Jan 00
[*] More Lunacy 21 Jan 00
[*] Total Eclipse 14 Jan 00
[*] Christmas Lights 7 Jan 00
[*] Millennium Magic 17 Dec 99
[*] Pyrophagy! (eating fire) 10 Dec 99
[*] Oh, Nuts! 3 Dec 99
[*] Five Fridays 12 Nov 99
[*] Piece of Cake 5 Nov 99
[*] Ollie Up 29 Oct 99
[*] Too Many Ancestors 22 Oct 99
[*] World Party 15 Oct 99
[*] 98.6 in the Shade 8 Oct 99
[*] Unlucky Strikes 1 Oct 99
[*] California Hurricane 24 Sep 99
[*] Wild Fire 17 Sep 99
[*] Star Wars Survey Says 21 May 99
[*] Pumping Up for a Ride 14 May 99
[*] Wind Ripples 7 May 99
[*] Getting Around 30 Apr 99
[*] Orchard Rows 16 Apr 99
[*] Silent alphabet 2 Apr 99
[*] Storm Damage 26 Mar 99
[*] Kidnapped 12 Mar 99
[*] Shoot My Own Feet 5 Mar 99
[*] Gee, Force! 26 Feb 99
[*] Crunching 1999 12 Feb 99
[*] Groundhog Day 5 Feb 99
[*] Prune Fingers 29 Jan 99
[*] Up This Hill and Down 22 Jan 99
[*] In a Fog 15 Jan 99
[*] Extreme Winter Tides 8 Jan 99
[*] Holiday Magic 18 Dec 98
[*] Jar of Flies 11 Dec 98
[*] Shooting Stars 4 Dec 98
[*] Friday the 13th 13 Nov 98
[*] East-West Mountains 6 Nov 98
[*] Rollin' on the River 23 Oct 98
[*] Local Geography 16 Oct 98
[*] The ABCs of Science 9 Oct 98
[*] Full Moon Birthday 2 Oct 98
[*] The Inconstant Year 25 Sep 98
[*] Seeing the Light from Jupiter 18 Sep 98
[*] My Cup Runneth Over? 11 Sep 98
[*] Scarcity and Abundance 22 May 98
[*] Chess Squares 15 May 98
[*] A Calculator Trick 8 May 98
[*] Metric Time 1 May 98
[*] Born To Die 24 Apr 98
[*] Pastures of Plenty 10 Apr 98
[*] April Fools' Gold 3 Apr 98
[*] Bringing the Movies Home 27 Mar 98
[*] "Poison" Oak 20 Mar 98
[*] An Electric Stumper 6 Mar 98
[*] The Rain and the Wind 27 Feb 98
[*] Crunching 1998 13 Feb 98
[*] Lots of Pennies 30 Jan 98
[*] Double-Digit Years 23 Jan 98
[*] Wintertime Blues 16 Jan 98
[*] Anacapa Mirage 9 Jan 98
[*] Another Magic Star 19 Dec 97
[*] The Twelve Days of Christmas 12 Dec 97
[*] Pretty Planets all in a Row 5 Dec 97
[*] Fall or Spring? 21 Nov 97
[*] Birds and Berries 14 Nov 97
[*] Blue Skies...and not so Blue 7 Nov 97
[*] Tired or Wired in D.C.? 24 Oct 97
[*] Traffic Lights on the Pass 17 Oct 97
[*] Boat Race 10 Oct 97
[*] How to Place a Window Fan 3 Oct 97
[*] Taking Eggs to Market 26 Sep 97
[*] The Odd Egg 19 Sep 97
[*] A Grand Tour of the Science Building 9 May 97
[*] Clock Stumper 2 May 97
[*] Intoduced Species 25 Apr 97
[*] Twisted Wires 18 Apr 97
[*] A Moveable Feast 11 Apr 97
[*] The Equinox is NOT an "Equal Night" 21 Mar 97
[*] Find Comet Hale-Bopp 14 Mar 97
[*] Self-Reference 7 Mar 97
[*] When is Washington's Birthday? 28 Feb 97
[*] Crunching 1997 14 Feb 97
[*] Why is a Mushroom Like an Iceberg? 7 Feb 97
[*] A Moving Comet 31 Jan 96
[*] Two DVT Quickies 24 Jan 96
[*] The New Millennium 17 Jan 96
[*] 1997 is a Prime New Year 10 Jan 96
[*] Magic Star 11 Dec 96
[*] Cold Winter Sun 6 Dec 96
[*] Harvest Feast 22 Nov 96
[*] Winter Question 15 Nov 96
[*] Paper Folding 8 Nov 96
[*] Early Rain 1 Nov 96
[*] Daylight Savings Time 25 Oct 96
[*] The Big Freeze 18 Oct 96
[*] A Question About Fans 11 Oct 96
[*] Birthday Stumper 4 Oct 96
[*] Catalina Code 20 Sep 96
[*] Candles in Space 13 Sep 96
[*] Fanning a Flame 6 Sep 96



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Copyright © 2003 by Marc Kummel / mkummel@rain.org.