The Physics behind the NC State Wolf Ears Sculpture


I’m Dr. Matthew Greene from NC State’s
Physics Department. We’re here to talk about the Wolf Ears on NC State’s
Brickyard. Neat little demonstration of physics at work.
The Wolf Ears are examples of parabolic reflectors.
They’re called parabolic because if we take a slice through them, the shape that
they make is a parabola — the same shape that a basketball follows as it flies
through the air. We run into parabolas in physics quite often and one of the
interesting properties of a parabola is that anything traveling toward it
parallel to the axis through the center gets reflected through a single point
called the focus. If you sit at the focus and speak into your own dish all of the
sound you make will get reflected off of your Wolf’s Ear and directed towards
your friends, but that’s only half the story.
Parabolic reflectors, like almost everything else in physics, work the same
way backwards as they do forward. When they speak it works exactly the same way,
just in reverse. Come on out and give it a try.
Thanks for watching, andGo Pack!

2 comments

  • Rushabh Sanghavi

    Loved the animation!

    Reply
  • Rob Black

    I have a parabolic hole over my left hemisphere and the "reverse" I can recognize Is behind the the parabola within my skull as well. Quite tricky w left eye trauma too.. becoming a sensory processing disorder forced focus to dis!

    Reply

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