Splatters Matter (Video)

A painting in front of a chimney.

The artwork above isn’t a painting.  Sure, you see a pattern of colors on a framed canvas but not one drop of paint touched the fabric.

Beets, carrots, turmeric, blueberries and cilantro.

Red and yellow beets, carrots, turmeric, blueberries and cilantro were pushed, extracted and pulverized through a juicer and in a blender to obtain their dyes. 

Plastic eggs on the edge of a cliff.

Furthermore, no brushes touched the cloth.  Plastic Easter eggs were filled with the various juices and dropped from the edge of a cliff at the height of twenty-two feet, six inches.  

In the video below, you’ll see the process. 

Why juices?  Not to get all high and mighty, but respect for the forest.  Paint is full of chemicals that harm the environment. Moreover, whatever juices that splattered away from the canvas became snacks for the ants. 

Why a cliff?  Why not a retaining wall or a parking garage?

The view.

And, phrases such as “defacing public property” and “reckless behavior” are pretty good deterrents. 

Ok.  So why do it all?  Curiosity.  There’s something about watching objects fall that makes people curious.  In 1666, Isaac Newton watched an apple go splat and developed his three laws of gravity. In 1971, the astronaut David Scott dropped a hammer and a feather on the moon to demonstrate how fun gravity is. 

In fact, Google “Things Fall and Go Splat” and among the thirty-five thousand or so video choices, you’ll see cartoon characters, skydivers and watermelons in various stages of free fall.

So, why do we enjoy watching things drop and hit the ground?

I. Dress Rehearsal

The physics department at Agnes Scott college in Decatur, Ga. used to stage an event called “The Egg Drop.”  Students designed a vessel, put an egg in the vessel and dropped it off a balcony.  The goal was for the egg to land unscrambled.

Barbara Blatchely

Barbara Blatchley judged the contest a few times.  “It was tremendous fun.  I liked the ones that failed more than the ones that worked because it was usually quite spectacular failure.”

Blatchley has a PhD in psychology and teaches statistics as well.  She comes from an education family; both of her parents teach at universities and most of her siblings have graduate degrees. In her undergrad days, she majored in everything from Botany to Shakespeare.   In Blatchley’s own description, she is a happy generalist.   “I like everything.  Science and psychology let me dabble; reading and writing about what’s interesting.  One of the reasons I went into science is I like asking the question:  Why did that happen?”

Blatchley speaks in a straightforward way yet still has the tone of an inquisitive student.  She actively listens and appreciates that a conversation is as much about the surprises as the questions and answers.  When we sat down to talk, she was eager to discuss why we get a thrill out of watching things go splat.

“Watching things fall and go splat lets us safely watch destruction from a distance. Whatever’s getting blown up, popping, or exploding allows us to think about what we would do in that situation, if this were happening to us.”

“It’s a way to rehearse survival skills.  So, even if it’s something innocuous like plastic eggs filled with vegetable juice, we get to think about our own role, the uncertainty of life, with a brain that is designed to control things.  Our brain doesn’t like that-when we don’t get to control things, it rejects that chaotic reality and substitutes its own.  It’s a way to actually experience chaos without chaos actually invading your life.”

“That’s why we have a brain,” Blatchley continued.  “The brain’s job is to figure out what happened and ask, ‘What do I do next?’  We do that all the time, all day long.  We do it at night while we’re dreaming.  So that’s the purpose of that very complicated organ in your head.  Your brain is telling you when you watch the eggs go splat, ‘Whew! I’m glad that wasn’t me.’”

An egg hitting the ground is a violent act.  As we watch the egg falling, it allows us time to ask ourselves, “How would I react in this scenario?”  We’re giving ourselves time to assess our character and train our responses for future events. 

So, how much rehearsal time do we get before the egg goes splat?  Not much.

II. High Velocity

Michael Braswell

Michael Braswell teaches physics at Atlanta Metropolitan State College. The first thing you notice when you enter his office is the efficient layout. There is no wasted space, which might come from his practical experience before he became a teacher.

Braswell served 10 years in the Navy, five of them launching ballistic missiles from a submarine, which is the opposite of dropping eggs on a canvas. He spent another eight years with General Electric, doing process improvement using Six Sigma.   “I made things more efficient.  Producing the same amount with less.  I’m not your conventional teacher.  A lot of professors spend all their time in academia, my value is outside of the classroom. I’m bringing some real life experience to the classroom.”  He likens himself to a Swiss Army knife, saying that physics trains your mind to think logically and you can apply logic to anything. 

Braswell maintains eye contact while he speaks, using his hands for emphasis.  He speaks very deliberately, at times softening his tone to make sure the listener understands the concept of the egg’s changing speed.    

“Acceleration tells you how your velocity changes over time.  How does your speed change over time?  The actual number is 9.8, but let’s make it easy numbers.  Velocity changes ten meters per second every second.  Initially the egg has a speed of zero, or a velocity of zero.  Based on acceleration  due to gravity, one second after the egg leaves my hand, it’s going to be travelling ten meters per second.  After two seconds, it’ll be going twenty meters per second.”

Speed limit sign.

Braswell used the formula Vf² =Vi²-2gDy, explaining the equation in everyday English.  When the egg hits the canvas, it’s travelling thirty-eight feet per second.  In other words, the egg splatters at 26 miles per hour, or a safe speed in a residential neighborhood.

After two seconds, the egg is facing possible community service. 

Even though the eggs fell at thirty-two feet per second, some of them failed to open.  No splattering, just thuds. Blatchley mentioned that she’s not interested in the fall, she’s interested in what happens when it hits. Eggs should break when they fall.  If they don’t splatter, it’s weird.  The unexpected is the part of the experience and that makes us pay attention. 

In addition, Braswell noted that motion is easy to follow. Things captivate people and when those things move, the motion really arouses their curiosity.  The motion activates their critical thinking skills and they ask,  “Where’s it going?  What happens when it impacts?”  Good or bad, people are attracted to unplanned events.    

Eggs ready to put in the trash.

However, litter doesn’t captivate people in a positive way.  So, the egg shrapnel was disposed of properly. 

 Hikers shouldn’t have to come across hundreds of plastic Easter egg shards, pause and ask one of Barbara’s primary questions, “Why did that happen?” 

If you enjoy art, watching things fall or juicing vegetables, please like and share this post. Your comments are always welcome, too.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

1 thought on “Splatters Matter (Video)

  1. Excellent combination of art and science.
    The psychology and physics lessons were nice.
    The video soundtrack was also tasty.


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