Math, Physics & Fun!

With a theme of Superheroes for the 2018 Rio Frio Ice Fest, how about a famous real person that does not make most people’s Superhero lists because they are mostly unfamiliar with Archimedes! He is the guy who gave us Pi. This is the number, in what I call circle science that is always the same, when you divide the circumference of a circle by its diameter and is a never ending number but is rounded off to 3.14159....

And he gave us the Archimedes Principle and all sorts of other cool knowledge as a mathematician, physicist, engineer, inventor and astronomer. The Archimedes Principle is that an object placed in water will displace the amount of water equal to its own weight. Perhaps you have heard of Archimedes as the guy who yelled “Eureka! I’ve found it!” While taking a bath, he noticed how he displaced a certain amount of water and the answer came to him! So excited was he, that he went running through the streets without any clothes on to proclaim his discovery. No record of what month in which this occurred or whether or not he came to his senses and ran to the nearest body of water and did his own Polar Plunge to escape being seen!

How do these two super discoveries, made over 2,000 years ago apply to the Rio Frio in 2018? Let’s ask Archimedes!


First, the Ice Carousel. While working one afternoon with Jeff Owsley and the Alamosa Parks and Recreation Department to cut the Ice Carousel in the pond, a circle of ice 40 feet in diameter, Jeff wondered how many people could stand on it before it sunk. Here is the math with which Archimedes discovered for us. Circumference of the circle is equal to 2 x Pi x radius which equals 125.6 feet. The depth of the ice is 4 inches. We now have an ice cylinder cut in the pond and Archimedes also knew the volume of a cylinder to be Volume = Pi x radius squared x height. So our Ice Carousel has a volume of 414.48 cubic feet. Here is the homework assignment. Using Archimedes displacement laws, how many pounds or kilograms of humans can stand on the Ice Carousel before the carousel will sink into Blanca Vista Pond and we all get our feet wet? Use whatever math conversions you need to reach the number of pounds. A free beer at Square Peg or free coffee at Milagro’s is on the line for correct answers. Provide answers at Ice Carousel starting at 10:30 this Saturday morning - January 27, 2018. Ask for Jeff or Dave.


The water in Blanca Vista ponds will be about 33 degrees Fahrenheit and if you decide to take the plunge, there is a rumor that all who do so will not be cold the rest of the winter.

Using Archimedes principle, about how many gallons of water will your body displace? Again, a free beer at Square Peg or free hot coffee at Milagro’s is on the line!

RIO FRIO 5K on Sunday, January 28, 2018

Race will start at Cole Park as usual and part of the course will go across the Blanca Vista Ponds. The two inches of snow we received will make traction on the ice better but it will still have treacherous slick spots. Recommendations - Use Yak Traks or several hexagonal screws that can be bolted to the bottom of old running shoes for traction. Or, if brave, try slowing down and accepting the challenge of shuffling your steps across the slick spots to avoid slipping and preventing bruised elbows.

Why does ice float when it freezes? Other materials that freeze will contract in size but we are lucky that water is most dense at 39 degrees F, and when it gets colder, it rises and floats to the surface whereby it forms in hexagonal crystalline patterns (think snowflakes and frost) and expands, freezes at 32 degrees Fahrenheit, therefore decreasing in density of the liquid water even though it seems quite rock solid and should sink, yet, it is only about 91 percent as dense as the water in which it is floating. Physics is often a counterintuitive science.

This winter has not provided the below zero temperatures Alamosa usually experiences so the Rio Grande is free flowing. Though not deep, it would take the best of us many hours to go 3 miles and we would all expire from hypothermia before we would make the finish line.

Another lesson in physics!

See ya for all the fun Saturday and Sunday! Stay warm, be smart, and become your own Superhero Science person!

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