Challenge Questions Blog

### Challenge Questions

Stop in and exercise your brain. Talk about this month's Challenge from Specs & Techs or similar puzzles.

So do you have a Challenge Question that could stump the community? Then submit the question with the "correct" answer and we'll post it. If it's really good, we may even roll it up to Specs & Techs. You'll be famous!

Answers to Challenge Questions appear by the last Tuesday of the month.

 Previous in Blog: The Case of the Big Spark: Newsletter Challenge (March 2012) Next in Blog: Singing Like Pavarotti: Newsletter Challenge (May 2012)
 Page 1 of 3: « First 1 2 3 Next > Last »

# Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

Posted April 01, 2012 12:00 AM
Pathfinder Tags: challenge questions

This month's Challenge Question: Specs & Techs from GlobalSpec:

Use a very sensitive balance to weigh an hourglass when all the sand is in the lower plate, and again at the moment the hourglass is turned over. You will notice that the two weights are different. Why? Which one of the two weights will be higher?

And the answer is:

When you turn over the hourglass, there will be a short period of time when a stream of sand is free falling. This sand stream will not contribute to the weight, so the hourglass weighs less during this time period.

Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to

### Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

### Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!
2
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: by the beach in Florida
Posts: 32805
#1

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 3:00 AM

The one closest to the center of the Earth....

__________________
All living things seek to control their own destiny....this is the purpose of life
Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#289
In reply to #1

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

05/03/2012 12:19 AM

what tide is it?

Score 1 for Off Topic
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 1053
#291
In reply to #289

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

05/03/2012 10:27 AM

Right now it's slack tide, locally. Depends upon where you are in the world.

__________________
Think big. Drive small.
4
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Trantor
Posts: 5363
#2

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 8:19 AM

In the second instance the mass of the falling sand will not be recorded as weight, so the weighing balance will record a lower weight in the second case as compared to the slightly higher initial weight reading.

__________________
Whiskey, women -- and astrophysics. Because sometimes a problem can't be solved with just whiskey and women.
Good Answer (Score 4)
Participant

Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 1
#153
In reply to #2

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 7:46 PM

That's one way of looking at. Another, is that the hour glass also exerts less force on the scale (after its turned over) because it's center of gravity is moving downward from above the bottleneck to below. It's doing the same thing a rocket does - shove mass in one direction to cause that Newtonian 'equal and opposite' reaction in the other. A fancier term for it is 'conservation of momentum'. When a sand particle accelerates from stationary position to having a downward velocity, it has acquired momentum or (mass x velocity). The hourglass also acquires an equal but opposite momentum vector to keep the conservation of momentum equation balanced. However,because the hourglass doesn't move this momentum vector is expressed as (force x time) instead, which momentarily and minutely offsets part of the hourglass weight. When the sand particle comes to rest at the bottom, its momentum is transferred to the hourglass, cancelling out the hourglasses upward momentum vector - but only after the sand particle's travel time is up. Aggregate all the sand particles in motion, and until all the sand has moved to the bottom, there's always a net difference in momentum based on sand particle travel time which makes the hourglass "lighter".

4
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#3

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 8:32 AM

The hourglass will weigh more with the sand at the bottom. At the moment the hourglass is flipped over all of the sand is at the top, true, but the bit of sand at the constriction is in freefall even though it has not begun to move. Even so, the bit is *not* exerting force on the hourglass. The problem calls for an exceptionally sensitive balance because the weight of the bit of sand is very small.

Good Answer (Score 4)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#4
In reply to #3

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 10:14 AM

I agree that the downward accelerating sand will make the weight of the hourglass slightly less if we can get a sensitive enough of a scale. But what of the added force required to stop the free falling sand? If we're going to claim sufficient resolution to see the reduction in weight from the falling sand lets consider everything then. This then brings into question how much sand is actually in accelerating fall. Similarly at the moment of inverting the hour glass, all of the sand that was at the bottom which is now the top falls to the mid-point funnel and stops. This change in momentum of nearly all of the sand stopping at mid-point will produce a very noticeable impulse of more weight instead of less weight.

Additionally what about buoyancy then with the gas inside the hour glass. If the sand while falling is accelerating downward then I can see a reduction in weight but if the tiny grains actually reach terminal velocity then no net change in a downward force from these grains will happen.

So I say that this really is another ambiguous question. Depending on how one chooses to define the moment of inverting the hourglass, the weight can be significantly more, slightly more or slightly less than it was with all of the sand at rest in the bottom of the hourglass.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Score 1 for Good Answer
3
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#5
In reply to #4

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:55 AM

"... at the moment the hourglass is turned over" is significant. It implies the action of 'turning over' the hourglass is complete but that the sand has not fallen anywhere just yet, ie, t=0. The sand hits bottom 'after the moment,' does it not? At t>0? Else the sand would be falling 'before the moment the hourglass is turned over' in order to have sufficient time to fall from the neck to the bottom.

Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#6
In reply to #5

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 1:13 PM

You're ignoring my closing point. Usually the closing statement is the point of the statement.

Depending on how one chooses to define the moment of inverting the hourglass, the weight can be significantly more, slightly more or slightly less than it was with all of the sand at rest in the bottom of the hourglass.

IMHO the stated question does not define well what are the conditions that constitute being turned over to say if the weight should be more or less. The initial conditions as stated are with the sand at rest at the bottom of the hourglass. After this initial condition there can be instances were the weight can appear to be greater than this, equal to this, or even less than this initial condition. My point is more apparent if one considers the discrete time condition. With t(0) being the initial condition and t(1) being the hourglass inverted condition of interest with sand resting on the funnel surface there maybe a finite impulse during t(1) from the sand landing on the funnel. If instead one chooses t(2) to not include this potential impulse effect as the time to consider then the grains of sand falling through the orifice that are accelerating downward will reduce the downward force, the grains of sand at terminal velocity will make no difference and the grains being decelerated at the bottom of the hourglass will increase the downward force. One can now choose a t(2) condition with sand of each category to make the weight more, less or equivalent to t(0).

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
3
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#7
In reply to #6

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 3:12 PM

"Depending on how one chooses to define the moment of inverting the hourglass"

This one appears to have chosen, yes? Not the choice you nor anyone else might make necessarily but, in the absence of complete information I had to start somewhere, non? Time will tell whether it was the right choice or not.

Good Answer (Score 3)
Guru

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: Edinburgh, Bonnie Scotland
Posts: 1302
#8
In reply to #4

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:33 PM

And, of course, when turned there will be a significant time taken to balance out the inertial forces of the turning motion, so the sand may be all at the bottom again by the time the induced oscillations have dissipated.

__________________
Madness is all in the mind
Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: About 4000 miles from the center of the earth (+/-100 mi)
Posts: 9559
#21
In reply to #3

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 1:00 PM

At least until it reaches terminal velocity when we have the old chickens in the back of the truck problem.

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#174
In reply to #3

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/12/2012 6:42 PM

Dude, are you still reading ? Godd*m them for not posting the answer yet -Im all spouted out. Usb get's good bucks for notching for first 'sensible' answer. Finesse, OK, let me tickle your prarie oysters for seeing the subtle point and saying you topped the post. Of course, I am top dawg for summation .

Now I am pissed (Brit sense), and it's time to digress (challenge question tradition) - though not by much. There is no such thing as 'compressive failure'. Discuss amongst yourself (). Sure, compressive stress can be applied, but failure is due to shear....I refer all who think I've gone mad(der) to Brazilian (Discs, not shaving). For those too lazy, that's tensile strength inferred from compressive force. 'not by much'....a funny thing occurs called 'platen effect' really screws that.

Ooops, back OT.....calls for an exceptionally sensitive balance...Aw, you'll be 'shoulding' the poor thing next. Cone-heads of the world unite !

For anybody else reading, don't disturb me with requests for explanation - I'm already disturbed !

The sensible reading order - europium, Usb, and some bloke from Atlanta .Sorry ken, just a mild bit of funning funning

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#199
In reply to #174

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/18/2012 4:32 PM

To quote a mutual friend: "

"

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#201
In reply to #199

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/18/2012 5:44 PM

Maybe the answer was posted then archived .

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#202
In reply to #201

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/18/2012 6:05 PM

Possibly it disappeared into the Hole of Archiving?

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#207
In reply to #202

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 1:12 AM

Never mind the risk, I want one !

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#208
In reply to #207

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 1:54 AM

Emailing you one even as we speak. If you hear a whooshing sound don't crawl in after your printer. We need you back here.

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#210
In reply to #208

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 2:03 AM

I'll be waiting for you to pop out (wait a few minutes, else you'll jam the printer).

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#211
In reply to #210

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 2:22 AM

You won't believe this: I was turning the page over, spot side down, to put it on the scanner and out fell pieces of porcelain-enameled cast iron. Please advise...

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#212
In reply to #211

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 2:27 AM

...remove your feet from under the desk, quick !

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#213
In reply to #212

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 3:26 AM

[psst: Can't PM. Getting those "You (or someone else on the same network) has done this operation too many times. You will have to try again tomorrow. Sorry for the inconvenience" again. This is nuts. ]

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#214
In reply to #213

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 3:38 AM

ha-ha !

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#215
In reply to #214

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 4:37 AM

"Maowing" indeed. Unix jelly thou! If there's such a thing as reincarnation, it wouldn't surprise me in the least if you came back as a barnacle. Stuck to a tub! Or worse, cchaf!

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#216
In reply to #215

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/19/2012 6:22 AM

There's no iff's in that !

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#200
In reply to #174

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/18/2012 4:47 PM

In keeping with the spirit of Challenge-Question Ambiguity, perhaps it should read "... a following tuesday,"

Or

It could be that the onset of tuesday, ergo, the actual moment at which tuesday is in fact tuesday, is a matter of some dispute,

Or

The Tuesday in question could have zipped on by, given the considerable unbroken momentum of the weekdays preceeding it,

Or

The OP is just as confused as we are,

Or

Power-User

Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 451
#9

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:36 PM

I am very glad that I am not trying to make a living out of working out the weight difference between an hour glass at rest and the same hour glass in dynamic mode.

Or was that just before the sand started to flow and if the sand has not yet started to flow would there not be some residual inertia from the inversion?

BAB

__________________
Make it so.
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Glen Mills, PA.
Posts: 2385
#11
In reply to #9

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:47 PM

You raise a good point, at the instant, the sand isn't even at the neck, it is along the side, completely unsupported unless the turn is very slow. If it is very slow, which instant are we talking about?

__________________
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#17
In reply to #11

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 8:01 AM

But I....

How could....

Oh, never mind.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Glen Mills, PA.
Posts: 2385
#19
In reply to #17

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 12:19 PM

Apologies. Your idea passed slowly through the filtration system of my mind and broke through as I read #9.

__________________
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell
Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Glen Mills, PA.
Posts: 2385
#10

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:43 PM

It appears that both offerings are correct. All of the sand has been moved to a lower gravity, and a small amount is not supported. I am pondering the thought that energy has been pumped into the system by an external agency, the potential energy is increased; needs more thought. The falling sand creates noise and heat which dissipates the energy input with the turn. If energy is interchangeable with mass...

__________________
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell
Guru

Join Date: Oct 2008
Posts: 42367
#12

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/01/2012 11:54 PM

I just want to know when the egg will be done.

Guru

Join Date: May 2005
Location: In the Garden
Posts: 3389
#13
In reply to #12

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 4:00 AM

Long before the hour-glass runs out...unless you want your egg extremely hard boiled.

"Six bells and all's well. Six bells and all's well."

__________________
Chaos always wins because it's better organised.
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#24
In reply to #13

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 2:36 PM
Off Topic (Score 5)
Associate

Join Date: Apr 2007
Location: Spring Lake, Mi
Posts: 42
#16
In reply to #12

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 7:39 AM

Yummy eggs

__________________
Live Slow - Sail Fast
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#75
In reply to #12

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 12:43 AM

but not with my hourglass

Guru

Join Date: Jan 2007
Location: In the bothy, 7 chains down the line from Dodman's Lane level crossing, in the nation formerly known as Great Britain. Kettle's on.
Posts: 31376
#86
In reply to #12

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 8:24 AM

Boiled? Scrambled? Fried? Poached? Coddled? Pickled? Good grief!

__________________
"Did you get my e-mail?" - "The biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place" - George Bernard Shaw, 1856
Guru

Join Date: May 2005
Location: In the Garden
Posts: 3389
#87
In reply to #86

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 8:44 AM

I prefer mine in Warninks.

__________________
Chaos always wins because it's better organised.
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#89
In reply to #87

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 9:07 AM

(A liqueur made from Brandy, egg yolks and sugar, from the Netherlands. So that's what they've been up to! )

[Sorry, I meant to post this as being OT, but the button seems to have gone away]

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#141
In reply to #89

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 12:44 AM

no hamburgers

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#115
In reply to #86

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/05/2012 12:30 AM

it's an hour glass - not a second glass!

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#118
In reply to #115

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/05/2012 3:23 AM

You've clearly never tasted Brit food .

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Associate

Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 33
#14

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 4:22 AM

"at the moment the hourglass is turned over" This is the key phrase. No sand is moving through the hourglass, and no mention made of how the hourglass is turned over - no finger-pressure or other external force. It just happens! So, the only force operating on the scale-plate other than the influence of gravity on the total mass of the hourglass, is the moment of inertia of the full (bottom) half. moving up, and the empty (top) half, moving down. Since the inertia of the full, upward-moving part is greater - it's full of sand - there will be a momentary, apparent increase in the weight of the hourglass.

Guru

Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: About 4000 miles from the center of the earth (+/-100 mi)
Posts: 9559
#15

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 6:09 AM

Energy has mass: m=E/c2. It takes energy to turn the hourglass so that the weight of the sand is at the top, so it weighs very slightly more.

Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
#143
In reply to #15

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 11:05 AM

That equation does not imply that energy adds mass to a closed system - only that energy within a closed system can be converted to mass, and vice versa.

Energy does not 'have mass', it is 'convertable' to a specific amount of mass. Not quite the same thing.

While converting mass to energy is fairly simple (nuclear energy), the reverse is not as easily accomplished.

Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#144
In reply to #143

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 12:28 PM

No. Electrons accelerated near the speed of light become more massive. The conversion of energy to mass is a very common phenomena.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Off Topic (Score 5)
Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#159
In reply to #143

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/08/2012 12:03 PM

Turning the mass over does require energy and it will be extracted from the object turning it. If I turn it over then it will weight this tiny amount less after I have done so. The remaining energy goes into the gravitational potential energy of the system. It does not, however, increase the force of on the object. It is sometimes tricky to decide when you can count the extra energy as part of the field of ONE of the objects or the collection (if you can make sense of it cleanly at all). The exasperating thing about general relativity is that, to higher orders, energy is not conserved at all!

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#160
In reply to #159

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/08/2012 12:26 PM

Oh my edit mess: I meant to say "I" will weigh slightly less after I turn it over. "will weigh"... Where is my coffee???

Let's just think of a simpler case. I have two spheres connected on a sliding rod in space. The gravitational force between them I can measure by its strain. If I inject power from outside the system to pull them further apart this force between them decreases but now the total mass of the system, as observed by its gravitational field far away, increases. I could ask "where" this extra mass is located. It is now part of the "gravitational field" contribution to the masses. There will be a small increase in the effective mass from it (but it will be more than offset by the increased distance so the net force goes down). These field contributions are very hard to quantify and can't be localized.

So you are right to think the mass of each individual sphere goes up but the subtle problem is that this mass cannot be defined independently of the location of the second mass! It cannot even be well thought of as located at the position of the second mass. The stress in the rod makes its own contribution to the mass as well.

If we have a closed system then the net apparent mass of it far away seems the same however the distribution of it locally changes. End result is the force does decrease with height and you will now regret reading this challenge or fall down the rabbit-hole of modern physics. :)

Guru

Join Date: Jun 2008
Location: Raleigh, NC USA
Posts: 13529
#18

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 9:49 AM

While you guys are working on this, I'm just going to lay the hourglass on it's side and weigh it.

__________________
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety. Ben Franklin
Anonymous Poster #1
#185
In reply to #18

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/13/2012 11:45 AM

See what I mean... clear thinker.

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 1053
#20

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 12:42 PM

The hourglass cannot be weighed "at the moment the hourglass is turned over." At that moment, it must be off the scale. After having turned it over, there will be additional time to carefully place it on the \$50,000 scale, and then some more time for the scale to stabilize.

How did the chambers of an hour glass come to be called "plates"?

The mass, of course, remains constant, but the weight differs during three intervals. With a different experimental arrangement, one could look at the beginning of the timing interval (when sand just starts to fall, but has not yet hit the bottom) the middle of the interval (when sand is falling and also hitting the bottom) and the end of the interval when sand has left the top but not yet reached the bottom. The first and last segments are extremely short, so might as well be ignored.

In the middle interval (the only one measurable if you really turned over a real hour glass) the free-falling sand would not be weighed, but the impacting sand would be increasing the weight to match. So for the vast majority of the experiment time, the weight is the same as it is when no sand is falling. At the very first instant it is lower, and the the very last heavier.

So if the question is intended to refer to the instant when the sand has just begun to fall but has not reached the bottom, then the first weighting (sand all in the bottom) will be higher.

__________________
Think big. Drive small.
Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
#142
In reply to #20

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 10:57 AM

"In the middle interval (the only one measurable if you really turned over a real hour glass) the free-falling sand would not be weighed, but the impacting sand would be increasing the weight to match."

At any given instant there are only a few grains impacting the bottom of the hourglass, and the amount of suspended (or falling) grains is variable depending on several unknown factors - the height of the falling stream of sand, the width of the opening, etc. The impacting grains will offset SOME of the grains in suspension, but the amount of offest is indeterminate given the information provided - but it would certainly not balance out. So this assumption is incorrect.

The 'turned over hourglass' will weigh slightly less than the 'sand at the bottom' hourglass for two reasons - there will be a small amount of sand that is falling and therefore not being weighed, and the mass of sand at the top will weigh slightly less because it is farther from the center of earth's gravity well.

Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 1053
#145
In reply to #142

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 5:35 PM

Of course, weight varies with altitude. I think that everyone can agree with that, but many would say that you would then observe a slow change in weight over the course of one hour, if you could measure such a small difference, which is unlikely. It would certainly be impossible on any scale on which you be likely to place an hourglass.

So then "moment" comes into play. (Why is the slow change not mentioned?) This seems to suggest that the question applies to a time immediately at the start of the new timing interval. One valid interpretation is Europium's in which he takes moment to mean instant. A just slightly different interpretation stretches that instant to the time that it takes for the stream of sand to be reach the bottom, and the collisions to start. To actually measure this requires a special setup, because you would not have anywhere near enough time to get the glass back on the scale and stabilized. But, it is after all, a thought experiment.

The mass of the suspended stream (as reflected in its width and length) is compensated by the impact force. The longer the stream, the higher the impact velocity. The wider the stream, the higher the impact mass (and the greater the suspended mass). We know that the energy and mass in the vial is conserved. So, once steady state is reached (after the first second, for example), then the weight is constant, with the sum of the impacts compensating for the temporarily unweighed mass of the free falling stream.

The linked experiment showed that there is no difference in weight between the still hourglass and the running hourglass, demonstrating that the falling mass is balanced by the impacts. It also showed that there are the expected changes in weight at the beginning and end of the timing period.

Demonstrating a difference in weight due to different altitudes would have required a far more precise balance. It would need to read out to 8 places or so. If the question were to demonstrate that effect, then one would think a mountain or extraordinarily tall building might be involved.

Why an hourglass? Why "moment?"

But you are not alone in your preference for thinking about the altitude difference. Time will tell.

__________________
Think big. Drive small.
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#154
In reply to #145

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/07/2012 2:47 AM

At the instant of inversion most of the sand is supported by friction. That is by direct contact with the glass, and friction between grains. Above the neck, there is a cone shaped region that is unsupported. The angle of that cone depends upon the characteristics of the sand. It will be pretty much the same as the angle of sand when it's all over with.

There's more, but copyright doesn't allow too much copy from any one source .

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2007
Location: Israel
Posts: 2958
#155
In reply to #154

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/07/2012 4:04 AM

Dan Aykroyd never looked better

__________________________________

And don't forget to remove the checkpoint downstairs for:

[] Yes, this comment is very likely to be considered to be 'off-topic'

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#156
In reply to #155

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/07/2012 6:39 AM

By and large, I'd agree.

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
#175
In reply to #145

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/12/2012 7:26 PM

I stand corrected regarding the impact force balancing out. Regarding the weight difference from the change in height - I failed to note that the original question specifically mentions using a "balance", not a scale. I used to service balances and scales years ago, and one thing I remember from training is the difference between the two. Scales measure weight by comparing an objects weight to a force, such as a spring or electronic load cell and therefore must be recalibrated for changes in altitude or location. Balances OTOH, measure mass directly by comparing an objects mass to a known mass. They do not need to be recalibrated for a change in altitude.

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#176
In reply to #175

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/12/2012 8:16 PM

The distinction of 'Scales' and 'Balances' is worthy of mention. It's unlikely the choice was arbitrary, though it's almost certain that intent was for people to argue this. My opinion is stated. If all goes to norm, we see the 'official answer' and have a chuckle. The meat is betwixt answer and question.

With politeness intended; What force supports the cone of sand above the neck of the inverted hourglass (at the instant of inversion) ? More to the point, is gravity more an issue than unsuppurted sand ? I suggest not. That's as clear as mustard, but this is all fun discussion, Taking things to extrenme theoretical possibility is part of that.

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 1053
#177
In reply to #175

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/12/2012 8:21 PM

They do not need to be recalibrated for a change in altitude.

However, the assumption is that gravity is the same on both sides of a balance in ordinary use: a very reasonable assumption for most uses. The thing that causes the scale to tilt one way or the other is a force imbalance, ordinarily due to a difference in masses: M1 * G ≠ M2 * G.

But if you change G on one side by elevating the mass, then the balance will react. A very high precision balance would measure different apparent masses of a sledge hammer standing on its head vs handle end. (And would show a difference between two sledge hammers oppositely oriented.) But I don't think that's what the question was getting at. But it could be. One never knows until the official answer comes out.

__________________
Think big. Drive small.
Power-User

Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: OZ, otherwise known as Oklahoma were the wind comes sweeping down the plains.
Posts: 159
#22

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 1:45 PM

Can we do this in outer space?

Off Topic (Score 6)
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1758
#25
In reply to #22

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 2:46 PM

Why not?

I was just thinking of the weight of a train while some people jump in synchronous; or in an aerplane.

Power-User

Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: OZ, otherwise known as Oklahoma were the wind comes sweeping down the plains.
Posts: 159
#26
In reply to #25

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 2:53 PM

What would the weight be at the exact center of the Earth?

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 1758
#23

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 2:05 PM

If it is considered that the moving sand is in air [ or vacuum if the glass is vacuumed]

and does not come in count then it will be varying constantly till fully dropped.

Guru

Join Date: Jan 2006
Location: Tamworth, UK.
Posts: 1782
#27

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 3:21 PM

This is a bit like the van load of parrots.

Is the load heavier when the birds are perched than when all flying.

__________________
When arguing, remember mud-slinging = lost ground.
Score 1 for Off Topic
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#76
In reply to #27

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 12:49 AM

the weight of the birds will be added throu the air to the van in case they are flying and directly to the van if not!

there is no difference if the van is sealed.

Guru

Join Date: Sep 2007
Location: Japan
Posts: 2703
#28

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 9:02 PM

hm, at the moment it is tipped over, and no sand is falling, would the air underneath the sand be added to the weight?

__________________
From the Movie "The Big Lebowski" Don't pee on the carpet man!
3
Guru

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 1208
#29

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 9:07 PM

Doesn't anyone remember basic physics?

Force due to gravitational attraction is

F=G*m1*m2/r^2

G = constant
m1 = Mass1 (earth)
m2 = Mass2 (sand)
r = distance between the two masses

Since r changes "slightly" from sand-up to sand-down, there is a small change in the force (weight).

ref
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gravitational_constant

Good Answer (Score 3)
Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#37
In reply to #29

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 10:45 AM

Thank god someone on here at least referenced the actual physics. You can take a derivative to show that dF/F=-(2dr/r) so that the relative change in force can be calculated. r=radius of earth=6x10^6 m, dr~0.1m so the fractional change is force of the sand is 3X10^-8. milligram scales are common but for them to pick this up you would need a very heavy hourglass!

Associate

Join Date: Dec 2011
Posts: 53
#146
In reply to #37

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 6:16 PM

I just realized something - the question references using a "Balance", not a SCALE. Balances measure MASS not WEIGHT! Therefore the distance of the mass from the center of the earth becomes irrelevant....

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#147
In reply to #146

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 6:42 PM

No. That is like saying a voltmeter directly measures voltage. It really is an ammeter with a large resistor. All it can do is measure the emf by displacing a needle. You just use theory to rescale it to give a voltage. A scale simply measures a displacement and attaches a mass label to the output (unless you use British Imperial Units which often is labeled in pounds not slugs or foot-pounds). The displacement most nearly linearly correlates with the force not the (rest) mass of the body.

Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#148
In reply to #147

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 6:54 PM

I agree with your point in general but your example is incorrect. Most voltmeters used today are digital meters with FET input buffer stages. These devices do measure voltage directly. Your example is of the old reliable D'Arsonval analog meter with a series resistor to convert the current sensing of this meter into a voltmeter.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Off Topic (Score 5)
Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#150
In reply to #148

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 7:18 PM

You are right about the voltmeter. I was using the old fashioned one for illustration purposes. Solid state is something I know a lot of theory for but lack a lot of engineering details. Thanks for the update!

Off Topic (Score 5)
Guru

Join Date: Jan 2008
Location: NY
Posts: 1208
#149
In reply to #146

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 7:08 PM

Basic physics again...

"Although a balance technically compares weights, not masses, the weight of an object is proportional to its mass, and the standard weights used with balances are usually labeled in mass units."

A "balance" instrument is suggested in this challenge since it can be made sensitive enough to measure very small (<10-9) weight changes. While this would require an expensive laboratory grade device, one can easily construct a "home-made" balance sensitive enough to compare changes in the 10 microgram (10-5) range.

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#151
In reply to #149

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 7:25 PM

Unfortunately, in this case, the engineering maxims aren't as helpful. This one is based on the assumption of an object in a uniform gravitational field else our "labeled masses" give the wrong values on our scale! To the extent we care about the effect here, this fails and we have to use the explicit force law. Ultimately though we do need the true mass to do the calculation.

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#152
In reply to #151

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/06/2012 7:26 PM

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2009
Posts: 507
#157
In reply to #149

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/08/2012 12:25 AM

the balance measures directly which of two masses is heavier, too!

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Etherville
Posts: 12349
#158
In reply to #146

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/08/2012 8:24 AM

I'd have gone with 'they are a comparative instrument', but it's all in the interpretation. The best Challenge Questions always have some ambiguity - it enables conversion to diverge a bit. The 'meat' of these things is betwixt the question and it's answer. More than a few have diverged to cover some very interesting stuff.

__________________
For sale - Signature space. Apply on self addressed postcard..
Off Topic (Score 5)
Associate

Join Date: Apr 2012
Posts: 28
#190
In reply to #29

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/17/2012 10:20 AM

Agreed - making the weight with the sand at the bottom larger that the weight with the sand at the top

CPW

2
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: North America, Earth
Posts: 4461
#30

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/02/2012 9:41 PM

According to Newton's gravity formula: F = (mMG)/D2, increasing the distance between the masses, lowers the force (the weight). The higher weight will be when the sand is in the lower plate (when the masses are closer together). You will need a scale with a lot of digits to see any difference.

__________________
“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” - Richard Feynman
Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#103
In reply to #30

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 3:09 PM

Yes one will certainly have to have ridiculously high resolution to see this weight change in the hourglass from the center of mass being further away from the center of mass of the Earth. But isn't this really the only actual change in weight that happens here. In all other discussions people are actually discussing the opposing force needed to keep most of the hourglass in equilibrium. The falling sand is not in equilibrium, it is accelerating due to its (wait for it ) weight. If one includes by addition this weight to the magnitude of the force opposing most but not all of the hourglass one gets the exact same weight as before minus the infinitesimal difference from a change in elevation.

I believe this horse is dead! Stop kicking it.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#31

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 12:44 AM

Use a very sensitive balance to weigh an hourglass when all the sand is in the lower plate, and again at the moment the hourglass is turned over. You will notice that the two weights are different. Why? Which one of the two weights will be higher?

It seems to me that a question asked in the vernacular is best reasoned through and answered that way. I may be alone in this belief, but for me it makes sense. Anything I add to the question is not part of the question and I am immediately in danger of answering my own question at the expense of the one that was asked.

What is being asked here is not being asked in terms of gravitational fields (non-uniform or otherwise), centripetal acceleration, femtograms and Universal Constants. What is being asked is to simply reason about what is going on. This question could be asked of practically anyone and legitimately so. One need not know anything at all about physics in order to answer this question correctly. That's the beauty of it: when you reason through this problem in its native tongue, it is not ambiguous in the least.

-e

Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Glen Mills, PA.
Posts: 2385
#32
In reply to #31

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 8:13 AM

I disagree, "Why?" forces a consideration of all possible reasons and/or mechanisms that result in a difference.

Use a very sensitive balance to weigh an hourglass when all the sand is in the lower plate, and again at the moment the hourglass is turned over. You will notice that the two weights are different. Why? Which one of the two weights will be higher?

__________________
In a time of universal deceit, telling the truth is a revolutionary act. George Orwell
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#33
In reply to #31

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 9:39 AM

"That's the beauty of it: when you reason through this problem in its native tongue, it is not ambiguous in the least."

Now there's some blind denial if I ever saw it. Several replies, including mine, have pointed out that the conditions of this second weighing are anything but precise and unambiguous. To make a hyperbolic point, there's nothing in the original question that precludes a hole in the side of the hourglass causing a lot of the sand falling out when it was turned over or a bird landing on the hourglass when being weighed.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#46
In reply to #33

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 3:06 PM

"To make a hyperbolic point, there's nothing in the original question that precludes a hole in the side of the hourglass causing a lot of the sand falling out when it was turned over or a bird landing on the hourglass when being weighed."

Judging by many of the posts on this thread, that is exactly what has been done.

Can the question be answered in its present form? If not, then why bother with this thread at all? But if so, I rest my case.

2
Guru

Join Date: Feb 2011
Location: Atlanta, GA
Posts: 1053
#43
In reply to #31

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 2:56 PM

The other take on this is that, if the question is intended to be simple and straightforward, (as, you claim, the loose language implies) then the most reasonable answer is that there is no change in weight, which is the case for all but the first instant and last instant of the second weighing.

Practically speaking, there is no way to return the hourglass to the scale when the very brief lower weight phase occurs. Rigging the experiment so that this phase can be measured requires a fairly sophisticated setup for starting flow without jiggling the scale.

The question is not unlike the "chickens in the truck" question, which has two different answers, depending upon the nature of the truck's walls. If the walls are chicken wire, then the reaction of the air flow that allows the birds to fly does not add sufficient weight to the truck to compensate for the fact that the birds are no longer in direct contact with the tuck: lots of the downward moving air ends up outside the truck. But if the truck is fully enclosed, then the truck's weight must be the same, provided the average acceleration of the flying birds is 1 G.

One need not know anything at all about physics in order to answer this question correctly.

If one equates mass and weight (as someone without knowledge of physics might do), then such a person would say: well, the mass/weight has not changed... everything is still in the hourglass. A different physics-illiterate person might think that the sand falling through air would transfer force to the bottom of the vial though the stack of air molecules beneath any sand granule.

A reasonable person, without knowledge of the picayune nature of physics questions, would probably take "moment" to mean the same thing that it does when we say "just a moment." In that case "at the moment the hourglass is turned over" would probably mean after the hourglass is returned to the scale using all due speed... in which case the steady-state weight would be measured, after the scale stops undulating.

Nevertheless, I think your opinion is just as good as mine, so I propose that we do as gentlemen should, and settle this with pistols: I will stand atop a tall building. You will aim at me, and fire your pistol. I will jump off the building when I see the flash of your gun. Will I die from a gunshot wound or the fall?

__________________
Think big. Drive small.
Good Answer (Score 2)
Guru

Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: Long Island NY
Posts: 15422
#48
In reply to #43

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 3:14 PM

Very good answer. Unlike others who have speculated and argued their answers, you provided demonstrated proof. The undulation generated from the brief (impulse) interval of the sand falling is demonstrated. Now the imprecise moment of measurement is up to all to debate.

__________________
"Don't disturb my circles." translation of Archimedes last words
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#50
In reply to #43

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 3:25 PM

The question as framed calls to mind one of Einstein's many gedanken experiments: one he conducted as he sat in the back of a bus in Ulm, observing the face of the clock over the archway through which his bus had just passed.

His 'experiment' was to discretise the images of the clock face leaving the tower at the speed of light, and then 'travel with them in his mind' at ever-increasing speeds until he was even with one of the images. As he passed each discrete image he noted that the time appeared to slow to a crawl and then at the final image, stop entirely. Einstein used this illustration more than once when speaking of the role played by Lorentz' time dilation in his theory of relativity.

Now, do images leave clock faces at discrete intervals? No. Did Einstein sweat over the fact that he no practical means whatsoever by which he might travel with these discrete images? No. Why not? Because it was irrelevant? It was the principle of time dilation he was illustrating. The practical means by which one might conduct such an experiment in real life were not mentioned (nor even considered) because they did not matter. It is the same with this Challenge Question, birds notwithstanding.

In other words, this question is a gedanken experiment by any other name.

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#53
In reply to #50

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 3:38 PM

Not the greatest example since, although mathematically simple, special relativity has numerous confounding details that make such simple analyses often fail - usually by neglecting length contraction and the subtleties of simultaneity as well. In your case, it is implicit in discussing images as originating in a single time rather than photons emerging from each point as discrete events that have different orgination times in different frames. The biggest value to such thought experiments is in illustrating how we need to upgrade our naive intuition with detailed analysis. A secondary point is how relativistic optics radically alters the images we see beyond this pictorial representation Einstein used and we teach in relativity classes. Shortcuts lead to overconfidence.

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#55
In reply to #53

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 3:55 PM

I thoroughly agree. But in the case of solving this particular problem, and in this context alone (which I have attempted to maintain throughout this discussion in spite of the temptation to do otherwise) I fear we are adding epicycles.

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#57
In reply to #55

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 4:14 PM

I'm not sure where some of this is going. I attacked this problem two ways. One by the change is gravitational energy, where I showed it was dicey that anything but a very high tech approach could measure this, and one by the time delay of the falling grains. They were easy calculations yet the chatting goes on. They may be new ways to look at it and am open to them but think a little math would save some us some of these verbal "epicycles."

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#58
In reply to #57

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 4:34 PM

Math can certainly be applied in this case, but is it actually necessary? Moreover, in order to properly frame the problem in the mathematical sense, a prerequisite, non-mathematical understanding must preceed it, non? Else, what would the math describe? If the concept is not understood already, no amount of math will help. If it is understood, the math simply serves as a precise, unambiguous description and model of the concept.

As framed, does this particular problem have a unique, correct solution? Does the problem statement contain all the information necessary for its solution? If not, then why are we here?

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#59
In reply to #58

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 4:49 PM

Of course one has to know precisely how to interpret the problem to do a calculation. I just posed two interpretations. Do you know of other ways to make sense of the given question? I think the answer as to whether math is necessary depends on the problem. Given the amount of wandering (and incorrect) talking here, it does provide a clean result. The way to interpret the problem has some ambiguity. That is not an excuse to avoid a simple calculation in favor of a lot of vague talking. One can determine the relative size of different effects to determine the dominant one. This generally require some sort of mathematical analysis.

Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#62
In reply to #59

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 6:00 PM

Let's look at the problem, especially 'at the moment the hourglass is turned over' (the ambiguity of which appears to be a formidable obstacle to some of us here), then ask "Why turn the hourglass over? To what end is the hourglass turned over?"

"To get all the sand at the top?" Why do that? "In order to start a new timing cycle, maybe?"

When one thinks of an hourglass starting a new timing cycle, does one think of the sand all swishing around because it was turned over quickly, or that some of the sand is still sliding down the sides of the chamber from having been moved slowly? Are those details mentioned in the problem statement? No. Why not? Because this would render the problem unsolvable without much additional information than is actually presented? Evidently, then, the problem presumes 'at the moment' to mean when all the sand is where all the sand usually is at the beginning of a timing cycle and not one moment before - or after. When the sand is falling, the timing cycle has already begun, rendering the phrase 'at the moment' meaningless. As 'at the moment' is part of the problem statement, 'at the moment' must refer to a concrete instant in time where 'at the moment' is meaningful in the context of the problem, else the problem could not be solved and this particular Challenge Question would get a bad name for being so poorly formulated.

How about the part where the hourglass is weighed on 'a sensitive balance?' Now, would you or me use a balance to weigh a virus? Wouldn't the random impacts of air molecules cause momentary fluctuations in the readout of the 'weighing device' to a similar degree? Fluctuations in excess of the weight of the virus (equivalent to the difference in gravitational force between 1 kg of sand at the top of the hourglass and the bottom, separated by the distance you assumed (and did you integrate over the volume of sand, taking into account its (assumed) shape and distribution, or did you calculate based on the CG alone, or did you make some other simplifying assumption (oops. did I say that?). In a non-uniform gravitational field your particular choice in the matter will alter your calculations to a similar significance. Evidently, then, a difference in weight due to the effects of a non-uniform gravitational field are not part of the problem either. So what is?

Stripped of what we all know are the practical limitations of this problem, what we have left, then, is the problem itself. Let's solve that one.

Power-User

Join Date: May 2011
Location: Chapel Hill, NC (sometimes Otago NZ)
Posts: 120
#65
In reply to #62

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 6:22 PM

"In a non-uniform gravitational field your particular choice in the matter will alter your calculations to a similar significance. " No. Only the mass will matter out to many orders in approximation. Have you actually studied physics? This is getting awfully wordy and rambly. Here is the productive way to proceed: Find the various interpretations of the problem and quantify the relative size of the effects. If you want to be take seriously maybe you should demonstrate some ability here. Any problem in words will have some ambiguity. In engineering, there is not usually a calculation but a task that needs to be interpreted and turned into one. This is the productive job not some snarky philosophical musing. If your boss wanted a satellite put up would you spend all day trying to convince him he doesn't really understand what orbit means???

Off Topic (Score 3)
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#67
In reply to #65

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 6:25 PM

If you prefer to turn this into a diatribe you're on your own. I won't participate.

Guru

Join Date: Dec 2006
Location: North America, Earth
Posts: 4461
#71
In reply to #67

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 10:37 PM

But you already have. You have made a mockery of the whole problem. Occam's razor applies here.

__________________
“I would rather have questions that can't be answered than answers that can't be questioned.” - Richard Feynman
Score 1 for Off Topic
Active Contributor

Join Date: Sep 2008
Posts: 13
#167
In reply to #67

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/10/2012 7:11 PM

I agree, don't allow yourself to be sucked into their .....

You have had the right answer all along!

__________________
Even a fool, when he holdeth his peace, is counted wise - Soloman
Guru

Join Date: May 2005
Location: In the Garden
Posts: 3389
#82
In reply to #65

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 4:48 AM

This is the productive job not some snarky philosophical musing

Nope. This is some light-hearted philosophical musing as relief from the productive job.

__________________
Chaos always wins because it's better organised.
Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: May 2005
Location: In the Garden
Posts: 3389
#81
In reply to #57

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/04/2012 4:37 AM

yet the chatting goes on

When you been round these parts a little longer and seen a few more CQs, you'll realise that's the point. Some of the longest CQ threads have ensued when the problem as set has been solved mathematically in the first post.

Chill out and enjoy.

__________________
Chaos always wins because it's better organised.
Score 1 for Good Answer
Guru

Join Date: Mar 2012
Posts: 2189
#56
In reply to #43

### Re: Weight of the Hourglass: Newsletter Challenge (April 2012)

04/03/2012 4:14 PM

"... then the most reasonable answer is that there is no change in weight, which is the case for all but the first instant and last instant of the second weighing."

And it is a reasonable answer, too, especially so given that what happens at the 'first instant' is the whole point of the question.

 Reply to Blog Entry Page 1 of 3: « First 1 2 3 Next > Last »
Interested in this topic? By joining CR4 you can "subscribe" to

### Comments rated to be Good Answers:

These comments received enough positive ratings to make them "good answers".

### Comments rated to be "almost" Good Answers:

Check out these comments that don't yet have enough votes to be "official" good answers and, if you agree with them, rate them!

### Users who posted comments:

A.Vassallo (1); Anonymous Poster (7); Bap (3); basscombat (1); BlueAussieBoy (3); CaptnPea (1); cchaf (44); Cherryville Chuck (1); CPWhittingham (5); daveca (1); dedtru1 (2); English Rose (8); Epke (1); europium (48); George Kranz (2); giskard (1); GM1964 (1); gmgora (1); Grand Poobah (3); Great Grumpy Z (2); Haajee (2); Henry Young (1); horace40 (1); JohnDG (1); K_Fry (25); karzai (1); Kevin Adams (1); Kevin Jackson (1); Kim2012 (1); kramarat (1); Kris (48); lyn (1); Maths_Physics_Maniac (5); mjb1962853 (3); nfhiggs (4); PapatLKN (1); passingtongreen (4); pinball-wizzard (1); PWSlack (2); redfred (18); Rixter (2); ronseto (1); sodengineer (1); SolarEagle (3); StandardsGuy (4); Usbport (1); WilhelmHKoen (18); wtorpey (1); Yuval (9); Zadok (1); Öner Bildiren (1)

 Previous in Blog: The Case of the Big Spark: Newsletter Challenge (March 2012) Next in Blog: Singing Like Pavarotti: Newsletter Challenge (May 2012)