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Angular Momentum and Torque

January 12, 2004

While you were watching the third round of the Mercedes Open from Hawaii Saturday evening, I was … I was also watching it. But I should have been writing this column.

For further distraction, my stepson had posed this question: “Why do some football passes turn over, such that the nose starts off pointing up but finishes pointing down?” The “perfect” spiral pass does this.

He said he couldn’t get his mind around it — why a football should do this. I could only guess it had to do with angular momentum and torque.

Between golf shots, I poked around the Internet for a good explanation, but nothing grabbed me. I don’t recommend serious study while watching TV. However, I think I understand the football now. Come see me if you have a good explanation or want to hear mine.

In this spirit of self-edification, I want to announce a fine source of information now available via the Internet courtesy of the Salida Regional Library: the Encyclopaedia Britannica Online.

Before I explain, there’s one caveat: It works fine within the library, but as of this writing, the remote access from home is not working correctly. We’ll try to have it fixed Monday.

Encyclopaedia Britannica Online is much more than a print encyclopedia slapped onto the Internet.

First, it contains the full text of the Encyclopaedia Britannica, one of the finest. But that’s not all! For the same price, you get the Britannica Student Encyclopaedia, the Britannica Elementary Encyclopaedia, the Britannica Concise Encyclopaedia, the Britannica Internet Guide, plus video, audio, and graphic files.

The editors have integrated the encyclopedia with Internet resources. When you search for, say, “angular momentum,” you get results sorted by source, such as the regular encyclopedia and the student version, plus you get links to good quality web sites that cover the topic.

You’ll see options to look in the concise encyclopedia, the elementary version, or the 150 full-text journals and magazines that are included.

Thus, Encyclopaedia Britannica Online is an excellent place to start any inquiry. It is especially good for students, who can begin their searching with reliable information and receive guidance for further research.

EB Online is flexible. You may search everything at once or narrow a search to one work. You can even choose to search only video and media; be advised that you’ll need Windows Media Player. Most computers have it nowadays.

Once you bring up an article, you will have a number of handy options. You can reformat it for printing, email it, call up the images.

Handy for students is an option to “cite the article” for a bibliography. Three formats are offered: MLA style, APA style, and Britannica style.

Within the articles, you will find your search words highlighted, and throughout the text will be links to related topics. In the article on angular momentum, I clicked on the words “moment of inertia” and went immediately to the article on that topic.

There is a convenient “Workspace,” in which you can save articles as you search. Then, when you’re ready, you can return to the workspace and review the articles you saved. You’ll welcome this feature once you start exploring. It’s like returning to base camp.

Also included are the Merriam-Webster Collegiate Dictionary and the Collegiate Thesaurus, a world atlas, historical timelines, and the Year in Review back to 1997.
Encyclopaedia Britannica Online is a very fine extension of the traditional encyclopedia. We hope you’ll enjoy it.

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