Thursday, June 02, 2016

Naming a Dimensionless Parameter

The June 2016 issue of Physics Today includes a 'Quick Study' on why it is hard to separate two interleaved books.

The phenomenon involves a dimensionless parameter that is now called the "Hercules Number", a term that I invented in a blog entry for the Improbable Research blog. I wrote the line "Restagno and colleagues also fit the data to a curve of force versus a dimensionless amplification parameter –– following the continuum-mechanics tradition of using cute names for dimensionless parameters, let’s call it the "Hercules number" –– that depends on the number of pages, the page thickness, and the size of the overlap region between the books." (I was motivated in part by the "Repunzel number" that Ray Goldstein and his collaborators named in their study of the physics of ponytails.)

The researchers really liked the term "Hercules Number", so they decided to adopt it and use it in their subsequent papers (which I appreciate).

I continue to try to contribute to physics and mathematics with my wit and snark.

Update (6/14/16): I was asked to write about this for the Improbable Research blog.

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