52 States in 8 Months

An old, unfinished experiment for New Year’s Eve.

Posted in University stuff by Ulf on December 31, 2008

raketen_auflistungLast year I spent New Year’s Eve in Magdeburg with some of my old fellow students. We were starting fireworks from the Sternbrücke which spans over the Elbe river. I started a small experiments with some New Year rockets: How does the length of the wooden stick influence the flight path?

Normal rockets with a full-length stick usually fly straight up into the air. I then launched a couple of rockets with shorter sticks. The more wood I removed the more unstable the flight got.

Braking about a third of the stick apart resulted in a trajectory which already did not go to the sky but straight into the Elbe. Removing about two thirds made the rocket fly directly into a group of spectators next to us. (Well, not “directly”. It just did not know where it wanted to go.)

Unfortunately though, we only had about three rockets for these experiments. And we did not really take any notes. I will not be able to complete the experiment this year as I will be in New York City where fireworks are prohibited.

So, if you have a couple of spare rockets, please measure their weight distribution and change the position of the center of mass by braking apart some pieces of the wooden stick. If you have some kitchen scales, you might also measure the thrust the rocket gives during the flight. Don’t forget to measure the weight distribution after the flight, too :-). And if you have some tripods and a few cameras, the footage might help to measure the height which the rocket reached.


And if you don’t have this equipment, just launch the rockets in the normal manner and enjoy the pyrotechnics :-).

I wish you a Happy New Year!


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