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Burning Stuff with a Parabolic Reflector

posted Mar 18, 2016, 12:43 PM by Erik Arnold

Mr. Frothingham's math students took a parabolic reflector outside to perform some experiments. After deriving the formula for the paraboloid  (parabolic reflector) and determining its focus  (the focal point), the students went outside to observe what damage 450 square inches of full sunlight focused to the size of a pea could do.  Items elected for destruction included wood, marshmallow peeps and most enjoyably PSAT practice tests as well as Exeter-set problems.  To their delight, items ignited majestically in less than half a second.