January 11, 2013 The Physics of Break Dancing

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Alex Penrose

Physics 2A

January 11, 2013

The Physics of Break Dancing

To some people break dancing may just seem like dancers spinning on their backs, on cardboard, trying to earn a couple extra dollars. To others break dancing is an art, a way to express themselves, and also a very intricate and complicated sport. To those people break dancing is called b-boying or bboying and they call themselves bboys or bgirls. It helps them to escape from the problems they have in life and to express themselves in a way that looks extraordinary. It doesn’t always look that hard to do… and then you try it. Not only is bboying a highly physically demanding sport or art, but it is complicated and uses a lot of physics in order to become good and fluent. Two popular moves that are attention grabbing are flares and windmills. I will talk about how each of these moves uses physics in its own way.

In a windmill, the bboy starts off in the basic stab position and then has to kick their leg and use the force from that kick to gain speed and drop to their back. Once they are on their back they have to torque or twist their legs so that they can get back to the original stab position. So now that we know the basic concept of what a windmill is and how it works we can look at a few of the laws of physics that are involved in it and how it affects the bboy. First is friction. Friction plays a big part in a windmill because you need speed and momentum to be able to do a good windmill. If the shirt/jacket/coat or whatever the bboy is wearing has a lot of friction on the ground, then they will not be able to gain as much speed and therefore they will not be able to do the windmill as proficient. If they, however, are wearing something that is slick on a floor such as linoleum, then they will be able to generate a lot of speed and momentum because there wouldn’t be as much friction between them and the floor. This means that they will then be able to execute a much better, cleaner, and faster windmill. Another thing that comes into play is Newton’s First Law. When the bboy is doing a windmill their feet are being flung outwards. Obviously their feet are attached to their legs and their legs are attached to their body, so when the bboy or bgirl swings his/her feet outward, the feet are then forced to swing in rotation to the body. This is because, as Newton’s First Law states, the feet will remain in motion or a straight path, until they are acted upon by an outside force, such as the body or the ground. That is pretty much the basics of the windmill.

Flares on the other hand are quite different from windmills. They both use pretty much all of the same laws of physics but they use them to much different degrees and in different ways. Flares and windmills both use Newton’s First Law, centripetal force, and friction. Although flares don’t use friction as much or to the same amount, friction is still involved because without it you couldn’t even stay on the ground. One thing that is more unique to flares is power. It could be called different things or have different names, but they all basically mean the same thing. A great deal of strength and/or agility is required to complete flares, although, if the bboy uses enough strength or enough agility, then less of the other is required. This means that if you do flares slowly you are using more strength to complete the flares. So they are decreasing their power, but they are increasing the amount of work they are doing. On the other hand, if a bboy was doing flares with a lot of speed they wouldn’t have to use as much strength, or they are using a lot of power and a little work.

In conclusion, bboying or break dancing, (whichever you prefer to call it), is very fun, entertaining, athletic, and just plain cool. It can help keep you in shape while still being fun and at the same time be teaching you about physics or even other things for that matter that you may not have thought about before!

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