Tag Archives: flying pig

#modphys 16/180: The Pig Flies

The current crop of grade 12 students will be the last to suffer the current labwork requirements in IB DP physics. The current state of what is required for a high score seems to have drifted away from the vision in the 2006 course guide. Here’s the paradigm at its death:

1. Two “design” labs. For these, students are given some commonplace material and instructed to investigate it. Students are given not further guidance, are expected to come up with a valid experiment, and need not actually collect any data. The assessment requires that the relevant variables are manipulated and controlled, and that the design allows for the collection of useful data. Typically we give students 5-6 tries over the course of two years.

2. Two “data” labs. For these, students conduct standard experiments with however much guidance they require. For these, the assessment looks at data manipulation (linearization of some sort is required) and presentation, and attempts to evaluate students’ reflection and understanding of the lab. Again, we usually do 5-6, and pick the best two to four.

3. The rest of the grade comes from an unaccountable assessment of students’ lab skills, and from their work on an interdisciplinary project.

I was able to put the pig to quick work as a design lab. The class decided to look at how the string length affects the radius of circular motion while the pig is in stable flight. I’m looking forward to seeing the labs (but of course no results) next week.


The pig comes with a tether that is approximately 82 cm long. This seems optimal, in terms of establishing stable flight. Shorter lengths had a lot of side-to-side oscillation. We also saw that ground effects are significant, as the pig cannot establish level flight less than a metre above the ground. We also saw that mounting structures could resonate in a way that interferes with stable flight.

#modphys 14/180: Flying Pig!

It arrived!


This is flying pig, very much in vogue among physics teachers because it acts as a conical pendulum. The flapping wings seem to give it enough forward thrust to eliminate any deceleration from friction, so it flies level. Even better, it seems that the circular path is a stable equilibrium, as a non-circular orbit quickly decays to circular. I’d like to attach a small LED and take a long-exposure photograph from underneath to see the path it takes.