Hands-On Physics Class
By: Evan Mei
USS Enterprise, 1942------- Peter Brown has always been interested in physics. Ever since he was a kid, he wondered why things fell down instead of up. He wondered why things behaved the way they did. But he wasn’t exactly fond of running physics tests with his own body, like by flying a plane with a 1,000 pound bomb into a giant ship that can also shoot back.
Faint clouds of gunpowder from the AA guns shooting at him covered the silhouettes of the ships below. Leaning against the window, he peered down and squinted at the endless sea. He thought and thought hard. Then the numbers came to him. Diving down, he spiraled into a nosedive towards the enemy ship. He could hear the tail gunner of the plane shooting and swearing like the sailor he was. But Peter didn’t have time for that. 20... 19… 18… 17…. 16…. 15… Drop!
He pressed the button as hard as he could, releasing the bomb, then yanked on the stick as hard as he could. The plane turned up hard and started climbing into the clouds. Blood rushed throughout Peter’s body. He could feel the warmth in his arm, and he felt dizzy. It wasn’t surprising. This was basic physics; dropping a bomb from the clouds onto a ship is like trying to drop something into the hole of a Cheerio. Hard, tedious, resource wasting, and nearly impossible. But if he could dive onto the ship, shouldn’t it be easier?
In terms of physics, this is possible. Biologically, however, it is diving into a pool of nails with one safe spot. Diving into a nosedive at such a great speed, then immediately turning up would probably make a normal person faint, or at best, throw up. Blood would rush to the head initially, then rapidly change position like water sloshing in a bottle. Humans are not supposed to do that.
Peter wasn’t sure who came up with this idea. It definitely wasn’t a pleasurable one. He glanced behind him. Probably missed, he thought. Then, he heard a roar. And a cheer from the tail gunner. Looking back again, he saw the enemy destroyer catching fire. Right where he hit it. “Nice!” he thought. After flying for a bit, he saw some blue in the white clouds. American fighters! Now, Peter thought, now I’m safe. Just as he passed side by side with the fighter, a trail of smoke erupted from the back.
Peering behind him, he saw a green plane. Japanese Zero. They were one of the legends of aviation, and their pilots were legendary. A rookie with rookie equipment paired against a legend with legendary equipment is not a combo rigged in Peter’s favor. Desperately looking for a way to try and get the fighter out of the air, he saw something faint in the distance. It was the American fleet. Fighters might have been valuable when it came to defending ships, but they were useless against anti aircraft fire from an enemy ship. They could not retaliate in any way possible, so unless they were escorting, it was suicide to walk on an enemy carrier’s doorstep.
Knowing this, Peter checked the fuel gauge. Half full. Not too bad. He cranked the plane to a higher speed, but he knew he was no match for a fighter designed to sacrifice weight limit for speed. However, he had seen fighters engaging in one on one combat. As he ran through the maneuver process in his mind, a flash appeared next to him, followed by a crack. The window had a crack in it now, and the bullet found its way into the gauge. Praying for the dear plane to not lose power, he resorted to the final option. Tugging on the stick, the plane climbed and climbed and climbed. The Zero followed, and once Peter couldn’t coax the plane to go a meter higher, his plane fell.
Now, he could only count on physics. He spiraled towards the ground, praying that he wouldn’t hit the ocean. Peter could hear the metal getting ripped off the side of his plane, so he sang lullabies to the wounded plane, coaxing it to stay in the air just a little longer. As he approached the ocean, he pulled hard on the brakes. And at the last second, he felt a bump, and the plane was back in the air. Glancing behind him, the Zero failed to decelerate, so the pilot’s prize was a grave at sea. Unless someone picked him up.
Peter scoured the area. There was a destroyer. He glanced at his plane. Metal torn to shreds. Tail gunner scared half to death. Bullet holes in the elevator. Turning around, he went for the Zero, and made a water landing. He stepped onto the wing of his dive bomber, and tried to communicate. Peter didn’t know the slightest bit of Japanese, but he knew the pilot was refusing. But, enemy or not, Peter was going to save him. He grabbed the pilot, and the man started kicking like a baby. However, Peter’s grip was firm. His tail gunner shot a flare, and the destroyer spotted them.
Once they were picked up, the Japanese pilot refused to speak. All Peter could do was offer him food. Reluctantly, the pilot took it. Peter decided to talk with him. Then they talked some more. And some more. And some more. From then on, they became best friends, but more importantly, Peter loved physics more than ever.