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Question
Hello,

My name is Shelby Andrade I  attended Valley Preparatory School in Redlands, California I am in the fifth grade my science teacher name is Ms.Hazel Whittaker. Ms.Whittaker has entered my group which includes me and my two friends into the Inland Regional Science Fair. Our project is on pinwheels and one of the steps we have to complete is to speak with an expert, I found your website and I am contacting you to see if you could answer some of our questions. Here are the questions that we have we would greatly appreciate it if you responded. 1. What design elements make a good pinwheel? 2. How many blades make a good pinwheel design? 3. What design do you think would make the fastest pinwheel?
Thank You
Sincerely,
Shelby Andrade

Answer
A good pinwheel is flashy, so you should ask an artist and not a scientist.  Aside from that, an *efficient* pinwheel will have long blades, but be stable.  Therefore, like the large wind turbines, it will have a minimum number of stable blades (three).  That will turn the edges fastest.  If you want one that rotates fastest, then you need more (but shorter) blades...that means you need to balance practical aspects of design like how many blades you can fit into a small space. That will bring up material properties of what you are trying to make your pinwheel from, how thick it is, how big a pinwheel you want to make, etc...

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Dr. Stephen O. Nelson

Expertise

I can answer most basic physics questions, physics questions about science fiction and everyday observations of physics, etc. I'm also usually good for science fair advice (I'm the regional science fair director). I do not answer homework problems. I will occasionally point out where a homework solution went wrong, though. I'm usually good at explaining odd observations that seem counterintuitive, energy science, nuclear physics, nuclear astrophysics, and alternative theories of physics are my specialties.

Experience

I was a physics professor at the University of Texas of the Permian Basin, research in nuclear technology and nuclear astrophysics. My travelling science show saw over 20,000 students of all ages. I taught physics, nuclear chemistry, radiation safety, vacuum technology, and answer tons of questions as I tour schools encouraging students to consider careers in science. I moved on to a non-academic job with more research just recently.

Education/Credentials
Ph. D. from Duke University in physics, research in nuclear astrophysics reactions, gamma-ray astronomy technology, and advanced nuclear reactors.

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