Trashcano: Developing a quantitative teaching tool to understand ballistics accelerated by explosive volcanic eruptions

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Fabian Ben Wadsworth Holly E Unwin Jérémie Vasseur Ben M Kennedy Julia Holzmueller Bettina Scheu Taylor Witcher Janina Adolf Francisco Cáceres Ana S Casas Valeria Cigala Alexandra Clement Mathieu Colombier Shane Cronin Marcel Cronin Donald B Dingwell Leticia F Guimarães Laura Höltgen Ulrich Kueppers Gilles Seropian Sönke Stern Adrien Teissier Caron Vossen Natalie Weichselgartner


Accurate predictions of volcanological phenomena, such as the trajectory of blocks accelerated by volcanic explosions, require quantitative skills training. Large outdoor experiments can be useful to convey concepts of volcanic processes to students in an exciting way. Beyond the fun aspects, these experiments provide an opportunity to engage with the physics of projectile flight and help promote mathematical learning within the Earth Sciences. We present a quantitative framework required to interpret ballistic trajectories and the outdoor experiment known commonly as “trashcano”, taking a step-by-step approach to the physics of this problem, and deriving a range of mathematical solutions involving different levels of complexity. Our solutions are consistent with the predictions from established computer programs for volcanic ballistic trajectory modelling, but we additionally provide a nested set of simplified solutions, useful for a range of teaching scenarios as well as downloadable simulated datasets for use where the full experiment may not be possible.


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Wadsworth, F., Unwin, H., Vasseur, J., Kennedy, B., Holzmueller, J., Scheu, B., Witcher, T., Adolf, J., Cáceres, F., Casas, A., Cigala, V., Clement, A., Colombier, M., Cronin, S., Cronin, M., Dingwell, D., Guimarães, L., Höltgen, L., Kueppers, U., Seropian, G., Stern, S., Teissier, A., Vossen, C. and Weichselgartner, N. (2018) “Trashcano: Developing a quantitative teaching tool to understand ballistics accelerated by explosive volcanic eruptions”, Volcanica, 1(2), pp. 107 - 126. doi: