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 for a range of teaching scenarios as well as simulated datasets for use where the full experiment may not be possible.


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Wadsworth, F. B., Unwin, H. E., Vasseur, J., Kennedy, B. M., Holzmueller, J., Scheu, B., Witcher, T., Adolf, J., Cáceres, F., Casas, A. S., Cigala, V., Clement, A., Colombier, M., Cronin, S., Cronin, M., Dingwell, D. B., Guimarães, L. F., 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: 10.30909/vol.01.02.107126.
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Received 2017-11-21
Accepted 2018-09-10
Published 2018-09-18
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