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Physical Reasoning

Stakes in a Garden

Characterize the following physical operation:

A gardener who has valuable plants with long delicate stems protects them against the wind by staking them; that is, by plunging a stake into the ground near them and attaching the plants to the stake with string.

What would happen: If the stake is only placed upright on the ground, not stuck into the ground? If the string were attached only to the plant, not to the stake? To the stake, but not to the plant? If the plant is growing out of rock? Or in water? If, instead of string, you use a rubber band? Or a wire twist-tie? Or a light chain? Or a metal ring? Or a cobweb? If instead of tying the ends of the string, you twist them together? Or glue them? Or place them side by side? If you use a large rock rather than a stake? If the string is very much longer, or very much shorter, than the distance from the stake to the plant? If the distance from the stake to the plant is large as compared to the height of the plant? If the stake is also made out of string? Trees are sometimes blown over in heavy storms; can they be staked against this?

Contributed by Ernie Davis (, New York University, U.S.A. (18th September 1997)

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