Compass at the south pole?
Dear Mr. O'Hara,
We've been studying magnetism in fifth grade. We want to know what will happen if you bring a compass to the South Pole. We think the needle will rotate 360 degrees multiple times because when you are at the South Pole you can go any direction and still be going north.
Mrs. LeBlanc's Fifth Grade Class
East Valley Elementary School
Hello to Mrs. LeBlanc's class! This is a great question, because magnets are so much fun.
Two things that you might want to know: first off, there are actually two south poles - the "geographic" south pole, which is the axis of the earth - if you stood on this for a whole day, you'd spin in place like the middle of a merry-go-round. There is also the "magnetic" south pole, which is where the magnetic field lines of the Earth's magnetic field point inward, and the back end of a compass needle points towards this one. (there is also a geographic north pole, where Santa lives of course, and a magnetic north pole, where compasses point).
Just to make things extra confusing, the geographic south pole and magnetic south pole are not in the same place! (same with geographic north and magnetic north!) I bet you can look online to find a map of exactly where the magnetic north and south poles are, and I bet you'd be surprised at how far they are away from each other! Also on many high-quality maps, look at the little compass that shows you which direction is north (point towards the geographic north pole). There might also be a second arrow, not quite pointing in the same direction - that is pointing at the magnetic north pole, which is not quite in the same place.
But what this means for your question is that if I had a compass here at the geographic south pole, the back part of the needle would point in the direction of the magnetic south pole, and the front part of the needle will point towards the magnetic north pole. Even if I spin around, the needle will always stay pointed in the same direction.
Another cool thing is that at the magnetic north and south poles, the magnetic field lines actually point up and down, rather than along the surface. So really, if you stood on the magnetic south pole, your compass would try to point upwards! (or downwards, if you stood on the magnetic north pole). They make special compasses that can point in the up/down angle of the magnetic fields, as well as parallel to the earth's surface.
Have fun, and enjoy studying magnets!
great questions! Yes, there are two north poles and two south poles. The earth rotates around the geographic poles (just like on your globe) and the magnetic poles are where the compass points. Did you get a chance to find out where the magnetic poles are? Maybe you can get a globe, and put stickers on it where the magnetic north and magnetic south poles are, just to see the difference!
A cheap compass might act differently, just because it could stick from friction. Any time you are doing an experiment in science, you'd like to use the best equipment you can, because bad equipment can give you bad results! For the IceCube project, each of those light sensors we use costs about $5000 (and we're using thousands of those, so just those by themselves cost many millions of dollars) because we want to get the best data we can. I guess in 5th grade, your teacher doesn't have millions of dollars to spend. But you can still make a pretty good compass with cheap materials. Try this: take a sewing needle or pin, and a strong magnet, and rub the magnet on the needle, always sliding the magnet towards the point. Do that a bunch of times (maybe 20, or even a hundred, more is better), and then take small pieces of cork. Stick the cork on both ends (don't stab yourself - I did that, not much fun!), and float it in a little tray of water (a glass or ceramic bowl - NOT metal! or ask your teacher for a petri dish, those work well!). Floating it on water allows the ends to move around easily. As long as the pin stays in the middle of the dish, you should see it turn so one end points north and the other end points south! That's a compass right there.
And as for computers - they would definitely have a hard time working outside! The cold causes lots of problems with batteries, including cameras, walkie talkies, and car or snowmobile batteries. The chemical reactions inside the batteries slow down with low temperature so they don't last very long. But I use my computer inside, so it stays nice and warm without any problems.
I'm not sure exactly what your question is asking, maybe you can clarify. Do you mean what equipment do we have to have for the cold? Or something else?
The equipment we need to survive in the cold is lots of thick clothing! For the South Pole, we fly to New Zealand first, and go the the Clothing Distribution Center (CDC) where they supply us with: thick warm boots called "bunny boots", nice thick warm socks and gloves, extra sets of long underwear, some overalls like you wear for skiiing, and a big red parka stuffed with goose down. They also give us some head protection to keep our heads nice and warm, and ski goggles to protect our eyes from the sun and the wind. Once we have all our clothing, we get back on a plane which takes us to McMurdo Station in Antarctica, and finally another plane that takes us the rest of the way to the South Pole.
When we are working outside and it's way below zero, if we are wearing all the right clothing, we don't even get cold. The only problem I had was that my fingers would get cold sometimes, so I used some of those hand warmers you can find at ski shops, and stuck those in my pockets - so when my fingers got cold I could warm them up quickly!
I am not sure for the North Pole, but I bet they use similar clothing. Some of the other expeditions this year went far north, so maybe you can ask them a question on their journals! I hope this answers your question, thanks for reading my journals!
Oh, that's a good question! I can't vouch for the North Pole, but I met all kinds of people at the South Pole with all kinds of qualifications. There were all the scientists doing research of course, most of them were in graduate school studying some aspect of science. But there were also technicians who make all the equipment work, carpenters, painters, electricians, and such. There are also people trained to work in the kitchen, run the communications, and to fly the planes, drive the snow machines, and keep everything clean and tidy.
And there were plenty of people who just are willing to work hard and applied for a job at the South Pole, and were lucky to be hired to help out in all kinds of ways! I think most of the "GAs" - I think it stands for General Assistant - had a college degree but not necessarily anything related to the South Pole.
One qualification we all have to go through is called "physical qualification" or PQ - which means a thorough doctor's and dentist's exam to make sure we are in good health. They don't want us to get really sick or injured while we are down there! And for the people who are staying for the whole winter (nine months, with no breaks - no planes coming in or going out, even in an emergency!) they make sure they are mentally prepared for the challenge too.