Glenn Elert, a physics teacher at Midwood HS at Brooklyn College, has attracted a good deal of attention from the blogosphere in recent days, thanks to a project that had his students measure the force of gravity in the world of Super Mario Bros.
Elert, who has taught at Midwood since 1992, maintains several science education websites, including The Physics Factbook™, “an encyclopedia of scientific essays written by high school students that can be used by anybody. It is an exercise in library research methods in which students are sent out in search of a measurement with the intent of having them find more than just a number with a unit.”
One Factbook essay from 2007, “Acceleration Due to Gravity: Super Mario Brothers,” was picked up on Jan. 16 by Infovore.org, then Waxy.org, where it caught the eye of mental_floss blogger Chris Higgins. Blog buzz grew steadily, and by Jan. 28 the high school science project had found its way to Slate V‘s quirky science show “Grand Unified Weekly” [video below].
So what did Elert’s students conclude about Super Mario Gravity?
We determined that, generally speaking, the gravity in each Mario game, as game hardware has increased, is getting closer to the true value of gravity on earth of 9.8 m/s2. However, gravity, even on the newest consoles, is still extreme. According to Wikipedia, a typical person can withstand 5 g before losing consciousness, and all but the very latest of Mario games have gravity greater than this. Also, with gravity that great, it is a wonder Mario can perform such feats as leaping almost 5 times his own body height!