Science Café Cleveland presents

2012 Annual Distinguished Lectureship


"The Science of Speed: Why Driving Fast Isn't as Easy as You Think!"


NOVEMBER 12, 2012




Diandra L. Leslie-Pelecky

Professor of Physics

West Virginia Univeristy




Is it really all that hard to drive fast? No – if you assume a spherical racecar. However, if you think about the physics of a non-spherical race car, the size of a point turning highly banked corners at 3g on tires with coefficients of friction greater than one, you will quickly realize that there is far more to going fast than stepping on the accelerator.


While the driver applies Newton's Laws on the track, a behind-the-scenes group of physicists and engineers are running computational fluid dynamics simulations, developing low-friction coatings, researching energy absorbing materials for safety, and even finding ways to use oranges to reduce flexion losses in tires.


Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky, author of The Physics of NASCAR and the motorspots blog Building Speed, shows why you cannot win races without getting the math and science right. Although race car drivers may not use terms like ‘impulse’ or ‘friction’, the best of them develop a strong gut-level understanding of the rules of physics. As one driver told her “If I’d only realized that racing was really just math and science, I would have paid more attention in school.” The talk ends with a brief examination of how to use popular culture to get – and keep – people interested in math and science.




Diandra Leslie-Pelecky earned undergraduate degrees in physics and philosophy from the University of North Texas and a Ph.D. in condensed matter physics from Michigan State University. She was a faculty member in the Department of Physics at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln from 1994 until 2008 and is currently a Professor of Physics at West Virginia University.


Her research focuses on magnetic nanomaterials – particles with diameters just a few thousandths the thickness of a human hair. In addition to fundamental studies of magnetic materials, her group uses magnetic nanomaterials for medical diagnosis and treatment processes such as drug delivery, magnetic resonance imaging and chemotherapy. Her research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and various other federal and state funding agencies.




Dr. Diandra Leslie-Pelecky's Personal Website:


Popsci article:




WHERE: The Market Garden Brewery

(Located at 1947 West 25th Street next to the West Side Market, Cleveland, Ohio)


WHEN: November 12, 2012

Drinks at 6:30 pm, discussion starts around 7:00 pm


WHO: Sponsored by Case Western Reserve University chapter of Sigma Xi, WCPN

ideastream, and the Market Garden Brewery



Click here to download a pdf flyer of the event