Why read physics blogs?

by Stephanie Chasteen on October 13, 2008

Gentle reader, I could use your input!  I’ve volunteered to write a short piece for The Physics Teacher (a trade magazine for physics teachers), highlighting some good physics-related blogs.  I’ve got my list of favorites, but I’d appreciate any suggestions from others (especially if you’re a teacher) so that I know that I’m not missing some juicy ones.

Also, if any physics teachers could tell me why *they* read blogs, that will help me write something to convince other physics teachers why this could be a good use of their precious time!

FOLLOW UP:  I’ve posted a blog entry with my final article in The Physics Teacher with my recommendations!

{ 17 comments }

Weldon MacDonald October 14, 2008 at 4:29 am

For ideas. This works fabulously for Mathematics, but less well in physical science. I’m about to become a science teacher, hopefully teaching high school physics, but I find creative curriculum ideas to be used in classrooms are in short supply. For instance, the homopolar motor. You can find uncounted references and videos, but no one seems to have taken the time to build curriculum around it.
I’m developing a lesson in which every student gets to build a simple motor and learn something about the interaction of electromagnetic fields, the right hand rule, polarity, and current. The students are then challenged to use the motor as a device for detecting the direction of magnetic fields. It’s a great intro to EMF and electromagnetism in general.
Another lesson covers measurement and explains the need for units through a story about my grandmothers soda farls.
I read blogs to get ideas for curriculum. Demos and toys that can be used to good effect in the classroom. I read blogs to stay up to date with educational research.I read blogs for inspiration and support, but it’s hard to do with physics, because, I think, the subject has a reputation for being complex and only understandable by the demigods of the subject, who are writing about it’s more esoteric features. Science literacy is about changing a students intuitive ideas about science, you can’t do that from the ivory tower.
I hope you have better luck than I did, I can’t wait to review the sites. In the mean time I’m going publish my lessons on a blog for others to use for inspiration and hopefully to start a dialog to improve them.

Tom October 14, 2008 at 6:38 am

There are a number of good physics blogs out there. You may already be reading them, but they aren’t in your list of science links; too many to list and link here, but they are included in my blogroll of physics-y blogs.

Melissa October 14, 2008 at 8:44 am

A few physics blogs that I find interesting and/or useful: http://blog.dotphys.net/, http://www.physicscentral.com/buzz/, http://scienceblogs.com/principles/, and http://nanoscale.blogspot.com/.

I’ll be interested to read your article. While I find blogs useful for giving me new ideas to try in the classroom or keep me connected with research developments or discussion of funding, findings, and fun facts, I’m not sure whether I would encourage my students to use science blogs. In particular, there has been a lot of focus on the researchblogging.org site (http://biology.plosjournals.org/perlserv/?request=get-document&doi=10.1371%2Fjournal.pbio.0060240&ct=1 and also at http://www.economist.com/science/displaystory.cfm?story_id=12253189&fsrc=rss), but currently there simply isn’t a critical mass of physics blogs there to make me comfortable sending my students to that site. Also, I am always trying to get students to evaluate the content of information on the internet and to appreciate the value of peer reviewed science. As a result, I generally am reluctant to encourage them to browse blogs to get exposure to current research. For that I prefer to direct them to Phys Rev Focus or the new APS Physics on-line journal. I’ve actually been spending a lot of time thinking about the role of physics blogs in the classroom for the past couple of months. I think appropriate usage might be different depending on whether you are talking about a high school or a college classroom and also depending on what level you want students to gain exposure to new developments in physics. But I certainly think the tips and stories of blogs are useful and entertaining for physics teachers, even if I am hesitant to endorse sending my students to physics blogs.

Ian October 14, 2008 at 10:22 am

My own blog is very sporadically updated, but has a lot of PER-related and -inspired thinking, and might be of interest.

http://ianbeatty.com/blog

michelle October 14, 2008 at 10:30 am

I am a high school Physics teacher of 12 years. I LOVE having blogs to read. I feel connected to the Physics community in a way I never experienced before. Invariably there will be material that will be shared that is too specific to one aspect of physics that assumes more background physics knowledge than I have. However, I find most of the time topics are shared in a manner that is summarized in a way that is completely understandable and I can share with my students within the classroom setting. It adds a flavor to my lectures/demonstrations/discussions that I never had before. I like being tied to the physics community and what is topically ‘hot’ at the moment. I like the fantastic tidbits that are shared that can enhance my presentations to my students. I especially like the You Tube videos that “Swans on Tea” find! I have about a dozen physics blogs that I skim thru each day…including yours! Some include: “Physics and Physicists”, “Uncertain Principles”, “Cocktail Party Physics”. Hope this helps!

Melissa October 14, 2008 at 11:10 am

Physics blogs that I find interesting and/or useful: http://blog.dotphys.net/, http://www.physicscentral.com/buzz/, http://scienceblogs.com/principles/, and http://nanoscale.blogspot.com/.

I’ll be interested to read your article. While I find blogs useful for giving me new ideas to try in the classroom or keep me connected with research developments or discussion of funding, findings, and fun facts, I’m not sure whether I would encourage my students to use science blogs. In particular, there has been a lot of focus on the researchblogging.org site, but currently there simply isn’t a critical mass of physics blogs there to make me comfortable sending my students to that site. Also, I am always trying to get students to evaluate the content of information on the internet and to appreciate the value of peer reviewed science. As a result, I generally am reluctant to encourage them to browse blogs to get exposure to current research. For that I prefer to direct them to Phys Rev Focus or the new APS Physics on-line journal. I’ve actually been spending a lot of time thinking about the role of physics blogs in the classroom for the past couple of months. I think appropriate usage might be different depending on whether you are talking about a high school or a college classroom and also depending on what level you want students to gain exposure to new developments in physics. But I certainly think the tips and stories of blogs are useful and entertaining for physics teachers, even if I am hesitant to endorse sending my students to physics blogs.

Fran October 14, 2008 at 6:36 pm

Hi,

I have only recently started offering physics blog links on my school website, and currently I have only two: Dot Physics and Twisted Physics.

My students can suggest others to me, and if I approve them I will link to them from my blog page.

I like the idea of students reading things that will get them thinking and asking questions. Often they ask me about things I haven’t seen (one student brought up ITER today, and I still haven’t taken the time to read about it), but if it is from a physics blog there is a chance I will have glanced at it. Like Melissa, I hope to help students learn to evaluate material on the internet for reliability and usefulness, and I think that is easier to do if kids are talking to me about stuff they find on the internet.

Weldon mentions publishing his lessons on a blog. I would like to suggest the physics teacher wiki “Pretty Good Physics” which welcomes lessons from physics teachers. You must be a member to upload lessons, and to become a member you have to prove you are a physics teacher by providing some way to check: For example, a link to your school’s website where you are on the list of faculty.

Also, thank you to Ian for the blog link, I like the way you think! I teach using modeling , and I am looking forward to reading your back posts about teaching and learning. I just wish I had more time to think about this stuff!

Anyway, I’m looking forward to reading your article in TPT, Stephanie! And do you know Al Bartlett? If you see him, please say hi from me.

-Fran

sciencegeekgirl October 20, 2008 at 4:36 pm

I want to thank everyone for giving me such useful comments on why you use blogs! You’ve given me delightful fodder for this article, and it’s going to be difficult to keep it to length.

Also, thanks everyone for pointing me to Dot Physics, which I hadn’t yet discovered. Great stuff! I love this community.

Ronald December 12, 2008 at 2:58 pm

It looks like we just need more sciencegeekgirl’s!

There are plenty of high quality physics links out there and of course physics blogs.
Physics on the Net is just great, you can contact more and more physicists with their blogs, websites whatever works..physics works forever!

cu around guys

Ronald December 12, 2008 at 3:00 pm

Physicsworks.ca works for all of you…I guess

=;-/)

Thomas February 13, 2009 at 5:19 am

i find good and interesting physics stuff on physicshandbook.com

it includes laws, experiments, videos and different topics on physics.

you can visit at http://www.physicshandbook.com

you can find different calculators to solve physics equation.

you can visit for calculators at
http://www.calculatoredge.com

Super Science Fair Projects April 21, 2009 at 2:55 pm

Why read science blogs? Well they can be a great source for inspiration for personal projects. Kids working on their science fair projects, for example, can find both great background material and project ideas inside the annals of science blogs.

Reginald May 19, 2009 at 1:24 am

http://motls.blogspot.com/

You gotta love Lubos!!!

Thomas Neil Neubert September 4, 2009 at 4:27 pm

I’ve written a book titled A Critique of Pure Physics. It is fully viewable at http://books.google.com/books?printsec=frontcover&id=_Le0UwlB-QAC#v=onepage&q=&f=false
Written with a different attitude this book could have been title The Ten Most Embarrassing Questions to Ask Your Physics Teacher, or it could have been called The Cracks in the Bedrock of Physics. But I choose to write a scholarly but readable book. It would be a good reference to students to help shake loose the reverence and intimidation with which students often approach physics. Topics of the book could be used to complement discussion of topics like Hubble’s law, the nature of time, the reasonable limits of theory, black holes, etc.

Converter March 17, 2010 at 10:22 am

As a physics teacher i read physics blogs because sometime these blogs have some extra material from which you can easily understand your desired topic and sometimes people give very interesting and real life examples which makes my lecture more interesting.

Shai August 6, 2010 at 11:13 pm

I am doing a post-doc in physics and I like to read about physics and what people are interested in, find cool, or concerned about. I also started my own blog on physics teachers training and so I am also reading blogs for new ideas on what to write and to connect!

rajeev nair January 3, 2012 at 4:46 pm

Visit naturalphilosophermt.blogspot.com for highschool physics

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