Science (physics only)

Myth: The astronauts didn’t float away because they had heavy boots

November 9, 2009

Below I am reposting a rather long piece taken verbatim from the website of Steve Detweiler who just says that it’s an “amusing anecdote from a friend of mine.”  So, I’m not sure of the veracity of the story, and some claim that it’s an urban legend.  It may well be.  But it opened up […]

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Animal rights and microwave hot spots

October 31, 2009

I blogged a while back about mapping out the hot spots in your microwave with fax paper, or marshmallows or chocolate chips.  (Your food is not heated at the “nodes”, or cool spots, which is why we have those rotating plates). Here is a decidedly un-yummy (but undeniably creative) take on that activity (as sent […]

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Population growth and physics?

September 19, 2009

Do physics teachers have a role to play in teaching about population growth?  One could argue that the study of physics is separate from the world of human concerns — it’s concerned with the physical laws governing how the world works.  Our role is to educate students about these abstract laws.  The rest is for […]

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Engineers Make Art: Visualizing Fluid Flow

August 20, 2009

Our most famous fluids tend to be transparent — air and water, for example.  This makes it hard for us to imagine how fluids are moving as members of the general public, but also poses an interesting problem for budding engineers.  They need to know how to make fluids do what they want them to […]

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Interactive lecture demonstrations (Blogging from the AAPT)

July 28, 2009

Today’s session is about using interactive lecture demonstrations to effectively improve your students’ understanding of concepts. As I mentioned in my previous post, while students like demos, they don’t get the things we want them to get unless they predict the results of the experiement or somehow get involved.  David Sokoloff showed how they have […]

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Recruiting and keeping women in physics (Blogging from the AAPT)

July 27, 2009

This session is about the state of affairs regarding women in physics and how we can address it. Well, no surprise, there’s still a big disparity between the number of men and women in physics — we lose women from physics at every major transition — from HS to college, college to graduate school — […]

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How brass instruments work

July 10, 2009

A comment from a teacher about a nice lecture on how brass instruments work. I’ve seen Brian Holmes speak and he is very good! If you have a broadband connection you can hear and see a great lecture by Brian Holmes on how brass musical instruments work. It really is very good. I saw this […]

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Teaching the gentle art of estimations

July 7, 2009

Our education research group here at University of Colorado had a visit and a very interesting talk by Sanjoy Mahajan, director of the teaching and learning laboratory at MIT and former physics professor, last semester.  He focuses on understanding and improving students number sense, mostly through use of approximations and estimations.  He’s a very provocative […]

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Phylm (Physics + Film) – $100 prize!

June 26, 2009

Need a class project?  Here’s one that could get you some cashola to boot.  Former physics teacher David Colarusso sponsors a contest for the best video to meld physics and film.  He particularly would like to see contributions from students and teachers!  If you’ve got some videos already posted on YouTube, just submit them here!  […]

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Hands on Science Sunday: Ticker-tape timer for measuring motion

June 21, 2009

A pretty standard lab for introductory physics is to chart what constant speed (or constant acceleration) looks like, and graph it versus time.  There are all different ways to do this, but one is to use a ticker-tape timer, which I think is wonderfully cool.  The idea is to attach a piece of ticker tape […]

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Visualizing flow

June 18, 2009

Wow, check out this beautiful video of visualizing fluid flow with a special tracer fluid (courtesy of Sebastien at the Exploratorium).  Stunning!

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Can a vacuum become a conductor? OR The physics of electron flow

June 11, 2009

Here was an interesting discussion on a science teacher’s listserv, which came down to the question — can a vacuum become a conductor?  What is it that we really need in order for charge to flow between two points?  What is the physics of electron flow?  The physics teacher in question wrote: The Paul Hewitt […]

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BEST bad physics movie EVER. (Laughingly bad science in “The Core”)

June 6, 2009

I’ve had a set of “bad science movies” on my Netflix queue for a while, and every once in a while I dip into it.  Each time it feels a bit risky, like trying some weird new combination, like cherry dip on my mint chocolate chip ice cream cone.  Sometimes it’s OK.  Sometimes it’s not […]

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Hands on Science Sunday: Feeling pressured?

May 31, 2009

Here’s today’s science classroom activity.  We’re surrounded by the crushing weight of layers of atmosphere above us, but we don’t feel it.  Why?  Our perception is tuned to differences, not absolutes.  If we were in a completely pink world, we would notice anything that wasn’t pink, but (I’m pretty sure) after a few minutes, we […]

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Physics Toys Tuesday: Colored shadows

May 27, 2009

I’m not actually committing to posting a physics toy every Tuesday, but I’ll start small. One of my favorite places to watch people back at the Exploratorium was the colored shadows exhibit.  This one’s always a winner. Images from This is an example of color addition.  Remember this from grade school? I only remember […]

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[Clickers in upper division physics] 3. The critics speak

May 27, 2009

This is part 3 of an ongoing set of posts about using clickers in upper division physics courses, as we’ve been doing at U. Colorado for several years. Arguments against using clickers in upper division We’ve heard plenty of arguments about why people don’t want to use clickers in the upper division. Here are a […]

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A long day at the Exploratorium…

May 5, 2009

Biologist Charlie Carlson over at my favorite alma mater (the Exploratorium museum of science in SF) snapped this photo of me, perky and bright-eyed… but my bench-mates?  Not so much.  Looks like they had a long day of interactive science. One thing we found curious about the photo was its graininess in the low light.  […]

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Why does soap form bubbles?

May 2, 2009

I got a good question on my Adopt a Physicist forum last week, from an 8th-grader named, for privacy purposes, “S.F.”  I asked them to look around for interesting things around them and ask me about the physics of them.  He/she wrote: Actually today I did notice some strange things.  I was washing my hands, and […]

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Adopt a Physicist is open!

March 31, 2009

I did this in the fall and it was a lot of fun!  Register as a teacher (to adopt a physicist) or as a physicist (to be adopted).  This is an informal dialogue between physicists and high school students to give students a taste of what it’s like to be a physicist.  If you’re a […]

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Meet the Physicists. Meet me!

March 29, 2009

Hey guys, I’m featured as one of the physicists for Meet the Physicists on the Year of Science site.  The site is for the Celebrate Physics and Technology month ( which was March, so it’s about over now), and you can submit your questions to me and other physicists on the site. I should have […]

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