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Millikan Lecture 2009: Physics for all: From special needs to Olympiads
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Image of Fig. 1.
Fig. 1.

A leaky pendulum. How does the period of a pendulum change as the water leaks out?

Image of Fig. 2.
Fig. 2.

Solution to the leaky pendulum. As water leaks out from a massless container, the effective length of the pendulum increases and the period increases. (The period change in the massless container is not linear.) If the mass of the container is taken into account, the effective length of the pendulum will first increase and subsequently decrease with corresponding changes in the period.

Image of Fig. 3.
Fig. 3.

Light rays and a converging lens. Light diverges from the tip of the arrow. Light is modeled as many rays, which travel through the lens and converge at the image. Only two of these rays of light (shown in bold) are used to locate the image in traditional ray diagrams. The use of only two rays can produce misconceptions in understanding.

Image of Fig. 4.
Fig. 4.

Split image. A point source of monochromatic light placed at a distance greater than the focal length of a converging lens produces an image point on the far side of the lens. When the lens is split into two halves as shown, two image points are produced. These coherent image points can create interference fringes on a distant screen.

Image of Fig. 5.
Fig. 5.

Split image quantoon. A “quantoon” illustration for the split image problem. Tomas Bunk, an artist with no physics background, learns physics as he creates images for physics problems.

Image of Fig. 6.
Fig. 6.

Newton’s first law. An illustration can help engage students and elicit their prior understandings of Newton’s first law. By using a cartoon, we have found that all students including English language learners and special needs students can fully participate and contribute to this introduction to the lesson.


Generic image for table
Table I.

Four essential questions. Four essential questions are returned to after every physics section or 3 days of instruction. These questions help the students summarize the new content (in this example, Newton’s second law) as well as guide students to understand the physics of each section in relation to the larger principles of all physics knowledge. In the left hand column are the four essential questions. In the right hand column, students are asked a specific question, shown in italics, about the new physics content. The text guides students in the “Why Do You Believe” question by describing how the new physics content “connects with other physics content; fits with big ideas in science; and meets physics requirements” prior to asking a specific question.


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Scitation: Millikan Lecture 2009: Physics for all: From special needs to Olympiads