Dedicated to the strengthening of the teaching of introductory physics at all levels, The Physics Teacher provides peer-reviewed materials to be used in the classrooms and instructional laboratories. It includes:
Innovative physics demonstrations; New ways of doing lab experiments; Ideas for presenting difficult concepts more clearly; Suggestions for implementing newer technology into teaching; Historical insights that can enrich the physics course and Book and film reviews.
Special features include Physics Challenge Solutions, Fermi Questions, and Figuring Physics.
Electromagnetic induction is probably one of the most challenging subjects for students in the introductory physics sequence, especially in algebra-based courses. Yet it is at the heart of many of the devices we rely on today. To help students grasp and retain the concept, we have put together a simple and dramatic classroom demonstration that combines sight and sound with a compelling personal story from U.S. history. Other classroom activities dealing with induction have been discussed in this journal, 1–4 but we believe that this one will be especially likely to attract and retain student interest, particularly in courses geared toward medical, biological, and other non-physics majors.
Recently, I came into possession of an unusual item: a collection of 1928 TIME magazines. I began flipping through the pages out of sheer curiosity—and was soon astonished by the scale and the depth of their physics coverage. Back then, TIME had a special “Science” section in almost every issue and devoted quite a bit of space to the events that would hardly be mentioned in any popular magazine these days. Some of them were fleeting and merely curious, some truly timeless. Many of the articles and notes were devoted to physics: the people, the discoveries, the inventions, the conventions. I found the reading both entertaining and enlightening and would like to offer a sampler here. 1 I hope that these little tidbits of history will lighten up the classroom discussions and help inspire your students by reminding them that physics is a dynamic, ever-changing field to which they may well contribute one day. I have found that my own students love it when a little bit of history is brought up; it always generates interesting questions and seems to spark the students' interest in the topic.
Mobile device accelerometers are a simple and easy way for students to collect accurate and detailed data on an amusement park ride. The resulting data can be graphed to assist in the creation of force diagrams to help students explain their physical sensations while on the ride. This type of activity can help students overcome some of the conceptual difficulties often associated with understanding centripetal force and typical “elevator-type problems” that are inherent in so many amusement park rides that move, lift, and drop riders. This article provides some sample data and examples from a visit to Six Flags Great America.
End-pipe corrections seldom come to mind as a suitable topic for an introductory physics lab. Yet, the end-pipe correction formula can be verified in an engaging and inexpensive lab that requires only two supplies: plastic-tube toys called boomwhackers 1 and a meterstick. This article describes a lab activity in which students model data from plastic tubes to arrive at the end-correction formula for an open pipe. Students also learn the basic mathematics behind the musical scale, and come to appreciate the importance of end-pipe physics in the engineering design of toy musical tubes.
LEDs, or light-emitting diodes, are cheap, easy to purchase, and thus commonly used in physics instruction as indicators of electric current or as sources of light (Fig. 1). In our opinion LEDs represent a unique piece of equipment that can be used to collect experimental evidence, and construct and test new ideas in almost every unit of a general physics course (and in many advanced courses) either (I) as “black boxes” that allow students to study certain properties of a system of interest, (II) as physical systems that allow students to learn an astonishing amount of physics that they usually do not encounter in a regular introductory physics course, and (III) as non-traditional devices that allow students to construct concepts that are traditionally a part of a general physics course.