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.
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It is a common practice to fix a vertical gnomon and study the moving shadow cast by it. This shows our local solar time and gives us a hint regarding the season in which we perform the observation. The moving shadow can also tell us our latitude with high precision. In this paper we propose to exchange the roles and while keeping the shadows fixed on the ground we will move the gnomon. This lets us understand in a simple way the relevance of the tropical lines of latitude and the behavior of shadows in different locations. We then put these ideas into practice using sticks and threads during a solstice on two sites located on opposite sides of the Tropic of Capricorn.
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NASA's Kepler Mission (Fig. 1) has been wildly successful in discovering exoplanets. This paper summarizes the mission goals, briefly explains the transit method of finding exoplanets and design of the mission, provides some key findings, and describes useful education materials available at the Kepler website.
In a Montessori preschool classroom, students work independently on tasks that absorb their attention in part because the apparatus are carefully designed to make mistakes directly observable and limit exploration to one aspect or dimension. Control of error inheres in the apparatus itself, so that teacher intervention can be minimal.1 Inspired by this example, I created a robotic kinematics apparatus that also shapes the inquiry experience. Students program the robot by drawing kinematic graphs on a computer and then observe its motion. Exploration is at once limited to constant velocity and constant acceleration motion, yet open to complex multi-segment examples difficult to achieve in the lab in other ways. The robot precisely and reliably produces the motion described by the students' graphs, so that the apparatus itself provides immediate visual feedback about whether their understanding is correct as they are free to explore within the hard-coded limits. In particular, the kinematic robot enables hands-on study of multi-segment constant velocity situations, which lays a far stronger foundation for the study of accelerated motion. When correction is anonymous—just between one group of lab partners and their robot—students using the kinematic robot tend to flow right back to work because they view the correction as an integral part of the inquiry learning process. By contrast, when correction occurs by the teacher and/or in public (e.g., returning a graded assignment or pointing out student misconceptions during class), students all too often treat the event as the endpoint to inquiry. Furthermore, quantitative evidence shows a large gain from pre-test to post-test scores using the Test of Understanding Graphs in Kinematics (TUG-K).
Instructors of physics courses face the demanding challenge of creating a safe, nurturing community in their classroom while maintaining sufficient rigor. First-day activities are especially important, because they need to both motivate their students and prepare them for the course. Experienced instructors happily share their successful first-day activities,1,2 but what works for one instructor or class might not be as successful for another. We postulate that to be successful, an activity will set expectations, attend to the face needs of the students, and build the instructor's credibility. By modeling the course activities and fostering a supportive learning community, well-suited activities can both orient and motivate students.
When the sun rose over America on July 4, 2012, the world of science had radically changed. The Higgs boson had been discovered. Mind you, the press releases were more cautious than that, with “a new particle consistent with being the Higgs boson” being the carefully constructed phrase of the day. But, make no mistake, champagne corks were popped and backs were slapped. The data had spoken and a party was in order. Even if the observation turned out to be something other than the Higgs boson, the first big discovery from data taken at the Large Hadron Collider had been made.