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.
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.
Sidereus Nuncius in Introductory Astronomy Classes" title="Learning from the Starry Message: Using Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius in Introductory Astronomy Classes" />
Every introductory astronomy class encounters Galileo during the course as the first man to systematically study the sky with a telescope. Every Astronomy 101 student meets Galileo as one of the major catalysts behind the shift from the Ptolemaic to the Copernican system and as one of the great minds behind the scientific method. But most of the time Galileo is just an inset on page 17 with one of the canonical portraits, appearing in students' lists of six early astronomers that need to be memorized for the first exam. I have tried to find ways to overcome such shallow educational experiences in introductory astronomy. In order to bring students to a real encounter with Galileo, I have assigned reading of an excerpt from Galileo's Sidereus Nuncius, “The Starry Message,” followed by an inclass discussion of the text.
The hearts of sports fans were stirred recently by the fastest-ever try scored in international rugby. Welsh winger Dafydd Howells crossed the Fijian try line to score a mere six seconds after Angus O'Brien had started the game with a kickoff, in one of the fixtures in rugby's Junior World Cup played on June 2, 2014, in New Zealand. This startlingly quick score, though, is of interest to physics players as well as rugby players. Howells' try serves as an intriguing way to involve students in one of the “core competencies” of physicists—to model events in the real world. And with the Rugby World Cup taking place in 2015 in England, and rugby sevens making its debut in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil (U.S. teams have qualified for both events), rugby is increasing in popularity in America and is even gaining some coverage on television. Thanks to You-Tube, Howells' try is readily available to serve as a laboratory experiment for students to analyze.
Calculating the effective resistance of an electrical network is a common problem in introductory physics courses. Such calculations are typically restricted to two-dimensional networks, though even such networks can become increasingly complex, leading to several studies on their properties.1,2 Furthermore, several authors3–6 have used advanced techniques (graph theory, superposition of equipotential planes, and Green's functions) to perform theoretical calculations for three-dimensional networks, particularly focusing on the five Platonic solids due to their symmetry. However, these techniques are typically beyond the mathematical level of an undergraduate or advanced high school student. In this article, we outline techniques for analyzing these systems that are accessible to an introductory physics student. We also test these results experimentally using standard laboratory equipment.