Fall Meeting 2004

Northern California/Nevada Section AAPT

Friday & Saturday, November 5-6, 2004

Henry M. Gunn High School
780 Arastradero Rd.
Palo Alto, CA

Local Host: Clarence Bakken

email: cbakken2001@yahoo.com


Friday Workshop

Teachers are welcome to contact our President, Joe Tenn, for a letter of support to assist them obtaining funds and release time to attend this conference.

He’s Losing His Momentum!” (11 am – 5 pm) Andria Erzberger, Mike Ugawa & other PTRA’s

Room S10, Gunn High School (see map below)

Do your students confuse momentum, force, and energy?
Do they understand what “conserved” means?
How can you do inexpensive labs for conservation of momentum?

Local teachers who are part of the national PTRA program will lead a 6-hour workshop on momentum and impulse Friday November 5. Based on state standards and modeling new ways to teach, it will address the often misunderstood topics of momentum, impulse, and Newton’s second law. You will go home with cheap but useful “make and take” equipment (colliding cars, rocket launcher, etc.).

The cost is $24 if the teacher pays, $48 if the school pays. Register by sending a check to: A. Erzberger, 47 Roosevelt Circle, Palo Alto, CA 94306. Deadline to sign up is October 27. Contact Andria with any questions and for more information.

Friday Evening Social

Roger Blandford, director of the new KIPAC (Kavli Institute for Particle Astrophysics and Cosmology) at SLAC and Stanford will speak Friday evening. The talk and social will be held in the Panofsky Auditorium at SLAC. Time will be 6:00 for hors d’oeuvres and 7:00 for talk. Check in at the information booth when you enter the SLAC campus. Tell them you are there for the physics teacher social. Panofsky Auditorium is directly in front of you as you go past the information booth. (Click here for map to SLAC.)

Saturday Program

SATURDAY, November 6, 2004

Morning Session, Spangenberg Auditorium

7:45   Registration, Coffee, Donuts, and other culinary delights

8:45   Welcome and Announcements

9:00   Show & Tell

Share your favorite demonstration or teaching tip. Since new teachers and section members will be at this meeting, you are encouraged to dust off some of your oldies but goodies. If you have handouts, please bring 75 copies. Time limit is 5 minutes per person.

10:00   Invited Speaker

Luisa Rebull, Spitzer Science Center, Caltech


Dr. Luisa Rebull of the Spitzer Science Center, Caltech will discuss some of the early results from the Spitzer Space Telescope (formerly known as SIRTF), NASA’s fourth and final great observatory. Spitzer observes in infrared light, so the Universe it sees looks very different than what we (or Hubble) sees in visible light. Spitzer studies very old and distant galaxies, very young nearby stars, and very dusty things all over the Universe (from nearby comets to distant dusty galaxies).

11:00   Invited Presenters

Paul Doherty and Don Rathjen
pauld@exploratorium.edu and donr@exploratorium.edu

Physics Demonstrations from the Expoloratorium

Both Paul and Don are well-known for their creative and clever physics demonstrations as well as their zeal to share them with fellow physics teachers at both AAPT meetings and at the Teacher Institute at the Exploratorium. Today they will give us a treat with some of their latest tricks.

12:00 – 1:30   LUNCH

A delicious Chinese buffet will be set out for the meeting attendees. Several vegetarian items will be included. The cost will be $10 including drink. To reserve a lunch for yourself, and to help us plan how much food to order, please email Lettie Weinmann (lweinmann@pausd.org) that you intend to purchase a lunch (also how many in case you represent several people). Then follow up by sending a check payable to “AAPT” to Lettie Weinmann, Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Rd., Palo Alto, CA 94306. Deadline: November 3. We will take additional lunch reservations during registration, but it would be very helpful to RSVP early.

The planning committee is arranging some exhibits and demonstrations that will be available during lunch. Also, this is a good time to visit the vendors to see what they have to offer and to ask questions.

Afternoon Session, Room M2

1:30   Business Meeting/Raffle

Contributed Papers

2:00   Modeling the Vacuum Cannon

Eric Ayars, CSU Chico, ayars@mailaps.org

The velocity of a projectile shot from a vacuum cannon is commonly assumed to have an upper limit equal to the speed of sound. A relatively simple theoretical model shows an upper limit that is considerably less than the speed of sound. This theoretical maximum velocity is independent of any parameters of the vacuum cannon, such as diameter and projectile mass. I will discuss the theory, assumptions made in deriving the closed-form solution and problems with the theory which invite further refinement.

2:20   What Does a Neutron Star Really Look Like?

Douglas Leadenham, DeVry University, dleadenh@fre.devry.edu

Black holes are by definition invisible, so the next best, visible, general relativity object is a neutron star. First theorized by Tom Gold to explain pulsars, neutron stars and their close relatives, black holes, are hypothetically drawn, interacting with spiraling disks of matter captured from neighboring stars, in magazines and textbooks. None had been captured in a telescope image until 2002, when the unusual object had no other explanation. We will take a look at images on these sites and revise a key size estimate based on general relativity.

2:40   Effective Mass of an Unloaded-Hanging Slinky

Phil Gash, CSU Chico, p_gash@hotmail.com

Have you ever tried cacluating the period of an unloaded Slinky? I found both the conventional effective masses for a Slinky (i.e. 1/2 and 1/3) do not work. A discrete model of a Slinky (N coils each connected to each other via a spring) was developed and an expression for the effective mass was obtained. My results show it depends upon the number of coils in the Slinky and is in good agreement with the experimental data.

3:00 When You Have to Think Inside the Box

Tim Erickson, Senior Scientist, Epistemological Engineering, tim@eeps.com

We came up with a cool (yet obvious) way to show why the normal force is what it is, and, as often happens when you get an obvious, cool idea, it didn’t work – and in a very interesting way. I will show how data analysis comes to the rescue, and leads us to conceptual understandings we never anticipated.

3:20   Classical Equations of Motion from Quantum Mechical Operators

Richard B. Kidd, Diablo Valley College, chbks@earthlink.net

It is universally recognized that application of a quantum-mechanical operator to psi-squared, followed by integration, leads to the expectation value of the variable associated with that operator. Less well known is the fact that direct application of a kinetic energy operator to psi leads to a dynamic equation for the KE. However, since the dynamic equations are semiclassical in form, they raise questions of interpretation.

3:40   The Physics of the Springy Pendulum

Phil Gash, CSU Chic, p_gash@hotmail.com

At the last regional AAPT meeting Ann Hanks demonstrated a spring-mass system which behaved like both a pendulum and a spring, regardless of the starting initial conditions. This springy pendulum system is modeled as a mass connected to a massless spring which is allowed to swing from its support point. The system Lagrangian is used to obtain the equations of motion which result in two coupled non-linear second order differential equations. One contains a radial and angular velocity coupling term which can be used to explain the back-and-forth pendulum-like to spring-like behavior. The coupled equations are solved numerically and match the observed behavior.

REGISTRATION FREE*  What a deal! *fee is waived for first-time attendees and students! The rest of us pay only $10. A bargain at twice the price!

Dues and Don’ts

Section dues are $10 per year, due each Fall. If you cannot attend the meeting, remain an active member which will ensure you’ll receive all our mailings by sending dues to our treasurer Dennis Buckley, Liberty High School, 850 Second St., Brentwood, CA 94513.

Upcoming Events

o Fall Meeting, SCAAPT, Pomona College, October 26, 2004

o Winter Meeting, National AAPT, Albuquerque, NM, January 8-12, 2005

o Spring Meeting, Joint Meeting NCNAAPT/SCAAPT, CSU Fresno, April, 2004

Hotels Close to Meeting

There are many hotels and motels within a short distance of Gunn High School. A short trip up or down El Camino Real will yield many possible places to stay. A few are listed here for reference. The hotels are listed by price and all are within 2 miles of the school.

Motel 6 (1)

One adult: $45.99 + tax
Two adults $51.99 + tax

4301 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 949-0833

www.motel6.com (10% discount if making online reservation)

Quality Inn (2)

N/S King $67 + tax
Identify yourself as going to the meeting at Gunn High School

3901 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 493-2760


Crowne Plaza: Cabana-Palo Alto (5)

$99 per room Fri only
Identify yourself as a “Physics Teacher’s Conference” to get this rate
They are holding a block of rooms for us.

4290 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 628-0114


Creekside Inn (4)

$99 per room Fri-Sat (+ tax)
$129 per room Mon-Thurs (+ tax)
Identify yourself as a “Physics Teacher” to get this rate

3400 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 493-7982 or (650) 493-2411


Dinah’s Garden Hotel (3)

$119 per room, $99 with AAA (+ tax)

4261 El Camino Real
Palo Alto, CA 94306
(650) 493-2844



Map to School

Click on map for Mapquest version

From the South beyond San Jose (101)Take 85 north. Exit 85 onto 280 north. Exit at El Monte east. Left onto Foothill Expressway. Right onto Arastradero Road. Turn left into school at the traffic light.

From the South above San Jose (101)

Take San Antonio Road exit. Turn left (west). Right onto El Camino Real. Left onto Arastradero Road. Turn right into school.

From the North (280)

Take Page Mill Road exit east (left). Turn right onto Foothill Expressway. Left at Arastradero Road. Go through one light then turn left into school at the traffic light.

From the North (101)

Take Oregon Expressway exit. Left at El Camino Real. Right at Arastradero Road. Turn right into school. Campus Map

Click on map for larger image

Map to SLAC


From Freeway 280

Take Sand Hill Road East. Turn right into the entrance to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center (SLAC). Stop at the information booth and be directed to parking.

From Freeway 101

Get to 280 using either Woodside Road (coming from the north) or Page Mill Road (coming from the south). If originally going south, take 280 south when you get to the freeway. If originally going north, take 280 north when you get to the freeway. Then follow the directions above. Updated 10/27/04

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