Notes from the Joint AAPT/APS Meeting

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory/UC Berkeley

November 14-15, 2003


On Friday, a number of workshops were presented and several tours of LBNL were conducted. The workshops included:

In the evening, a reception was held in the UC Berkeley Physics Department including exhibits by PASCO Scientific and Vernier Software.

Following the reception, Prof. Andrei Linde from Stanford University talked on Inflation, Dark Energy and the Fate of the Universe



 Saturday morning's program included two invited talks:
The Future of Physics Education by Prof. Edward F. (Joe) Redish from the University of Maryland

What's the Matter with Antimatter? by Dr. Natalie Roe, LBNL

After lunch, a short business meeting was held. Topics:

Summer 2004 national AAPT meeting will be at Sacramento State (July 31-Aug 4, 2004). Our section is actively participating in planning some of the activities including the Demo Show that will be held on Monday evening following the picnic at PASCO Scientific.

Spring meeting site: Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on Friday, March 26. and then moving to Las Positas Community College on Saturday, March 27. If the Southern California AAPT section is agreeable, this will be a joint meeting. Mary Mogge and Forouzan were in attendance at our meeting on behalf of SCAAPT.

Fall meeting site was discussed. Santa Rosa JC was selected.

Openings for Secretary and High School Vice President were announced. Interested people should contact Peter Urone, NCNAAPT President.

The ever-popular Show 'n Tell was held. As soon as the paper with all contributers' names on it surfaces, the presenters will be given credit for their work.

Then a large list of contributed papers were given in three concurrent sessions. The topics are given below, although the order may be slightly different than actually occurred.

Is much of mathematics really part of physics?

Meinhard E. Mayer
University of California Irvine, CA

Every physicist knows how important mathematics is in theoretical physics and Wigner has written about the "Unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics in physics." Less emphasized is the degree to which physics has influenced the development of mathematics. I will present a few examples to illustrate this point, hopefully at a level accessible to a wide physics audience.

Highland Games: The Caber Toss

Scott Perry
American River College

The caber toss is mentioned in history as early as the 16th Century. A caber is the trunk of a tree that has been cut and trimmed so that one end is bigger than the other. A caber's length is typically around 20 feet and can weigh as much as 180 pounds. The object is to lift the caber to a vertical position and then toss it end over end toward a castle. The physics and techniques involved in the caber toss will be discussed along with some rather arcane units of measure. The results of a video analysis of a nationally ranked, master caber tosser will be presented.

APS-AAPT Roles in the World Year of Physics

Chuck Stone
North Carolina A&T State University

The year 2005 has been designated the "World Year in Physics" (WYP) to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Albert Einstein's papers on quantum theory, Brownian motion, and special relativity, first published in 1905. Organizations around the globe are planning a variety of programs to raise worldwide public awareness for physics in 2005. The APS will orchestrate the lead program for the United States. This presentation will discuss the WYP and describe activities, ideas, and resources that APS and AAPT members can use to contribute to the success of this international campaign.

The curious case of Schrodinger's relativistic equation and other cautionary tales

Richard Kidd
Diablo Valley College

Schrodinger's relativistic fine-structure correction was perfectly correct, yet it was deemed wrong because it disagreed with Sommerfeld's accepted version. But Sommerfeld's expression was not the relativistic correction as believed! Anecdotes from the history of science illustrate the pitfalls of theory verification for would-be physicists.

Physics First Using the Modeling Approach

Brenda Royce
University HS

At University High School, a new, charter high school located on the Fresno State campus, the Modeling Approach developed by David Hestenes and the late Malcolm Wells at Arizona State University is successfully introducing 9th graders to the concepts of physics. Quantitative work is supported by the students' taking algebra II concurrently. The sequence of science courses continues with chemistry using Modeling and college level biology and geology. Standardized testing gives encouraging evidence that our students' thinking skills and understanding of experimental processes are above the norm. Group interactions and student presentation skills are greatly enhanced with this approach. This talk is for you, if you are considering moving physics to grade 9 or are unfamiliar with the methods of Conceptual Modeling.

Itinerant Electron Magnetism

Dmitriy Likhachev
Therma-Wave, Inc.

The magnetism is one of the most interesting and important areas of condensed matter physics due to a huge variety of materials with different kinds of magnetic behavior and their technological applications. In spite of the tremendous changes in the field in the last few decades, it is still possible to present some of the most significant ideas and results to a class of high school students. This talk is intended to review the basic understanding of the magnetic properties of metals and alloys in which the conduction electrons (itinerant electrons) are mainly responsible for magnetism. Magnetic properties of such materials are described starting with the free electron gas (which approximates the conduction electrons). However, this picture of free (or almost free) electrons has a limited success in describing the magnetic phenomena in real materials. We will discuss the importance of the electron-electron correlations, which could change magnetic behavior in the electron gas. Some modern physical models of main types of magnetic structures (ferromagnetic, antiferromagnetic, ferromagnetic, spin-density waves etc.) will be considered.

Ideas for Understanding General Relativity

Lee Loveridge

General Relativity is usually taught at either a very elementary or very advanced level. In this talk I hope to expound on ways to teach and understand GR at a middle level. I will first present various ways to visualize the Riemann, Ricci, and Einstein tensors as well as the scalar curvature. Then I will give an illustration of how these visualizations help to understand Einstein gravity.

Building a Trebuchet: A Fun Project-Based Learning Experience

Jason Maggard, Lindsey Wilson, Brad Carr, Kevin Dupuis, Donald Harris, and Dominic Calabrese
Sierra College

The Physics Club at Sierra College recently built a trebuchet, a replica of a Medieval device that launches large projectiles over great distances. The challenge and excitement of designing and building this device stimulated the interest and motivation of students and faculty across the campus. The insight, skill, and resources of students and faculty from several departments and of businesses and people from the local community were instrumental to the success of the project. In our presentation, we will illustrate the physical and engineering concepts that make the machine work as well as the collaborative aspects of the project that brought about a collegial spirit.

The Discussion/Lab Experience in Physics 7 at UC Davis

Jacob Blickenstaff
UC Davis

The heart of the student experience of physics in the reformed Physics 7 course at UC Davis is the five-hour per week discussion/lab. The fundamental principle driving the design and evolution of what is done in DL is that students must make sense of new ideas by relating them to what they already know. This happens through students' active engagement, so cooperative group work and whole class discussion are key features of DL. Typically a concept will be covered in four parts: 1st 45 minute activity-introduces a new concept or representation 2nd 45 minute activity-provides practice with new concept or application Homework on concept, representations, or applications At the following DL meeting: 3rd 45 minute activity-involving follow-up of homework The materials for a specific concept group will be provided as an illustration of DL practice. We believe that participation in the DL based activities gradually changes students understanding of learning and is one reason for the lasting benefit of the course. Student interviews also show that the DL setting makes Physics 7 feel like a small class and may help to alleviate the high drop out rate in traditionally taught introductory physics.

Gamma Ray Burst Astronomy in the Classroom

Sarah Silva
Sonoma State University

The NASA Education and Public Outreach Group at Sonoma State University will show you how to integrate the exciting topic of cosmic Gamma Ray Bursts into your grades 9-12 science and mathematics classes. We have created a science educator unit using gamma ray burst astronomy with four activities that assist with teaching basic physics and mathematics topics. This unit will be demonstrated and distributed along with other NASA goodies.

A conceptual and Diagrammatic Method of Introducing Motion in Introductory Physics

Dennis Albers
Columbia College

We have been using for seven years a method of introducing students to motion that uses no formulas, yet allows students to solve quantitative motion problems. The method turns on two things: (1) a new kind of motion diagram that is quantitative and (2) the requirement that students use only their base understanding of average speed and their new conceptual understanding of acceleration&endash;no formulas allowed. In two class periods students become proficient at talking their way through to a completed motion diagram. Later, when students are solving problems using kinematic formulas, we require that they check their results using this conceptual-plus-motion diagram approach.

Physics 7: A Successful Reformed Research-Based Intro Physics Course

Patrick Hession
UC Davis

We have totally changed our large introductory course taken by biological science majors at the University of California, Davis. The implications of a constructivist understanding of how students learn is at the core of both the original inception of the course in fall 1996 and its more gradual evolution since, based on continuous formative assessment. To date, some 10,000 students have enrolled in the course. Summative assessments based on student performance in a follow-up physiology course show that Physics 7 students have a relative large and statistically significant grade advantage in the subsequent physiology course, compared to those who took a traditional physics course at UC Davis or elsewhere. (See Friday talk by Potter.) Significant differences between Physics 7 and a traditionally taught course include reducing the lecture time by two, replacing lab with an integrated discussion/lab, re-conceptualizing content organization as well as "going deeper into less material," and significantly changing "the what and the way" we test students. This talk will give an overview of the Physics 7 course and how its features follow from a constructive perspective of learning and teaching. Other talks will delve deeper into particular aspects of the course.

Sneaking math into physics -- under cover of data

Tim Erickson
Eeps Media

In our NSF-sponsored project, we're incorporating more data analysis into physics labs and problems. This, alas, needs math. Furthermore, students often do not recognize the math they already know when they first see it. Yet by (a) getting technological help with visualization and (b) focusing both on the conceptual, physical meaning of the data and on its specific connection to the mathematics (e.g., the meaning of a slope in a context), students improve their grasp of both the physics and the mathematics.

The Flying Pig

Paul Robinson
San Mateo HS

Circular motion is a special case of something moving at a constant speed while the direction continually changes. For anything moving in a circle, the net force on it is always inward towards the center of the circle. Most vehicles employ friction to make turns. Hence roads are often banked to minimize the needed friction. Airplanes bank in the direction needed for turning. In all such cases the net force is directed radially in the plane of circular motion. A Flying Pig is a delightful example of conical pendulum for which the horizontal component of the tension is mv2/r. Student data verify this relationship usually within a few percent.

Organization of Content in Physics 7 at UC Davis

Mark McKinnon
UC Davis

Both research and personal teaching experience tell us that students often fail to develop an understanding of the connections between topics within an introductory physics course as well as to everyday understandings and to content in other disciplines. This is addressed in Physics 7 by replacing "physical-phenomena centered topics" as a key organizational element with broadly applicable "models." These models emphasize the commonalities between various physical phenomena rather than the differences. This approach also allows us to address another serious reform issue: there is simply too much material presented in a one-year course for typical students to achieve functional understanding of even a small fraction of the material. But which "topics" can be eliminated? Organizing by models and then focusing on broad application of the models to varied physical phenomena, allows much of the physical phenomena traditionally covered as separate topics, to be treated considerably more efficiently. With this approach, students regularly practice thinking in a broader context and making connections across widely differing phenomena. We believe the regular practice of this aspect of critical thinking contributes significantly to the lasting benefits of this course. Specific examples of organizing content by models will be presented in this talk.

Data Analysis Strategies of Students in a Millikan Simulation Experiment

Bryan Cooley
Eeps Media

Students in several different classrooms were asked to determine the mass of a penny by measuring the mass of several film canisters filled with an unknown number of pennies. By using Fathom, a new data analysis program, students were able to use multiple strategies to tackle this problem. The student strategies will be examined along with several other issues the lab brought up including: prescripted vs. unscripted data analysis, multiple solutions vs. one correct answer, multiple representations of the solution, and data uncertainty and accuracy. The students' fluency with data anlysis was explored and challenged by this non-traditional lab.

Establishing a Research-based Space Academy for High Schools

Jeffrey Adkins
Deer Valley HS

Deer Valley High School in Antioch, California received a Specialized Secondary Program grant from the California Department of Education to establish a Space Academy at our high school. This is the first year of implementation and includes two experimental courses designed specifically for high school. A description of the grant proposal, the expected infrastructure purchases, the curriculum, and aspects relevant to student-based physics and astronomy research will be presented.

Student Assessment in Physics 7 at UC Davis

Austin Calder
UC Davis

In introductory science courses students "pay attention" to what they are tested on. In physics 7, our learning goals emphasize functional understanding and "making sense" of content. Students "make sense" by reasoning with the constructs and relationships of broadly applicable models. Consequently, our assessment items on quizzes and the final typically emphasize the application of a general model to a particular case and/or making sense of phenomena from the standpoint of a model, rather than algorithmic problem solving. The difference in performance by gender on a particular assessment is one useful window into how well that item "works". We also believe exam items should be authentic; i.e., they should as much as possible be the same kinds of tasks students perform in the 5-hour discussion/lab; we attempt to do this. Discussion/labs activities often involve students with figuring out "how to do what we want to do" and "reporting on what we have learned." Many quiz and final questions (as well as discussion/lab activities) involve mathematical reasoning, although they are often devoid of equations. We believe that students learning how to respond to these kinds of questions contributes significantly to the lasting benefits of this course. Specific examples of these exam items will be discussed.

Student Research Project: A [SII] survey of the Rosette Molecular Cloud

Jason Ybarra
CSU Sacramento

A newly forming protostar produces outflows from its axis of rotation. When these outflows interact with the surrounding medium, regions of high temperature shocked gas radiate light at emission line wavelengths such as [SII], [OIII], and Ha. Forbidden line [SII] and off-line continuum CCD emission line imaging data have been obtained for the Rosette Molecular Cloud (RMC) region. Our images reveal several [SII] emission features in and around previously identified embedded star clusters. Spatial coincidences between the emission features and star forming regions within the cloud will be discussed.

Physics experiments using a battery-operated toy car*

Xueli Zou
Chico State

Physics experiments using a battery-operated toy car* Stephen Cheng, Eva Kozachenko, Xueli Zou This talk will present some experiments using a battery-operated toy car. Those experiments can be used in college introductory and high school physics laboratories. Detailed designs and data of the experiments will be shared. *Supported in part by NSF DUE #0088906 and DUE #0242845

Foundations and lessons of SP3ARK: A professional development project improving inquiry-based science instruction in New York City

Frank B. Hicks, III
New York Academy of Sciences

From 1997-2002, the SP3ARK project at the New York Academy of Sciences worked in partnership with New York City school districts to provide professional development for middle school science teachers. The project aimed to give teachers the skills, tools, and confidence to lead inquiry-based instruction in their classrooms. During the 2001-2002 school year, SP3ARK worked with five school districts and led workshops for teachers of nearly 70% of the middle school students in Manhattan. The contact with teachers ranged from workshops that met monthly throughout the school year to sets of 2-3 half-day workshops. This talk will briefly describe SP3ARK's scientific and pedagogical foundations and its workshop model. It will then discuss the major lessons learned, including organizational keys to success, the competing needs of teachers for instruction in science process and science content, and suggestions for pre-service teacher education. Supported by NSF under grant ESI-9630117 and by the New York State Education Department.

Some Questions I would like to ask Feynman, Wheeler, Weinberg, Hawking, Thorne, Penrose, Guth, Glashow, or Gell-Mann

Lewis Epstein
San Francisco City College, ret.

College and high school teachers need some serious help understanding post modern physcis. I will give specific examples.

Attenuation of the Visible Electromagnetic Spectrum at Avila Bay, California

Darren Fraser
Cal Poly SLO

We have measured attenuation characteristics of the visible electromagnetic spectrum in half meter increments to 10 meters below the ocean surface. Attenuation characteristics are measured from 400 to 700 nm in 2 nm increments. We find our data to be exponential in nature and are able to derive attenuation coefficients as a function of lambda, yielding an absorption profile of the ocean water. This study is site sensitive and because of that all data was taken a half-mile out on the Unocal-Cal Poly Pier at Avila Beach. Our end goal is to understand how light and electromagnetic energy travels attenuates with depth in the ocean.

Guiding students in the design of a simple experimental procedure

Wes Bliven
Humboldt State

A simple experimental setup will be presented which motivates students to think about techniques and sources of error in an experimental procedure. The experiment measures the specific heat of lead using digital thermometers, lead weights, water, Styrofoam cups, beakers and hotplates. The students are presented with an experimental procedure that is intentionally flawed. The students are then asked to design and carry out experiments to identify and correct the procedure. I use this experiment as an introduction to the upper division Senior Laboratory class. Despite the simplicity of experiment many students (70%) have difficulty finding the main sources of error. In addition, this experiment can be used to help students learn to apply the theoretical tools they have learned to a practical problem. Student reaction to this activity has been very positive and helps students to move past the idea that experimental physics is about "just following the lab procedure without question."

The whole Northern California/Nevada AAPT Section wishes to thank Michael Barnett and his colleagues for the enormous amount of planning and effort that went into a very successful meeting. NCNAAPT appreciates the effort to bring together AAPT and APS, and hope to participate in similar joint meetings in the future.

Posted 12/18/03