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Keynote Speaker: Douglas Stone

Einstein’s scientific image was systematically distorted for historical reasons (not discussed here) however Einstein spent much more time on quantum theory than anything else (including relativity). Stone discovered and wrote an article on some of Einstein’s early and extremely lucid explanations of the problem with quantizing chaos. The article appeared in 2005 during the World Year of Physics and resulted in many speaking engagements which sparked Stone’s intensive research into Einstein’s life and works. Most of the available literature on Einstein’s research was too technical for the general public so Stone wrote his own. Read more »

Keynote Speaker: Dr. Pascal Lee

Dr. Lee gave us information about the plans for the first human mission to Mars. He gave a background of the surface temperatures, pressures and topography all of which present unique difficulties to a human mission. Lee shared the mission goals and results from each of the successful rover missions. He was able to share several images from the Mars missions to discuss the difference in terrain, air quality and the sky. The sky on Mars is only blue at sunrise and sunset as the sky clears of dust. Conjuction vs Opposition timing plans each have their benefits and drawbacks to the amount of time in space and the amount of time spent on the surface of Mars. There are private endeavors including the Inspiration Mars program. Lee is more interested in whether or not Mars has alien life, as in different from our own, more than if there is life on Mars. He advocates the continued exploration and study of Mars and hopefully an eventual human mission to Mars. Lee believes that NASA plans and achievements will help increase science education and the number of students that graduate with upper level degrees in Science. A similar trend was seen after the Apollo missions in the 1960’s. Read more »

Key Note Speakers: Dave & Christine Vernier

Dave and Christine shared their roots in teaching and the inspiration for and gradual start of their company. The Verniers began writing software for Physics teachers years ago and eventually partnered with Pasco to write their software. Both companies grew and eventually Vernier began creating their own part kits. Vernier partnered with Texas Instruments to create software for their CBL calculator program and eventually created their own interfaces. The Verniers also shared stories and information about their company, employees and plans for growth. They also shared new sensors, program updates, etc. coming soon.

Dave is also experimenting with the Arduino systems. More information about their endeavors are here on their website. He demonstrated a program using a motion detector that allows a laser pointer to move based on the motion of a hand above the motion detector. The program should be available on their website.

Share ‘n Tell Spring meeting

Below are notes (pictures are available here) of those that shared this morning. Any additions or corrections can be emailed to Read more »

Spring 2013 Share n’ Tell

Further updates and links to come… If you have any corrections please let the secretary know.

Tom Woosnam , Crystal Springs Uplands School

Tom discussed the Perimeter Institute; more information is available here: Perimeter Institute Catalogue (1)

Don Rathjen, Exploratorium Read more »

Business Meeting

Election of officers: 
David Marasco will continue as President, and will also absorb Program Chair
Dennis Buckley will continue as Treasurer and Membership Coordinator
Frank Cascarano will continue as VP Colleges/ Universities
Leanna Felardo will continue as VP of High Schools
Bree Barnett Dreyfuss will continue as Secretary
Lee Trampleasure will continue as Webmaster and will also be the Section Rep
Paul Robinson will continue as a Historian
Tom Woosnam will continue to provide insight as a Past President

Read more »

Fall Conference 2011 Invited Speaker

We are pleased to announce that the invited speaker for our Fall 2011 Conference will Richard Mullerbe UC Berkeley’s own Richard Muller. Muller is a professor of the popular “Physics for Future Presidents” class at UC Berkeley and author of a popular book of the same name. Muller is also a Faculty Senior Scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley Laboratory and associated with the Institute for Nuclear and Particle Astrophysics. Read more about Muller’s career, interests and most recent book, “The Instant Physicist,” on his website.

Save the Date for the UC Berkeley Physics Department Demo Show Friday Nov. 4th and the section Conference on Nov. 5th!


Spring 2011 Conference Notes

Notes from the Spring Conference on April 23rd, 2011 are posted with links that are currently available. If you need anything corrected or would like to add anything to a post, please email Bree at

If you were at the conference and would like to print out a certificate for your Professional Development records, you can download it here as a Document or a pdf.


Dennis and Bree register everyone

A note from our Program Chair, Paul Robinson, about our meeting:


What a great meeting! About 75 physics teachers–one of our largest turnouts in years–came to hear and see Adam Weiner’s great talk on the Physics of Hollywood Movies only to be followed by Paul Doherty’s behind the scenes tour of the Exploratorium. And the contributed papers were so good that over 30 people stayed until closing time 5 PM to hear them.
We have a new president, David Marasco and VP for Colleges and Universities, Frank , both of Foothill College. Congratulations and thank you! The winners of the Sargent-Welch certificates should email me for the address where they should be mailed for redemption. Thanks everybody for a great meeting.”

Contributed Papers & Presentations – Sp2011

“Teaching Strategies for Conceptual Physics for Freshman”
Bree Barnett Dreyfuss and Jon Brix
Amador Valley High School, Pleasanton, CA

Jon and Bree discussed several strategies for teaching freshmen Physics:

  • Use hands on learning & projects
  • Enforce vocabulary
  • Use the GUESS (Givens, Unknown, Equation, Substitute and Solve) calculation method
  • Encourage partner work

Jon and Bree discussed difficulties in teaching the class due to low math skills, special needs students, varying grade levels, etc. The class requires a variety of strategies and resources in order to keep them engaged. Additional resources will be available on Bree’s website.

“Developing Some of the Skills and Values Needed for Success in Introductory Physics”
Jeff Phillips, President of SCAAPT
Loyola Marymount University, Los Angeles, CA

Jeff discussed data that suggests that students that develop their own understanding of concepts through exploration and discussion increases their understanding. Data was collected throughout the college and analyzed to show this improvement; some data was taken from the  Lawson Test. Interesting trends include students believing that they are either “smart” or “dumb” and that the method will not change that. Much of the class time has been replaced with teaching metacognitive skills and problem solving skills. Some activities involve the students determining the variables in the problems. For example, students are handed several different objects with different radii, mass, shapes, etc. to determine what affects the moment of inertia.

“The Law of Refraction in the Tenth Century”
Duygu Demirlioglu, Holy Names University, Oakland, CA

Consider a standard problem: given a light ray, incident in some direction on the flat interface between two transparent media, find the direction of the refracted ray. A straightforward and quite trivial application of Snell’s Law yields the solution. Suppose, however, that you are living a thousand years ago. All you have is a ruler—no protractor, no calculator, and no table of sines. A geometric law of refraction—found in the tenth century but largely unknown in the West—will be presented. This approach suffices to solve all the refraction problems (such as critical angle, apparent depth, and lensmaker’s formula) encountered in any physics textbook. It requires hands-on drawing, but no knowledge of trigonometry, or even much geometry; it allows students to understand the physics with very little mathematics.

“Chasing Shadows: NASA’s Kepler Mission”
Edna DeVore, SETI Institute, Mountain View, CA

An updated version of “Transit Tracks” activity where students interpret light curves to determine the period and the size of the transiting planet will be presented.

Exploratorium Tour – Sp2011

Paul Doherty & Don Rathjen

Resonance Column

Paul D explains the Resonance column

Paul gave us a brief history of the Exploratorium and its growth over the years. Participants were then split into two groups to explore the Exploratorium’s favorite exhibits. Don and Paul gave tours of the museum and met back together for one big demonstration. Highlights include exploring the reflective properties of the dome at the Palace of Fine Arts and the hidden resonance tube inside one of its pillars. Paul demonstrated the “whirly” sound resonance tube in a larger-than-normal format. A video will be available once its edited.

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