Modeling Instruction and Workshops

Over the years, the Modeling Instruction program at Arizona State has created materials and a pedagogical approach that focuses on (and seems to get) deep student understanding of basic physics concepts. And they’re branching out into other disciplines.

It takes a commitment of time, energy, and possibly a willingness to be in Phoenix for a few weeks in the summer, but it’s worth learning more. Visit for more background.

Their national workshop list is at

More Great Summer Programs for Teachers

You can learn cool summer stuff and earn money while you’re doing it.

  • In the IISME (Industry Initiatives for Science and Mathematics Education) Summer Fellowship Program, you work in a technically-oriented workplace or research lab, contribute to what goes on there, and translate your experience into improved instruction. Summer 2007, you could earn up to $8200!
    Check out
    You can read sample postings from previous summers at
    Applicants must currently teach K–16 in Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara or Santa Cruz County.
  • The Edward Teller Education Center (ETEC) of the UC Davis School of Education in collaboration with Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL), is offering two new programs this summer for the Teacher Research Academy and an option for an advanced degree. You can learn more at These may be related to other LLNL offerings, below.
  • Once again, Lawrence Livermore is hosting a series of summer opportunities for teachers. You can work in biotechnology, fusion/astrophysics, or energy technologies and environment. Summer programs starting in 2007 can lead to internships as part of a research team. The idea is that your new knowledge and skills will enhance your instruction. There is money for stipends, lodging, and travel.
    Check it out at

Brentwood Debrief

Our Spring 2008 Meeting took place April 18–19 at Heritage High School in Brentwood. Check out the program! The SNAAPT petition (you can download it here) was voted upon by the 50 or so attendees and passed unanimously. We wish them luck!

Dean Baird, documentor and presenter extraordinaire, has assembled some cool stuff here. In includes links to:

  • Skepticism in the Classroom (a page of mini-lessons in critical thinking)
  • The Amazing Meeting (hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation)

And photos, of course! [camera]

Help from AAPT: finding faculty, finding jobs

The AAPT Online Career Center is now associated with the AIP, APS, and AVS Career Centers. You can submit a resumé free of charge on our site and your resumé is automatically entered into a searchable database to which employers have easy online access. Visit the AAPT Online Career Center at

[pdf]Here is a flyer (400K, pdf) that describes the Career Center. You could give to the administrator at your school who is responsible for hiring new faculty.

K–12 engineering newsletter available

Go Engineering! is the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE)’s free, bi-weekly electronic newsletter that goes out to thousands of K–12 science and math educators across the country. Go Engineering! reaches into America’s classrooms to promote the importance of engineering and technology education and explores the many ways engineering and technology can help teachers meet the challenge of making mathematics and science come alive for students. Subscribe for free at

Spring 2005 Meeting Invited Speaker

>California State University at Fresno
Saturday, April 9, 2005
Don’t miss this talk!

Invited Speaker: Michael Nauenberg, UC Santa Cruz

Einstein’s quantum theory of radiation revisited

In 1916 Einstein published a remarkable paper entitled “On the Quantum Theory of Radiation” [1]-[3] where he derived Planck’s formula for black-body radiation by a new statistical hypothesis for the emmision and absorption of electromagneic radiation based on discrete bundles of energy and momentum which we now call photons. Einstein radiation theory replaced Maxwell’s classical theory by a stochastic process, and in this talk I will show that it also gives the well known quantum statistics of massless particles with even spin [2]. These statistics however, were not discovered by Einstein but communicated to him by Bose in 1924. Like Boltzmann’s classical counterpart, Einstein’s statistical theory leads to an irreversible approach to thermal equilibrium, but because this violates time reversal, Einstein theory can not be regarded as a fundamental theory of physical processs [2]. Apparently Einstein and his contemporaries were unaware of this problem, and even today this problem is ignored in contemporary discussions of Einstein’s treatment of the black-body spectrum.


[1] A. Einstein “On the Quantum theory of Radiation” Phys. Zeitschrift 18 (1917) 121. First printed in Mitteilungender Physikalischen Gesellschaft Zurich. No 18, 1916. Translated into English in Van der Waerden Sources of Quantum Mechanics (North Holland 1967) pp. 63-77.

[2] M. Nauenberg, ” The evolution of radiation towards thermal equilibrium: A soluble model which illustrates the foundations of statistical mechanics” American Journal of Physics 72 (2004) 313

[3] D. Kleppner, “Rereading Einstein on Radiation” Physics Today, February 2005 , p. 30

Last modified 15 March 2005.

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



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 and

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 ( 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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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,

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 (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