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 »
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.
Today’s workshop on technology and equipment combined the best educational tech/software/equipment companies, PASCO and Vernier. About twenty educators gathered at St. Ignatius High School in San Francisco to see the best of the new as well as some classic demonstrations.
Last month something near and dear to many of us — Lick Observatory perched atop Mt. Hamilton in hills of east San Jose — was placed on the UC’s chopping block. From the KQED article (linked below):
On top of Mount Hamilton, east of San Jose, the Lick Observatory is home to the oldest professional telescope in California. Read more »
This Wednesday, February 26, at 7 pm, Alex Filippenko will give a free, richly illustrated, nontechnical talk on “Exploding Stars, New Planets, Black Holes, and the Crisis at Lick Observatory” in the Smithwick Theater at Foothill College, in Los Altos. Members of our section remember fondly his outstanding talk at our Section Meeting several years ago. Alex will also address the recent fiscal crisis at Lick Observatory that threatens its future.
Traffic gets somewhat heavy near campus around that time, so you might want to arrive early.
For more information about the lecture, see
Foothill College is just off the El Monte Road exit from Freeway 280 in Los Altos. For directions and parking information, see
For a campus map, see
Note that parking costs $3.
Registration is now open here. We encourage advanced registration; you can now pay online (including membership dues if you own them). With our new registration system, you can add one to three events to your “cart,” then check out in one step (yes, you need to add the free events in order to register for them–we need to know how many are coming).
We are polishing the details on our upcoming April Meeting. We will have events on Friday the 11th and Saturday the 12th. Friday will see a workshop by the two biggest names in the business plus a hotdog social, and Saturday will feature top-notch speakers David & Christine Vernier, Pascal Lee and Douglas Stone, all at the brand-new Exploratorium! Read more »
The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University is challenging scientists to take part in the 2014 Flame Challenge and answer a vibrant question asked by 11-year-olds from around the country:
What is Color?
The Flame Challenge is an international contest started by Alan Alda that asks scientists to communicate complex science in ways that would interest and enlighten an 11-year-old.
If you are a scientist, or a teacher of 11 year olds, join the fun!
This is not exactly in our backyard, but worth two weeks if you can make it.
June 16-27, 2014 M-F 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM
The Physics department at the University of Wisconsin – River Falls and the American Association of Physics Teachers’ PTRA program have provided in service teachers with high quality, in depth, and useful educational experiences for nearly 30 years. Read more »