Course Reports

Category archives for Course Reports

How Does Angular Momentum Emerge?

Yesterday’s post about VPython simulation of the famous bicycle wheel demo showed that you can get the precession and nutation from a simulation that only includes forces. But this is still kind of mysterious, from the standpoint of basic physics intuition. Specifically, it’s sort of hard to see how any of this produces a force…

The Emergence of Angular Momentum

The third of the great physics principles introduced in our introductory mechanics courses is the conservation of angular momentum, or the Angular Momentum Principle in the language of the Matter and Interactions curriculum we use. This tends to be one of the hardest topics to introduce, in no small part because it’s the last thing…

I’m teaching my “Brief History of Timekeeping” class again this term, and as always, I’m tweaking things a bit. This is one of our “Sophomore Research Seminar” courses, intended to introduce students to academic research, so it’s not specifically a physics class, but I’m choosing to take the statements about research outside the student’s field…

General Relativity With Toddler Toys

A couple of times last week, I mentioned on Twitter that I was going to demonstrate relativity with toddler toys and string. This was an inspiration that hit late on Thursday, when I was trying to think of a better way to explain embedding diagrams (the technical term for those stretched-rubber-sheet pictures that everybody uses…

Trains of Clocks

My Gen Ed relativity course has mostly been me lecturing about stuff to this point, so on Wednesday I decided to shake things up a bit and convert a chapter of David Mermin’s It’s About Time. The idea was to get students up and moving around a bit, and actually making some measurements of stuff.…

New Year, New Class: Gen Ed Relativity

The new academic year starts this week– first day of classes is Wednesday– and I’m dealing with the usual chaos associated with the influx of a new class of students. Who now look to me only a tiny bit older than SteelyKid and the Pip in the above picture (and if you think that sharing…

Uncertain Dots 16

For the sixteenth episode of Uncertain Dots, we decided to bring in some guests, Andy Rundquist and Kelly O’Shea for a conversation about standards-based grading. This came up because I’m playing around with this using the same tiered scheme I talked about back in January. This was a fun conversation, and some interesting ideas came…

That recent study on active learning continues to generate some press, including a new interview with Carl Wieman about why traditional lectures are problematic. Wieman is pretty blunt about his opinions on the subject, which will come as no surprise to people in the AMO physics community… Anyway, while most of the rest of the…

Mysteries of Introductory Physics

Every now and then, I run across a question in class that I genuinely don’t know how to answer. If I’m lucky, this happens when I’m prepping a class, rather than when a student asks it live. Like today, when I noticed the above discussion question in my slides (reproduced at the bottom as well…

This coming fall term, I’ll be teaching Astronomy 052, “Relativity, Black Holes, and Quasars,” because the guy who has traditionally taught it (a radio astronomer who studies active galactic nuclei) has to do other courses instead. But I said “Well, hell, I’ve written a popular audience book explaining relativity. I can teach that.” And since…