Course Reports

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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…

Uncertain Dots, Lucky Number 13

We had a couple of weeks of unplanned hiatus due to sick kids and day care closures, so the superstitious among you might’ve thought we would never get to the 13th episode of Encertain Dots. Rhett and I are scientists, though, so we powered through: Given the time of year, this is mostly about end-of-academic-year…

Last week, we looked at the resistance of a voltage sensor by using the discharge of a capacitor, getting a value that was a bit high, but not wildly out of line with the specs. This time out, we’re going to look at the resistance of a current meter, because some students asked about it…

For the latest in our ongoing series of post where I overthink simple questions, I’d like to present the longest single continuous experiment in Uncertain Principles history, which took six and a half hours yesterday. All to answer the question in the post title. This may seem like a waste, given that I could download…

In the previous post about simulating the attraction between sticky tapes using VPython, I ended with a teaser mentioning that there was a discrepancy between the simulation and the theoretical solution from directly solving the equations. The problem is kind of subtle, but clearly visible in this graph from that post: In this, we see…

Physics Hangout in Need of Better Title

What with the umpteen zillion articles declaring the Death of the Blog, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing something podcast-ish for a while. Rhett Allain from Dot Physics was game, too, and suggested using Google+ to do a video hangout, so here we are talking about our classes this term: The video quality…

Simulated Tape and Universal Behavior

Having spent a lot of time solving equations related to sticky tape models, including trying to work solutions in my head while driving to Grandma and Grandpa’s with the kids, and making some measurements of real tapes, there was only one thing left to do: try simulating this problem in VPython. Because I’m a physics…