Course Reports

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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…

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…