The Physicist Trap

Mark Trodden has a post endorsing the BEC videogames at the University of Colordao's Physics 2000 project. These are a bunch of Java applets demonstrating different aspects of the laser cooling and trapping process. I used to link them from my blog on Steelypips, but in the move to ScienceBlogs, I dropped the "Geek Stuff" category of sidebar links. Still, I heartily agree with the recommendation to go try these out.

They first put that site up back when I was in grad school, and somebody or another found the link and brought it up on the computer in the lab. If you read through the text, you'll see that it's pitched at somebody in high school or below, but it completely captivated a large group of PhD physicists that afternoon. Everybody had to take a turn at the evaporative cooling videogame, and test out different strategies (the "Maxwell Demon" approach of suddenly lowering the trap whenever a particularly hot atom is headed out wasn't any more successful, but was an entertaining way of playing), and a couple of people even found ways to cheat.

It just goes to show the truth of what my high school physics teacher said: the people who go into physics are people who never had enough toys when they were kids. No matter how many toys they had.

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