Physics at Home, Science Projects

The American Physical Society has a nice web site called "Physics Central" which has, among other things, a section called Physics@Home.  For those of you who put off you science fair projects until the last minute, have a look at some of the things you can try at home.  The laser and jello experiment looks not only interesting, but also quite yummy.

Light Pollution from Digital/Video Billboards

This has been one of my pet peeves for a while, and my kids can already point out the things I'm going to whine about as we drive along the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) coming home from Queens.  There are several of these video billboards along the road.  I have always found it ironic that there are laws dealing with "distracted driving" when the driver does something to distract himself, but nothing about allowing third-parties to deliberately try to distract the driver.  I mean, what else does any billboard do but try to draw attention to itself. 

Elements of Humanity

I first saw the reference to the Elements of Humanity web site in Physics Today although I subscribe to MAKE Magazine who made the site.  Elements of Humanity is a set of interviews with 12 scientist and engineers who talk about what inspired them to choose their careers.  Some of them are fascinating for teachers, some more so for students, but all of them are well done and help break the stereotype of scientists in white lab coats.

NALTA: North America Large-area Time-coincidence Arrays

Okay, that's a mouthful.  I first read about this a month ago and put it on my list of things to look into.  What I was hoping for was something that might be applicable for participation by middle school students.  NALTA is a cosmic-ray detection experiment which requires fairly simple equipment which is placed on the school roof and is largely (completely?) maintenance free. 

WeatherBug Example Exercises

I've been advocating the use of WeatherBug data in normal classroom exercise for a while.  I'm not sure that it's caught on, so I decided to start putting together some sample exercises.  This section is that, the examples.  As example, they are "fully worked" meaning I ask questions and then provide answers.  Of course, in many cases, all you have to do to avoid having students just copy my answers is change the date from which I took the data.  If I take temperature data from September 30th, then do an exercise for November 1st.  Same problems, different data

WeatherBug Exercise 1 (Math): Temperature Statistics: Max, Min, Range, Median, Mean

The process of calculating an average is not hard, but it can be tedious. So, in math class, the children are often given a set of made-up numbers that make the process easier. In this exercise, you don't get a break; we're going to use real data from the WeatherBug at P.S. 102 for December 1, 2009.  Here are the hourly temperatures:

New Horizons Wake-Up Call

The New Horizons spacecraft on it's way to Pluto was scheduled to get a wake-up call on November 9 and then spend 10 days running system tests and diagnostics.  The trip to Pluto is so long (in spite of the craft's record speed of about 23 km/sec) that it spends much of its time in hibernation mode.  It's schedule to arrive at Pluton in 2015.  Today it crosses the 15 AU mark (that's 15 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is).

According to a Twitter post, the craft is now away and operating.  Hopefully, we'll get an update soon on PlutoToday.com. Unfortunately, for all us eager to hear news of Pluto, well, we'll just have to wait.  Space is, alas, mostly space with not much to see.

Saturn's Ring System Just Got Bigger

Okay, the rings themselves haven't changed at all.  But it turns out that there is an outer dust ring that is about 24 million kilometers in diameter composed of dust grains that do not reflect visible light.  Because of that, it hasn't been seen before.  NASA has a short (very short) press release showing an artist's conception o

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