What equation do I need?

With A-semester exams looming, the students here at Waikato are becoming a little more focused on their work. That inevitably means that I get more of them coming to me after a lecture, or knocking on the door of my office. And that is good. One of the most common questions I get, usually in […]

Continue reading

Lots of flashing LEDs

A sure-fire way to increase the value of any piece of electronic equipment is to add some superfluous flashing red, yellow and green LEDs to it. (Light Emitting Diode.) They serve no use, but their presence is somehow comforting (especially in sci-fi films) and gives the impression that the equipment is busy doing something useful. There […]

Continue reading

Why you need to proof read

I’ve just supervised a test for a group of second year students. On looking at their answers afterwards, it was rapidly clear that there was a problem with one of the questions. Specifically, I had given the value of Boltzmann’s constant as 1.38 times 10 to the power 23  Joules per Kelvin, instead of 1.38 […]

Continue reading

Alison’s recent bioblog entry made interesting reading/listening for me – Dan Meyer talking about how traditionally-phrased physics and maths problems tend to hinder students from working things out and grasping what is important – instead it teaches ‘learned helplessness’. Real world problems don’t come in neat little packages that you can do in a few […]

Continue reading

A quarter of a thousand

According to Movable Type, this is entry number 250 for PhysicsStop.  A quarter of the way to one thousand entries. Has anyone read them all?  Now, according to the statistics I get to see every month, the single most looked at entry by far is this one, on The3is in Three.  Why is it so […]

Continue reading

Things that don’t like water

So, my class of students (well, at least one of them) have done the calculations and think that a centimetre of water is enough to shield a mobile phone from communicating with the nearest mast.  Only one way to find out.  I’ll bring along a bucket, lots of glad wrap and waterproofing materials to tomorrow’s […]

Continue reading

Mind games for physicists

Here’s a gem of a paper from Jonathan Tuminaro and Edward Redish. The authors have carried out a detailed analysis of the discussions a group of physics students had when solving a particular problem. They’ve worked hard (the researchers, as well as the students) – the first case study they chose was a conversation 45 […]

Continue reading

Mobile phone physics

Just occasionally, I have a crazy thought regarding a physics demonstration.   This is one that I’m thinking about inflicting on my third year electromagnetism class.   We’ve been discussing the way electromagnetic waves travel (or rather, do not travel) through electrical conductors. Basically, conductors allow electric currents to flow in response to an applied electric field (in simple terms […]

Continue reading