APS News

Educator/Student Day Draws Local High Schoolers

A single vortex stream behind a glass rod which punctures the film. The rod is a few mm in diameter.A single vortex stream behind a glass rod which punctures the film. The rod is a few mm in diameter.
The APS/AAPT Spring Meeting in Columbus, Ohio, featured a special Educator/Student Day on Monday, April 20th. Students and teachers from local high schools gathered at the Convention Center for a series of physics demonstrations and lectures. The event also featured a special luncheon address by Lawrence Krauss, a professor of physics at Case Western University and author of the bestselling book,The Physics of Star Trek, featuring selections from the Top Ten Physics Bloopers in the popular TV series (see ZERO GRAVITY,). Participants attended a morning plenary session featuring talks by 1997 Nobel Prize winners Steven Chu and William Phillips, as well as a talk on improving physics curriculum by Edward Redish of the University of Maryland, College Park. This was followed by a demonstration of a fascinating soap film apparatus designed by Maarten Rutgers of Ohio State University, which enables him to conduct two-dimensional studies of fluid dynamics in the laboratory. The apparatus also shows great promise as an educational tool, being an easy way to demonstrate the basic concepts of fluid dynamics to students without expensive wind and water tunnels. Using this technique, Rutgers has generated giant soap film sheets, up to 40 square meters in area, which exhibit traveling waves, normal modes, diffraction colors, turbulent flows, giant undulations around air currents, and rupturing fronts. After lunch, Beverly Taylor of Miami University demonstrated how the operation of common toys can be applied to the study of physics in the classroom. For example, cars that one can push forward, pull back, push down, and wind up can be used to describe the laws of motion. Toys that roll, spin and fly can illustrate the laws of conservation of energy, momentum, and angular momentum. And toys that light up, sound off and levitate bring in ideas from light, sound and electricity. The event concluded with a lecture on classroom cosmology by Terry Walker of Ohio State University, covering such fundamental issues as the age, composition and eventual fate of the universe. "Everyone, from layman, to student, to teacher, to researcher is hard-wired to question where we came from and where we are going," he said. "The science of cosmology attempts to provide the answers."

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Editor: Barrett H. Ripin