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Paul Dolan, Northeastern Illinois University, Chicago
Having issued a Challenge to the Readership, it seems appropriate that I should lead the way in answering that Challenge. Here are a couple of the ideas that I have found at APS National Meetings that I have been able to bring back and use in my classes. These are intentionally terse descriptions (and perhaps I will enlarge on these for some future edition of the Newsletter).
“Granular Materials”: One relatively calm (for me) day at a March Meeting I sat down in a session on ‘granular materials’; I saw some names I recognized from my time working with superfluid helium, and saw some curiously interesting titles, things like ‘Jamming and Unjamming’, ‘Flow of Beads through a Square Opening’, and ‘Measuring Stress in a Randomly Packed Material’. Not only did I bring this topic back for my undergraduates to use for research projects, but I realized that the ‘everyday’ applications (packing cereal, pouring sugar) would be ideal for a lab in the General Education course; in fact, when that course is offered as an Honors course, Granular Materials is the emphasis. I also retooled one of our ‘Materials’ course for physics majors to be focused on this topic.
I always share with my classes the latest innovation in using photoelastic disks for measuring forces & strains in granular materials, from Bob Behringer’s group at Duke, and have recently heard some neat talks on jamming experiments using large blocks and cylinders in long rectangular tubes, which I have also shared with the high school science fair students I mentor.
Reference: check out the many sessions at any APS March or DFD Meeting, or look in Phys. Rev. E or in the Springer Journal “Granular Matter”.
“New Recipes for YBCO”: This dates back some years, but as I noted in my editorial, I used the ‘simple’ recipe gleaned from a March Meeting for our enrichment course for high school students – where all the students MADE their own sample of the High-Tc material. This is also one of the modules in our Advanced Lab (and it is interesting to see how many physics majors are unable to balance simple chemical equations!) I’d be glad to send anyone my recipe – and would be interested in a good recipe for the BSCCO (Bismuth Strontium Calcium Copper Oxide) compound, starting from the base oxides & carbonates (or any other interesting & relatively safe High-Tc material, with a transition temperature above 77 K – no Hg compounds please!).