Browsing the Journals
Thomas D. Rossing
- The April issue of American Journal of Physics is a “theme issue” devoted to Classical Mechanics and Nonlinear Dynamics. The issue begins with a brief introduction by the editors, followed by a paper “Sea gulls, butterflies, and grasshoppers: A brief history of the butterfly effect in nonlinear dynamics.” Two papers discuss conservation laws, and four papers discuss curriculum development and physics education research. Pendula and oscillators are discussed, along with chaotic electronic circuits.
- “Scientific Teaching” is the title of a forum article in the 23 April issue of Science. The article traces some of the changes in science teaching that have occurred in recent years, especially since the publication of the AAAS 1989 report “Science for all Americans,” along with recommendations for moving the so-called revolution forward. Active participation in lectures and discovery-based laboratories helps students develop the habits of mind that drive science. Even in large introductory classes, with enrollments approaching 1000 students, scientific teaching is possible, the paper argues; many courses have replaced lectures with other activities.
- The U.S. Department of Education recently released guidance on parental involvement to help states, school districts and schools ensure that parents have the information they need to help improve their child’s academic achievement, according to the June issue of The Achiever, a publication of the DOE. An online copy of the guidance is available at www.ed.gov/programs/titleiparta/parentinvguid.doc.
- The United States faces a major shortage of scientists because too few Americans are entering technical fields, according to a story in the May 5 New York Times. Furthermore, international competition is heating up for bright foreigners who once filled the gap, according to the National Science Board. The Board issued a report “An Emerging and Critical Problem of the Science and Engineering Labor Force” as a companion to “Science and Engineering Indicators 2004.” Both reports were released by the National Science Foundation. The United States ranks 17th among the nations surveyed in the share of its 18-to-24-year olds who earn natural science and engineering degrees, behind Taiwan, South Korea, Ireland, and Italy. In 1975, it was third. The report indicates that 38 percent of the nation’s scientists and engineers with doctorates are now foreign born.
- “Teaching Special Relativity Using Wavelets” is the title of a paper by Wolfgang Christian and his colleagues in the May issue of The Physics Teacher. Because special relativity focuses on abstract concepts, the visualization that Physlet-based material provides is especially valuable. Earlier papers discussed the use of Physlet-based exercises to teach optics and quantum mechanics.
- A special section in the January issue of Physics World entitled “New Dimensions in Education” has several interesting articles such as “Should physics be more elitist?” “Challenging the next generation,” Science education for the 21st century,” “Back to the future,” “A PhD is for life,” and “Physics education research: the key to student learning.: Several well-known physics teachers, including Paul Hewitt (former boxer, uranium prospector, and cartoonist), include short essays on their own education.
- “Beyond PowerPoint,” an article in the June issue of Syllabus, discusses some shortcomings of electronic slides that tend to prescript a lecture and make it difficult to adapt the presentation to the audience. An important part of lecturing is adjusting material in response to audience reactions and developing spontaneous examples and explanations to clarify and expand on topics. Systems have now been developed that allow writing on top of slides by using tablet PC as the instructor device. An interesting comment on PowerPoint teaching is given in an editorial in the March issue of The Physics Teacher.
- Some interesting observations on the physics of bicycles is discussed in a paper entitled “Wheelies and Headers, or How to Keep Both Bicycle Wheels on the Ground” in the January issue of The Physics Teacher.
- The novels of J.R.R.Tolkien, including the Lord of the Rings trilogy can help to make physics compelling for science-phobic students, according to a note in the May issue of Physics World. Tolkien, who has captured the attention of fantasy buffs and moviegoers, invented his own constellations, some of which correspond to actual star groupings.
- The March issue of Physics Education has a special feature on Physics and Archaeology. Included are articles on archaeomagnetic dating, measuring radiocarbon from archaeological samples, the neutron as a tool in archaeology, the scanning electron microscope, free drying of wet materials, and modeling resistive surveys.
- “The nature and status of string theory” is the title of a Resource Letter in the June issue of American Journal of Physics. The letter recommends popular books, web sites, and popular articles, as well as advanced undergraduate material. There are sections on such subjects as branes (which the author calls the “most exciting development in string theory from the last decade), black holes, tachyon condensation, orbifolds, Calabi-Yau manifolds, and the holographic principle.
- The 2001 education reform bill, known as the No Child Left Behind Act, requires school districts to offer programs shown to be effective through “scientifically based research.” However, no program has yet met that rigorous standard because none has been scientifically evaluated and shown to be effective, according to an editorial in 11 June issue of Science. Many programs may be doing a terrific job of helping children, but there’s no way to tell, scientifically. Two recent reports, one by the National Research Council (NRC) and one by a public-private consortium known as Building Engineering and Science Talent (BEST) point out some of the difficulties in scientific evaluation of programs.
- Some interesting statistics from advertising are quoted on the “Feedback” page in the 12 June issue of New Scientist. One catalog offers low-energy light bulbs, which use “400 per cent less energy.” Another advertises pepperami sausages with 108% pork among its ingredients. The column also tells us that one light year is 4.70279985x1015 furlongs.
Thomas Rossing is Professor Emeritus of Physics at Northern Illinois University. He is a Fellow of ASA as well as APS and edits the fall issue of the Forum on Education newsletter.