World Year of Physics 2005
Jessica Clark, American
celebration in 2005 of the World Year of Physics was proposed by the European Physical
Society in 2000 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of 1905, Einstein's “miracle
year” during which he published an incredible series of scientific
papers, remarkable for their breadth and enduring consequences. He took the first step toward a
theory of space and time, known as Special Relativity, built the foundation for the
quantum theory of light with an analysis of the photoelectric effect, provided the
definitive proof of the existence of atoms by his explanation of Brownian motion, and
ended that remarkable year by identifying the equivalence of matter and energy,
encapsulated in the world's most famous equation, E=mc2.
International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) passed a resolution during its
2002 General Assembly in Berlin, Germany, declaring 2005 the “World Year of Physics.” On June 10, 2004 the General Assembly of
the United Nations declared 2005 the “International Year of Physics” and the 108th Congress
of the United States passed resolutions declaring 2005 the World Year Of Physics.
Physics organizations around the globe are planning a variety of programs in 2005 to
raise public awareness of the contributions of the physics discipline and to promote the
study of physics.In the United States, the phrase Einstein in the 21st Century” has been added to emphasize
that his discoveries are relevant for science in this century.
Collaborations in US
APS serves as the lead organization for the World Year of Physics 2005 in the United
States, the year would not be possible without the joint efforts of the entire physics
community—AIP, AAPT, SPS, NASA, NIST, the National Science Foundation, the Department of
Energy's Office of Science, and innumerable others.
At the APS, the
World Year of Physics Team consists of Jessica Clark, James Riordon, Vinaya
Sathyasheelappa, Alan Chodos, Judy Franz, and inexhaustible interns.
office-driven projects are PhysicsQuest for middle schools, Radius of the
Earth/Eratosthenes for high schools, Physics on the Road for schools at all levels, and
Einstein@Home for everyone.
|Arranged as a treasure hunt, PhysicsQuest was a set of four experiments
designed to promote awareness of basic physical principles in the areas of harmonic
motion, the diffraction of laser light, magnetism, and soap bubble configurations on a
wire frame. It was made possible by financial support from the National Science
Foundation, the Department of Energy's Office of Science, and Cadmus Communications.
Over 5,000 participating classrooms received a kit with experimental materials,
including a diffraction grating and laser, an in-depth teacher's guide with treasure
maps and activity handouts, and a 7-minute video featuring an actor playing Albert
Einstein describing the wonders of solving puzzles and mysteries with physics.
Using these materials the students determined the exact time of day and the position on
the grounds of the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ where a “treasure”
will be delivered. A classroom was randomly selected from the submitted results to travel
to the IAS and receive the prize. At the appointed time and place on May 21, nine
students from the physical science class at St. Albert Catholic Schools in Council Bluffs,
Iowa were presented with iPod Shuffles and a five-inch programmable telescope for their
classroom.Incidentally, these students had chosen to participate in the PhysicsQuest as an
extra-credit assignment. They worked on it before and after school for a week. Given the
success of this project and the availability of resources, PhysicsQuest will run again in
Fall 2005, and we hope to be able to continue with new PhysicsQuest projects each year.
|The winning class
watches a physics demo show at the Institute for Advanced Study.
||The winning class
(and teachers) meets with John Bahcall at IAS.
Eratosthenes Project challenged high school students to measure the size of the Earth
using shadows. Over 700 high school
classrooms from across the US, Canada, and Mexico were paired together. Each pair measured the angle of the sun, in the
same way that the Greek philosopher Eratosthenes did more than 2000 years ago in
Alexandria, Egypt by comparing the length of an object to the length of its shadow,
measured at local noon. The students calculated Earth's radius using the known
north-south distance between the two schools and the angle of the sun at each location. Using the data submitted by participating
classrooms, a grand average result was determined to be 6563 km, only 6% off from the
accepted value of 6371 km not bad for a stick, a shadow, and a little mathematics! For participating, each teacher was sent a
commemorative certificate and World Year of Physics lapel pins for their students.
Project: Locations of Participating Classrooms (Note: not all schools in Mexico,
Canada, and Puerto Rico are shown.)
many other projects organized independently throughout the physics community. Virtually every physics-oriented organization
within the AIP member societies have organized programs or raised awareness of the World
Year of Physics celebration. For example, the
Optical Society of America (OSA) displays an enormous banner with the World Year logo on
the side of their building facing the main exit to one of the busiest subway stops in
Washington, D.C. It is hard to imagine that
anyone who uses that exit is unaware of the World Year of Physics.
The events and programs organized by
the physics community are numerous and varied. The
APS-maintained website, http://www.physics2005.org,
tracks these events using the Event Finder. There
are also event ideas for those still wishing to organize something before the end of the
year. The website serves as THE resource in
the US for information on the World Year of Physics.
The site is maintained by Vinaya Sathyasheelappa (email@example.com), the World Year of Physics
The World Year of Physics continues
through the end of 2005. There is still time
to organize an event in
your community! Examples include open houses,
teacher workshops, demonstration shows, hands-on programs, science cafes, service club
presentations, newspaper articles, and celebrating September 27 (E = mc2 day). Be creative and remember that anything that
celebrates physics celebrates the World Year. Be
sure to "brand" your event with the World Year logo (freely available on
physics2005.org) and register it with the Event Finder database. However you choose to celebrate, remember to have
fun; this is our year. Enjoy!
Jessica Clark has been
trying to figure out how the world works since age five when she determined that, given
the size of Earth and the number of children living on it, there could be no Santa Claus
(much to the dismay of her 10-year-old brother). Since
then, Jessica received her B.S., M.S., and Ph.D. in physics from the College of William
and Mary in Virginia. Her research involved
studying the internal workings of the proton, one of the basic building blocks of the
atom. Jessica now works to bring the excitement of physics to the public as the American
Physical Society's Public Outreach Coordinator and as the Editor of PhysicsCentral.com. With the World Year of Physics 2005 (a global
celebration of Albert Einstein's annus mirabilis), Jessica works to bring an
understanding of Einstein's importance in our everyday lives to the public. firstname.lastname@example.org