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Where can you access the latest in physics research and also vote on the best version of The Matrix? College students can check out The Nucleus [http://www.compadre.org/student/], a website that offers free interactive activities to help students share physics ideas.
"Our site doesn't really have any competitors," said technical lead Thad Lurie. "We just thought about the kinds of things physics students like to do, and made it happen." In the Nucleus, physics and astronomy students will find polls, reviews of college level textbooks, contests, job postings, the latest physics news, and even haikus.
"It was fun to see the responses from other colleges and to see some of the similarities. The University of Louisville has a professor that was referred to as 'the man,' while we at Juniata also have a professor who can be referred to only as 'the man'," said user Michael Best, a student at Juniata College, Huntingdon, PA, via email. "Beyond using The Nucleus as a research tool for summer employment, I have also used it as research for classes. The links section has several pages that are full of figures that I have included in lab reports and presentations."
"Without the interactions, we're a site providing useful content," said Lurie. "WITH the interactions, there is so much more—sure, we still have the content, but now we also have other students' opinions about the content, discussions about the content, questions about the content, materials that are related to the content."
The Nucleus is an entrance portal for a huge collection of physics resources called ComPADRE. Through The Nucleus, students can access everything in the ComPADRE resources database.
Also visitors can submit materials, which are reviewed by a committee before becoming part of the physics resources database.
The next ComPADRE portal to become public, The Quantum Exchange, will provide resources to help professors teach modern physics and quantum physics.
Other planned portals include teaching materials for introductory college astronomy, high school physics teachers, and informal education.
"The Nucleus is important to the future of physics in general, because it provides a community meeting place for a small and often isolated, but important, segment of society," said Gary White, the director of the Society of Physics Students.
The site has registered 500 users since its rollout in late December. The website is a project of the American Association of Physics Teachers in conjunction with the Society for Physics Students and is funded by the National Science Foundation.
—Inside Science News Service
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