Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I recently finished the course "Imagining Other Earths" at Coursera and am currently doing "Greatest Unsolved Mysteries of the Universe" from EdX. Both involve some physics especially the second and are given by experts working in the field who are also good teachers. Neither are that easy but good advanced level Physics students should be able to cope.

The first is wide ranging with exoplanets as the main theme but including the solar system, star formation and astrobiology along the way. There are good video lectures and assignments requiring mostly writings short reports. Physics includes such things as inverse square law and Stephan's Law.

The second is more focused on astrophysics and cosmology with more short but good lectures and many short questions and assignments requiring calculations or estimation. More work.
Both have proved very worthwhile and a great learning experience. Recommended.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Some Physics MOOC courses

There are now quite a few such courses which look really useful for high school and university students. Here are a just few I noted below at random. I have not done any but may be a reader has and can comment. Coursera had many (35 matching PHYSICS) and EdX even more (95 matching PHYSICS). Reviewing so many is beyond me!

Introductory Physics I with Laboratory - "Explore motion in the real world using modern tools and techniques (video capture and analysis, computer modeling) guided by fundamental physics principles."

Energy and the Earth - "Learn how all energy systems depend on the finite resources of the Earth, and how this relationship can provide a unique “big picture” perspective on energy supply."

Introduction to Electronics - "This course introduces students to the basic components of electronics: diodes, transistors, and op amps. It covers the basic operation and some common applications."

Introduction to Thermodynamics: Transferring Energy from Here to There - "In this course, you will learn how to characterize the energy state of a system and the mechanisms for transferring energy from one system to another. These are the tools necessary to understand stationary and transportation power systems from small scale, like batteries, to large scale, like nuclear power plants."

Preparing for the AP Physics 1 Exam - "This is a challenging course designed to help high school students prepare for the AP* Physics 1 test. The course covers all of the material for the test, supported by videos, simulations, and online labs. Topics include motion, forces, gravitation, energy and momentum, rotation, harmonic motion, and an introduction to electric charge and basic circuits." This seems to be part of a series.

Electronic Interfaces: Bridging the Physical and Digital Worlds - "Learn by doing: analyze, design, and build electronic interfaces between sensors and a micro-controller to build a robot or your own creation in this hands-on lab course."

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Time dilation

Further confirmation of special relativity comes in this item at phy.org. A good way of introducing the topic.
"A team of researchers working at the Experimental Storage Ring in Damstadt, Germany have conducted an experiment using ions pushed to 40 percent of the speed of light to verify time dilation to a new level of precision. In their paper published in Physical Review Letters, the team describes how their experiment was conducted and how it allowed them to validate the time dilation prediction to just a few parts per billion."

See also this article at Wikipedia.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Another good physics blog for teachers

The blog Quantum Progress  is a blog by a teacher for teachers. Apart from the main blog see also the other sections. The section 'More than a blog roll' is a review of many other physics teaching blogs - very valuable. I have not had time to read far - too much.

Here are a few posts of particular interest from the main blog:

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Particle Physics

I came across a video (see right) of a very good talk by Sean Carroll called "Particles, Fields and The Future of Physics". A good general non-mathematical introduction to the subject including some illuminating comments about the Higgs particle. About an hour in length and worth it.

I should say that this is more A-level or university level than high school!

Also worth mentioning here is a short but more technical article on the same topic "The Physics of a New Generation".

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Solar storms and power troubles

This post is speculative but worth considering. The physics is interesting a least. Some research in North America on insurance claims for damage to power systems suggests that geomagnetic storms of solar origin which impact the magnetic field surrounding the earth (magnetosphere) are responsible for some disruptions of the electrical power grid.
"In the early hours of the morning of 13 March, 1989, a powerful geomagnetic storm from the Sun hit the Earth, immediately inducing currents in long conductors on the Earth’s surface, such as power and railway lines. "
"... much of this equipment is connected to the low voltage power distribution network. “The claims statistics thus reveal that large-scale geomagnetic variability couples into the low-voltage power distribution network,” they say. That has never been revealed before."

Are we in Guyana vulnerable? We are near the equator which is good but our power lines are above ground.

Issues to consider:
- what are solar storms?
- what is the magnetosphere?
- how do the storms affect the grid?
- what can be done to protect us?

Note also we had a near miss recently according to this report:
"Two years ago, Earth experienced a close shave just as perilous, but most newspapers didn't mention it. The "impactor" was an extreme solar storm, the most powerful in as much as 150+ years."

Friday, June 13, 2014

More resources - TES

Another goldmine of useful resources for teachers from the Times Educational Supplement (TES):

"Free physics resources: physics lesson plans, physics worksheets, physics revision, physics teaching" 

Of course they cover much else besides Physics too.