Tag Archives: physics

September 28, 2011, 4:00 am

Midweek recap, 09.28.2011

Good stuff from the internet this past week:

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May 26, 2011, 8:01 pm

Any questions about this video?

As part of preparing for our impending move from Indy to Grand Rapids, my family and I have made a couple of visits to the area. These by necessity combine business with pleasure, since our three kids (ages 2, 5, and 7) don’t handle extended amounts of business well. On the last visit, we spent some time at the Grand Rapids Childrens Museum, the second floor of which is full of stuff that could occupy children — and mathematicians — for hours. This “exhibit” was, for me, one of the most evocative. Have a look:

Spinning table from Robert Talbert on Vimeo.

I asked this on Twitter a few days ago, but I’ll repost it here: In the spirit of Dan Meyer’s Any Questions? meme, what questions come to mind as you watch this? Particularly math, physics, etc. questions.

One other thing — just after I wrapped up the video on this, someone put one of the little discs rolling on the turntable…

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March 12, 2010, 10:21 pm

What I learned at the ICTCM, day 1

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Busy day here at the ICTCM. I need both an extended time for brain-dumping and a full night’s sleep, and I think the latter is going to win. So here’s a brief listing, in no particular order, of some of the standout items I’ve learned today.

  • I learned first thing this morning that rigorous, scientific scholarship of teaching and learning does actually exist, and it’s being done by Dave Pritchard of MIT. Prof. Pritchard was our keynote speaker this morning. In his words, he has basically forsaken a successful career in atomic physics (in which role he mentored or taught three Nobel laureates) to devote his energies to physics education. His keynote this morning gave me enough reading material for a semester and a whole new outlook on what educational research could look like.
  • I learned (through…

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February 19, 2009, 8:07 am

"This is a science course. Lasers are not voodoo."

The teacher who graded this dismal paper from a physics class is either a lot  braver than I am or cares a lot less about his/her relationships with students; and s/he certainly has better artistic skills and a lot more time on his/her hands than I do:

Read the whole essay and especially the teacher’s marginalia. I think it captures the temptation of every teacher to grade papers by unloading our own cleverness onto  hapless, writing-impaired students.

But the article has a fair question — how does something this bad get a 3/3 grade?

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June 8, 2008, 8:26 pm

Algebra meets astrophysics

Abstract algebra and astrophysics don’t have much to do with each other, right? Well, perhaps not, after all. Here’s a story about the results from a researcher in gravitational lensing being used to prove an extension of the Fundamental Theorem of Algebra to rational harmonic functions. Snippet:

In 2004, [mathematicians Dmitry Khavinson and Genevra Neumann] proved that for one simple class of rational harmonic functions, there could never be more than 5n – 5 solutions. But they couldn’t prove that this was the tightest possible limit; the true limit could have been lower.

It turned out that Khavinson and Neumann were working on the same problem as [astrophysicist Sun Hong Rhie]. To calculate the position of images in a gravitational lens, you must solve an equation containing a rational harmonic function.

When mathematician Jeff Rabin of the University of California, San Diego, US,…

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April 15, 2008, 10:17 am

In memoriam: John Wheeler

John Archibald Wheeler — a giant in the world of physics, colleague of Einstein, teacher/mentor to Richard Feynman, and inventor of such terms as “black hole” — has died at the age of 96. Daniel, who blogs at Cosmic Variance and who was one of Wheeler’s more recent students, has this touching tribute, which serves as a profound example of the power of professors to induct students into the world of ideas for life. 

John Wheeler co-wrote a book on spacetime physics which was the textbook of one of the three most influential academic courses I ever took. The course was a one-hour colloquium/seminar course on spacetime physics for Honors Program students at Tennessee Technological University, and I took it when I was a junior. We learned about special relativity, temporal paradoxes, causality, and all manner of related mind-bending material in that course. The book was just a set of…

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