Video Story Problem – Foucault’s Pendulum

Apr 18, 2014 by

I hesitated to share this video story problem that I created at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. Although poking fun at myself, it does concern me that I ask the right questions to at least get learners headed in a direction with vocabulary and a frame of reference that will actually lead them to success. I haven’t been in the classroom for a few years now (teaching full time that is; I still visit and work with students on a weekly basis), so I had to ask some of my well respected friends in the world of science education if my video story problem about Foucault’s Pendulum even made sense. I’ve never been great at higher math and mathematics-based physics (I earned a solid C in my advanced calculus-based physics course in college). So I was nervous to ask what seemed to be far too simple a...

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Using Harlem Shake to Teach Physics

Feb 19, 2013 by

I’m not going to pretend that I remember enough about my high school physics to speak intelligently about the difference between  centrifugal and centripetal forces, but I do know a good piece of teachable media when I see it. When you introduce a brick to a front-loading washing machine spinning at several hundred RPMs, you get something both destructive and magical. If your mind works in similar ways to my own, you most likely giggled a bit, guffawed a lot, and then started thinking about what a great visual piece this is for students! They get to see a little destruction (popularized by shows like Mythbusters), laugh at the absurdity of it, and then have this wonderfully discrepant moment of a washing machine thrashing about on the ground because someone tossed a single brick into the rotating drum. I can’t even begin to fathom the great leading questions that students could generate from watching this in a physics...

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Video Story Problem – Newton’s Laws of Motion

Mar 15, 2012 by

Late last summer I went on a video-binge, capturing so many video story problem concepts that my iPhone and Flip cam regularly ran out of battery power before mid-afternoon snack time. While recharging and importing all of the videos to my laptop, I dumped all of the videos in folder, which I mostly forgot about until recently. Most of the videos weren’t terribly interesting after looking at them a second time, but a few stood out, particularly one I took from a playground at an elementary school somewhere in the middle of the “thumb” area of Michigan. The playground had one of those “zip line” pieces of playground equipment, and I couldn’t resist a chance to zip across the playground. It reminded me of my intern teaching, when I put together a small project, asking the students to share examples of Newton’s Laws of Motion in the real world. At...

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Gelatin Cubes + High Speed Camera = Physics GOLD!

May 16, 2011 by

A couple of weeks ago I found a very cathartic video of water splashes in slow motion, so it was with great joy that I discovered this video from Modernist Cuisine of gelatin cubes being dropped onto a solid surface at 6200 frames per second. The first thoughts that came rushing into my brain even before the cube first hit the surface were somewhere along the lines of “how awesome would this be in a physics class”?! At the very simplest, you could use it to demonstrate elastic deformation, and start pondering what might happen to the properties of this simple cube of gelatin if the same demonstration was performed while frozen, room temperature, and warmed up to some point where it was close to melting. Then again, I’m thinking from a purely conceptual standpoint as a person who hasn’t taught physics in 4 years. I’m curious what other...

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The Green Goblin & The Conservation of Momentum

Nov 15, 2010 by

The Physics of Superheroes is a fantastic book by Dr. James Kakalios that explores how physics is both utilized and completely ignored in the world of comic books. From Superman’s ability to fly faster than a speeding bullet, to the physics behind Spiderman’s ability to effortlessly swing through New York City, this book is fantastic for both a comic book lover and physic teacher. Throughout the book James explores how certain elements of super heroes abilities actually fit in quite nicely with the way physics in the real world works, and at times, the super abilities just seem to be a “miracle.” What’s really awesome is that he gives talks about the book from time to time, and there just happens to be a great one on YouTube about a particular fight between Spiderman and the Green Goblin, in which Spidey’s girlfriend ends up as a tragic victim as...

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