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minutes of April 22, 2006 Theorynet meeting

Physics Theorynet meeting, 22 Apr 2006, Room 218 DA, Northeastern
University, Boston

minutes/action items:


Participating Teachers:

Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School
Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S.
Farhad Riahi, Commonwealth School
Mike Wadness, Medford H.S.

Participating Theorists:

 Albion Lawrence, Brandeis
 Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern


Emanuel (Ami) Katz, Boston University
Amihay Hanany, MIT
Jesus Hernandez, Lawrence H.S.
Scott Carlsson, Gloucester H.S.
Ken Olum, Tufts
Ken Rideout, Swampscott H.S.

1. Reports on the visits (going around the table):
Tom visited Jesus' AP class in Lawrence H.S. two times. During the first
visit, he gave a brief tour of the microworld, from atoms to strings.
The presentation in the second visit was more elementary, focusing on
forces, in particular on the concept of force acting at a distance, 
by an introduction to electroweak and strong forces.
Both presentations were interactive, led by students' questions. Tom was
very impressed by Jesus' students, their intellectual curiosity
and aspirations.
Albion described Scott's class visit to Brandeis. Details are here:
He was returning to Gloucester in the week of April 24.
Ken visited Mike's classes in Medford. His presentations consisted of two
parts: my life as a physicist and my (favorite) physics.
Mike's students were very curious about Ken, his electric (?) car, his
office and daily routine. It seems that before Ken's visit they had no idea
what "scientists do for living", so not only the physics part, but also the
personal one turned out to be of a great educational value.
In addition to regular visits, we had Cumrun Vafa's "special appearances" 
Farhad's and Rick's classes.
In February, he visited Farhad's class. He began his talk with a brief
historical introduction to problems associated with elementary
particle physics and reasons for introducing strings, and then proceeded
with a sketch of the advances made in string theory.
In the last third of his talk he presented an outlook on the innovative
features of his own research. After his talk, he stayed for another half
hour or so to answer additional questions.
In March, he visited Rick's 12 grade class (that had studied some particle
physics) and made a presentation on the analogy between some aspects of
quantum foam on Planck scales of spacetime and the melting of solids at
corners. In one of Rick's 10th grade Physics classes, he engaged the
students in conversation about deeper and deeper levels of substructure in
Ami Hanany visited Roxbury Latin in April and talked with 12th grade class
and the two 10th grade classes who had not heard Cumrun about the nature of
fundamental forces and particles.

2. Impressions from AAPT meeting and outlook into the future.
Mike, Rick and Tom described their impressions from the Spring AAPT/APS
meeting at BU. There was an interesting dicussion on the Physics First
program that was the main focus of AAPT sessions.
Tom's talk was an invitation to Theorynet, and since he had not heard from
anybody, he was wondering why only Quarknet-trained teachers
are interested in the program. He thinks that teachers without elementary
particle background may feel intimidated by physicists, fearing to show
their "ignorance" in front of their students. This works in the direction
exactly opposite to our goal of exposing students and teachers
to physics research, without assuming any prior background. This goal 
be made very clear in the future presentations and flyers that
will be distributed to high schools next Fall. Mike suggested a very clever
way of penetrating this quantum barrier: get physicists invited to "carreer
days", with presentations similar to Ken's. He believes that female
physicists can be particlularly effective as role models. 

3. GK-12. We could involve graduate students in many ways: developing
demonstrations, preparing "mini-plugs" and posters on some fundamental
concepts like energy, forces, "how can we `see' the microworld" etc. ,
tutoring... However, it turns out that the framework of GK-12 grants is 
rigid. GK-12 are usually restricted to one single school district: NU's to
Boston, Tufts' to Medford etc. Only one proposal can be submitted per
institution. Furthermore, there are some required parts that need truly
"professional" handling: letters from superintendents, external evaluators
etc -- too much for a superstring theorist. Conclusion: let's wait and see
how Theorynet develops before making such a huge effort.

4. Pairings for next year:
Michael Hirsh -- Tom in the Fall semester, then Albion
Mike Wadness -- Ken Olum
Jesus -- Tom
Rick -- Hanany and TBA
Farhad -- TBA
Scott -- TBA
David Strasburger -- TBA
Ken Rideout (temporarily on hold)

There are 4 TBA's because we need to hear from Ami Katz and  Hong Liu if
they are still interested. Please respond asap.
There will be also 3 or 4 new theorists joining next Fall.
We are very pleased to announce that David Strasburger of Noble and 
School in Dedham (David_Strasburger-fac nobles edu) will be joining us in 
Fall (thanks, Rick, for inviting David).

5. If you need some Theorynet-related demos please tell Tom -- there is 
money left in the budget.

6. Fall 2006 meeting: we will choose from October 14, 21 or 28.

Have a great summer,
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