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minutes of February 3, 2007 meeting

Physics Theorynet meeting, 3 Feb 2007,
Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston

minutes/action items:


Participating Teachers:
 Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School
 Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy (NH)
 Jesus Hernandez, Lawrence H.S.
 Farhad Riahi, Commonwealth School of Boston
 Mike Wadness, Medford H.S.

Participating Theorists:
 Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire
 Emanuel (Ami) Katz, Boston University
 Brent Nelson, Northeastern
 Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern

Fred Cooper, NSF
Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S.
Albion Lawrence, Brandeis

1. Introductions: Ami Katz rejoined us after a busy period of travelling,
settling in Boston, etc, so we went through the usual introduction ritual -
each time you learn something new and surprising about your friends...

2. Update of high-school visits since last meeting in October 2006:

-Medford (Mike Wadness): Fred Cooper visited Mike's classes, explaining to
students not only what physicists do but how their research is organized,
supported and sponsored by funding agencies. He talked about his research
work and did not miss to mention his opera
singing ma(estro)stership. In addition, Ken Olum contacted Mike with Jose
Juan Blanco-Pillado who is a new faculty member at Tufts, apparently
interested in visiting Medford H.S.
-Roxbury Latin (Rick Dower) Brent Nelson visited Rick's 10th and 12th grade
classes, dividing his presentations into "how I became a physicist", "what
is my work about" and an introduction to dark matter. Dark matter is a very
rewarding subject because it captures students' imagination and gives a
natural opening for talking about elementary particle physics. The new
evidence for dark matter coming from the Bullet cluster is much simpler to
explain than the traditional galactic rotation curves. Inspired by our
previous discussions of the problem how to evaluate visits, Rick ran a 
student questionnaire. One question was: "Did you find the visiting
theorist's talk: Interesting (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Boring?". The average of 
responses in the three sections of 10th grade Physics that Brent addressed
was 2.1. The average of the 9 responses from the 12th grade Advanced Topics
course was 1.4. Another was "Should I ask Prof. Nelson to return?:
Definitely Yes (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) Once was enough". Here, the 10th grade
average response was 2.1, and the 12th grade average response was 1.2.
Thanks to Rick and Brent, we now have a quantitative proof that our work is
useful and appreciated by students.
-Northwood NH (Scott Goelzer): Per Berglund spent whole day in Coe-Brown
Northwood Academy. His presentations used harmonic oscillator as a model 
string oscillations. Per suggested that we develop some simple modular
mini-demonstration sets for explaining some basic physics concepts.
-Lawrence (Jesus Hernandez): Tom visited two classes, including one more
advanced in which Jesus was covering Kepler's laws. He tried to explain the
physical origin of Kepler's laws, in particular the concept of 
force acting at a distance and holding planets orbiting around the sun. He
will be back with some more "modern physics" topics.

3. Discussion:
--- Mike announced his plans of writing a thesis on Theorynet that would
include a concrete proposal for evaluating its effectiveness in raising
science awareness among students. He has already talked to Fred and Tom who
are enthusiastic about his plans. He will start from a literature review 
will be gathering data sometime next year.
--- When discussing possible demo equipment, Scott mentioned a new
commercially available bubble chamber operating without dry ice: faster,
cleaner and cheaper than older models. Here is the link:
Please have a look and tell us if it's too good to be true or it looks
reasonable. If yes, we will buy one or two. Tom also wants to get some
"Crooke's" tubes (sometime called "maltese cross" tubes) with the beam of
electrons projected at a metal cross, and its shadow visible on a
scintillating screen. However, he has a problem with finding a supplier -it
seems that their best sources are Sotheby's auctions or antique shops!
Please help.
--- Advertising. Tom distributed a very preliminary version of a Theorynet
flyer that he wants to send out to schools. Thanks to Ami for coming up 
an idea of the "atom and apple" logo (it was sent out in a separate
message). However, we need more things:
I. Quotes from students (and teachers)
II. Few more sentences describing our activities, goals etc.
and most of all
***** III. PHOTOGRAPHS from class visits. Please bring your digital cameras
and take some pictures with students.

4: Pairings: same as before. In addition, Ami Katz will visit Farhad's
classes in Commonwealth School.
Albion Lawrence will visit Michael's Hirsh classes in Needham H.S.

5. The next meeting is (tentatively) planned for April 28, 2007.