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Minutes of Spring TheoryNet Meeting, May 22, 2010

Physics Theorynet meeting, May 22, 2010 

Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston 

Minutes/Action items: 



Participating Teachers/Theorists: 

Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School 

Jesus Hernandez, Lawrence H.S. 

John Janetti, Andover H.S.

Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S. 

Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S. 

Brent Nelson, Northeastern 

Brandon Murakami, Rhode Island College 

Ken Olum, Tufts University

Jesse Thaler, MIT

Nick Nicastro, Wachusett Regional H.S. 

Farhad Riahi, Commonwealth School of Boston

Nivedi Das, Sharon H.S.


Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy 

Mike Wadness, Medford H.S. 

Albion Lawrence, Brandeis 

Matthew Headrick, Brandeis

Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial H.S. 

Noreen Scarpitto, Reading Memorial H.S. 

Allan Adams, MIT 

Xi Han, Harvard

Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire 

Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado, Tufts University

Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern 

1.  High-school visits: spring 2010: 

It was a busy spring semester with some of our faculty members visiting more than one school. Ken Olum from Tufts visited both Lawrence HS and Commonwealth School. At Lawrence he visited more than one class, including an "impromptu" discussion with one class. Topics of discussion included the philosophical aspects and paradoxes of quantum theory and the possibility of time travel. The latter was couched in the context of the classic twin paradox, with a healthy dose of wormhole spacetime physics. Visiting Farhad at the Commonwealth School, Ken gave a talk to a large group of students in an assembly-style presentation. The anticipatory excitement of the visit was clear when many students arrived too late to hear the presentation but were nevertheless enthralled when classmates recounted the basics of the presentation.

Albion Lawrence visited Roxbury Latin School twice in the semester, discussing the connection between particle physics and cosmology. Brandon Murakami returned to Ann Kaiser's classes at La Salle Academy, speaking to several periods about the expectations we all have for the LHC experiment. Brandon made a point of emphasizing ways that young people -- and especially young women -- can get involved in this type of research, including via Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REUs) which are sponsored by the National Science Foundation. 

Brent Nelson visited Needham HS to speak to four periods about cosmology and general relativity and the recent excitement in dark matter and astroparticle physics. He also filled in for Tom Taylor by visiting Nick Nicastro at Wachusett Regional HS, discussing mostly the journey to become a professional physicist and some basic aspects of the new physics we hope to discover at the LHC. Matt Headrick travelled to Andover HS to visit John Janetti's chemistry classes. He discussed his own biography in becoming a physicist and talked about the physics of time travel. He also visited with a faculty-only science discussion group where he focused on topics of LHC physics and what lies beyond the Standard Model of particle physics. This visit was brought together very quickly in May and we'd like to thank Matt for volunteering his time on short notice.

Some pairings that arranged earlier in the year may not have happened, and others may have involved participants that did not attend last Saturday's meeting. If you met and were not at the meeting, please send a brief note to b nelson neu edu -- keeping accurate records of the activities of the TheoryNet program is an important part of our obligations to the National Science Foundation.

2. Equipment

The program has recently purchased a Milikan experiment demonstration apparatus which Michael Hirsh has agreed to take for the summer and give a good test run. It should be "broken in" in time for the beginning of the fall semester as marked by our next meeting. The electron diffraction experiment and the dry ice-based cloud chamber will also be available for borrowing in the fall. We also have a Video Flex 7600 projection Microscope that is available for use. One of the missions of the program is to purchase equipment which will help augment the educational aspect of out group. Some suggestions included purchasing another projection microscope, which are versatile enough to find many uses, and another cloud chamber apparatus, which has been found to be nearly "fool-proof" as well as being closely connected to the particle physics aspect of our field. We are always happy to entertain requests, so please forward them to b nelson neu edu.

3. Advertising/Growth/Expansion

From our beginnings in the Boston and southern New Hampshire area, we have now had connections established in Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut. But or those not connected to the city of Boston via public transport, it's understandably hard to attend meetings and integrate with the rest of the group. Nevertheless, we are eager to help where we can to promote further integration in these states. One of the beauties of New England is the ease with which one can access other states by car, and the relatively high density of universities and colleges in the area. 

A great opportunity to make further contacts in southern New England is the next APS/AAPT meeting to be held at Brown University on Oct 29-30, 2010 (website: http://www.physics.brown.edu/NES_APS/index.asp). It was suggested that an all-purpose, general TheoryNet advertising PowerPoint presentation be circulated (perhaps via our website, see below) which can be utilized by members at meetings such as this one. We also have a number of presentation materials at Northeastern which can help to make a successful presence at such conferences.

To promote our efforts at attracting more high school instructors to the program, a number of suggestions were made. Our current participants have been active in spreading the news about the program via word-of-mouth with their colleagues. But once a new teacher has become interested in the program the next stage in the recruitment process needs some attention. For example, it was suggested that we add more explanatory content to the webpage, such as a link to our flyer. We could also provide a list of participants and photos/synopses of past visits to make the nature of the program more concrete to curious newcomers. We will attempt to get these materials placed on our group webpage before the start of the fall semester. Any materials/photos/blurbs that any of you can send to b nelson neu edu would be most appreciated. While our meetings are the natural place for new instructors to get integrated into the group, it may also make sense to identify one or two of our theorists who might be willing to pair with potential new contacts should they arise mid-semester. This is a topic that deserves more attention when we meet again in the fall.

4. Initial Pairings for Fall Semester

Some pairings were established for the fall semester for those who were present at the meeting, mostly extending pairings from the previous year:

Needham HS - Jesse Thaler

Wachusett Regional HS - Brent Nelson

Sharon HS - Ken Olum

Chris Siren - Allan Adams

Andover HS - Matt Headrick

Medford HS - Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado

Lawrence HS - Xi Han

These will be confirmed at our next meeting and additional pairings will be made then. If you are instructor who will not be able to attend our fall meeting and have not been paired with a theorist, please let us know in advance so we can make arrangements at the fall meeting.

5. Next meeting

Our next meeting is (tentatively) scheduled for September 11, 2010, with an alternate date of September 18, 2010.

Brent Nelson
Department of Physics
Northeastern University
110 Forsyth Street
111 Dana Research Center
Boston, MA 02115