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Minutes of TheoryNet Meeting, Saturday January 22, 2011

My apologies for the time delay in getting the minutes distributed.
Brent Nelson
Department of Physics
Northeastern University
110 Forsyth Street
111 Dana Research Center
Boston, MA 02115

Physics Theorynet meeting, January 22, 2011

Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston

Minutes/Action items:



Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School
Mike Wadness, Medford H.S.
Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial H.S.
Noreen Scarpitto, Reading Memorial H.S.
Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S.
Timothy Stamnitz, Merrimack Valley High School
Brent Nelson, Northeastern University
Brandon Murakami, Rhode Island College
Nick Nicastro, Wachusett Regional H.S.
Matthew Headrick, Brandeis University
John Janetti, Andover H.S.
Ann Kaiser, La Salle Academy
Don Fries, Community School, Tamworth, NH


Albion Lawrence, Brandeis
Jesse Thaler, MIT
Allan Adams, MIT
Matthew Schwartz, Harvard
Nivedi Das, Sharon H.S.
Xi Yin, Harvard
Sean Hartnoll, Harvard
Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy
Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S.
Ken Olum, Tufts University
Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado, Tufts University
Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern University
Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire

1.  Expansion & Recruitment:

We are pleased to welcome Don Fries from the Community School in
Tamworth, NH to our meeting. Don's class was visited twice by Per
Berglund over the fall semester (see item 2 below). This is now our
third participant in the state of New Hampshire. Furthermore,
Brandon Murakami met with professors Marcus Spradlin and Anastasia
Volovich from Brown University. They are both eager to participate
when they return from sabbatical in the fall of this year. We hope
to find additional high school instructors in the Providence or
greater Rhode Island area by that time. Thank you everyone for
spreading the word about the program.

2. School Visits

Per visited the Community School in Tamworth, NH twice over the fall
semester. In the first visit the focus was on the life of a
scientist with particular attention to the time Per spent at CERN.
In a follow-up visit he came back to talk about string theory with
the students and answer the questions that they had. Brent visited
Wachusett Regional HS and spent most of the time talking about
becoming a physicist and answered questions about choosing a college
and choosing a major (it was the height of college acceptance
season). Brandon Murakami visited La Salle Academy in October and
spoke about the LHC with an emphasis on supersymmetry phenomenology.

Sean Hartnoll visited John Janetti's class at Andover HS. His
presentation focused on the circumstances surround the solar eclipse
of 1915 that helped to establish general relativity. He also spent
about two hours afterwards speaking with the math and science
faculty. It was John's observation that having young theorists come
and speak to the class is a real asset in connecting to the
students. In a similar vein, Xi Yin visited Roxbury Latin School
where he discussed the career path he followed to becoming a
physicist, and contrasted that path in the United States with what
is common in China. He followed that with a general introduction to
the types of physics that interests him today.

Jesse Thaler visited four classes at Needham HS where he spoke about
a wide range of topics from particle physics to cosmology. During
the longer of the four periods an unexpected fire drill forced
everyone out of the classroom and onto the football field.
Undeterred, Jesse continued lecturing at the fifty yard line!
According to Mike Hirsh the students proclaimed it the "best day of
the year." Matthew Headrick visited Reading Memorial where he spoke
about being a scientist versus other types of jobs, and lead a
discussion about curved spacetime and some aspects of general

Thank you to all the (relatively) new participants for stepping in
and doing such a great job!

3. Review of Pairings

The following pairings for the fall semester will continue into the

Needham HS - Jesse Thaler
Wachusett Regional HS - Brent Nelson
Sharon HS - Ken Olum
Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S. - Tom Taylor
Andover HS - Sean Hartnoll
Medford HS - Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado
Roxbury Latin HS - Xi Yin
Coe-Brown Northwood Academy - Per Berglund
Merrimack Valley HS - Brent Nelson
La Salle Academy - Brandon Murakami
Reading Memorial HS - Matthew Headrick

4. Additional Items

Tom Taylor spoke at the APS/AAPT meeting in Providence in October
and gave a presentation on the TheoryNet program. The next regional
meeting will be hosted at UMass Lowell April 8 and 9, 2011.
Additional information about the meeting can be found at

Ken Olum passed along an interesting opportunity to help judge an
elementary school science fair to be held at the Devotion School in
Brookline. The date is Saturday, March 12, 2011 and additional
information can be found at http://devotionschool.org/node/34

Some initial work on a new, slicker web presence for TheoryNet has
begun. One key element of any new site will be a page tracking the
whereabouts of the various equipment connected with TheoryNet (see
the next item). ny materials/photos/blurbs that any of you can send
to b nelson neu edu would be most appreciated. Look for a prototype
to appear before our next meeting (see item 6).

5. Equipment

A partial round-up of the TheoryNet equipment is as follows:

Millikan oil drop experiment -- Scott Goelzer
Helmholtz coils (e/m experiment) -- Scott Goelzer
Electron diffraction -- Mike Wadness
Cloud chamber (dry ice) -- Mike Wadness
Cloud chamber (no dry ice) -- Nivedi Das

For this last piece of equipment our information may be a bit old so
if it has moved location please let me know at b nelson neu edu.

We often solicit suggestions for additional equipment purchases.
This can be subdivided into day-to-day items (laptop projectors,
projector bulbs, etc.) and demonstration equipment. For the former,
if you have need of either a projector or replacement bulbs these
can be obtained easily. Please consult the webpage for our preferred
vendor CDW at http://www.cdwg.com/shop/search/hub.aspx?wclss=D4 for
some ideas of what is available. For replacement bulbs please
contact Tom Taylor who tends to keep a small supply of them in his

For demonstration equipment the consensus was that the most highly
demanded piece of equipment -- the e/m Helmholtz experiment -- is
precisely the sort of equipment we ought to have multiple copies of,
given that the physics involved tends to arise at precisely the same
point in the academic year for all instructors. Rick Dower suggested
some particular models and we will look into purchasing one or more
before our spring meeting. Another interesting option is to consider
a demonstration of the photoelectric effect which would (in a sense)
`round out' our suite of classic modern physics experiments.

6. Next meeting

It was suggested that we schedule our next meeting for Saturday, May
14 with May 21, 2011 as an alternate date.