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Minutes of September 22, 2012 Physics Theorynet meeting

Physics Theorynet meeting, September 22, 2012

Room 218 DA, Northeastern University, Boston








Elaine Picard, Concord-Carlisle H.S.

Mike Wadness, Medford H.S.

Nancy Najmi, Reading Memorial H.S.

Rick Dower, Roxbury Latin School

Don Fries, Community School, Tamworth, NH

Chris Siren, Groton-Dunstable Regional H.S.

Michael Hirsh, Needham H.S.

John Samperisi, Monadnock High School, NH

Per Berglund, University of New Hampshire

Brandon Murakami, Rhode Island College

Matthew Headrick, Brandeis University

Tomasz Taylor, Northeastern Unuversity



Brent Nelson, Northeastern University

Lara Anderson, Harvard University

Ken Olum, Tufts University

Ann Kaiser, La Salle Academy

Nivedi Das, Sharon H.S.

Scott Goelzer, Coe-Brown Northwood Academy, NH

Richard Levergood, Londonderry High School, NH

Albion Lawrence, Brandeis University

Nick Nicastro, Wachusett Regional H.S.

Noreen Scarpitto, Reading Memorial H.S.

Tasneem Zahra Husain

Jesse Thaler, MIT

Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado, Tufts University

Xi Yin, Harvard


A. Introductions

We welcomed Elaine Picard, who teaches CP Physics and Enriched Physics at Concord-Carlisle High School. John Samperisi from Monadnock High School was introduced to those who missed June meeting.


B. Most of Spring 2012 school visits took place before the previous (June 2) meeting, and are reported in the minutes.


C. General Discussion


1) There was an interesting discussion about the gender gap in physics classes. There are far more boys than girls taking advanced high school physics. Girls tend to take life science/biology courses which are perceived as more "human" than physics, often considered more as a background for engineering. Chris Siren made an interesting observation that the male/female ratio depends on enrollment numbers: the gender gap is more pronounced in big classes than in small ones. Mike Wadness concurred: in his school, there are always four or five girls taking physics while the number of boys fluctuates with enrollment. Something for sociologists to think about. Nancy Najmi spoke about a very positive impact of Lara Anderson's visit to Reading. Roxbury Latin and Needham students enjoyed Tasneem Zahra Husain's visits last Spring. Matt Headrick mentioned more female postdocs who may be interested in visiting high schools.


2) Higgs year. Higgs discovery offers an excellent opportunity to popularize particle physics in the upcoming visits. There has been some extensive news coverage in the media, however the concepts of Higgs field and Higgs boson are not so easy to explain to general audience. Similarly, the importance of this discovery is not so easy to convey. In order to facilitate presentations, we collected some helpful web resources:

My personal favorite is



where Higgs field is compared to a snowfield. Higgs mass generation is also compared to a celebrity walking into a crowded room (n.b. Yukawa coupling is a measure of celebrity status!).

Another good one is from minute physics




Here is another one from Don Lincoln at Fermilab.



For more fun, see


and don't forget the LHC rap:




D. Another Plea for Data (reiterated from June)


The renewal for the NSF grant which funds TheoryNet will be submitted at the end of November. In preparation for the submission we are seeking data on the effectiveness of the TheoryNet program on high school students. We wish to thank everyone for collecting this information and sending it our way. It will definitely augment the proposal. This coming fall we would ask high school teachers to consider ways in which student responses can be obtained in their classrooms for fall visits. We are also interested in any data about how equipment associated with the TheoryNet program was utilized.

In October, we will ask teachers to write letters supporting the renewal.


E. Pairings


Nivedi Das  --         Ken Olum


Rick Dower --          Tasneem Zahra Husain and a newcoming theorist


Don Fries  --          Per Berglund


Scott Goelzer --       Per Berglund


Michael Hirsh --       Xi Yin


Ann Kaiser  --         Brandon Murakami


Richard Levergood --   Brent Nelson


Nancy Najmi /

Noreen Scarpitto --    Lara Anderson


Nick Nicastro --       Tom Taylor


Chris Siren --         Matthew Headrick


John Samperisi --      Ken Olum


Elaine Picard --       Tom  Taylor


Mike Wadness --        Jesse Thaler and Jose Juan Blanco-Pillado



F. Next meeting


Our next meeting will be on January 12, 2013