Roland Roberts's blog

Physics at Home, Science Projects

The American Physical Society has a nice web site called "Physics Central" which has, among other things, a section called Physics@Home.  For those of you who put off you science fair projects until the last minute, have a look at some of the things you can try at home.  The laser and jello experiment looks not only interesting, but also quite yummy.

Light Pollution from Digital/Video Billboards

This has been one of my pet peeves for a while, and my kids can already point out the things I'm going to whine about as we drive along the BQE (Brooklyn-Queens Expressway) coming home from Queens.  There are several of these video billboards along the road.  I have always found it ironic that there are laws dealing with "distracted driving" when the driver does something to distract himself, but nothing about allowing third-parties to deliberately try to distract the driver.  I mean, what else does any billboard do but try to draw attention to itself. 

Elements of Humanity

I first saw the reference to the Elements of Humanity web site in Physics Today although I subscribe to MAKE Magazine who made the site.  Elements of Humanity is a set of interviews with 12 scientist and engineers who talk about what inspired them to choose their careers.  Some of them are fascinating for teachers, some more so for students, but all of them are well done and help break the stereotype of scientists in white lab coats.

NALTA: North America Large-area Time-coincidence Arrays

Okay, that's a mouthful.  I first read about this a month ago and put it on my list of things to look into.  What I was hoping for was something that might be applicable for participation by middle school students.  NALTA is a cosmic-ray detection experiment which requires fairly simple equipment which is placed on the school roof and is largely (completely?) maintenance free. 

New Horizons Wake-Up Call

The New Horizons spacecraft on it's way to Pluto was scheduled to get a wake-up call on November 9 and then spend 10 days running system tests and diagnostics.  The trip to Pluto is so long (in spite of the craft's record speed of about 23 km/sec) that it spends much of its time in hibernation mode.  It's schedule to arrive at Pluton in 2015.  Today it crosses the 15 AU mark (that's 15 times as far from the Sun as the Earth is).

According to a Twitter post, the craft is now away and operating.  Hopefully, we'll get an update soon on PlutoToday.com. Unfortunately, for all us eager to hear news of Pluto, well, we'll just have to wait.  Space is, alas, mostly space with not much to see.

Galaxy Zoologists Wanted!

Here's a project in need of (part-time) volunteers.  Classifying galaxies.  Yep, you too can become a galactic zoologist!  You can find a short teaser on the Astronomy Picture of the Day web site (APOD Oct 26, 2009) with more details at the official Galaxy Zoo web site.  Makes a good family game with older kids, too.  How would you classify that galaxy?

Inquiry Based Science Lessons

Another generic resource, also from the NSTA elementary mailing list.  The issue of using inquiry in science lessons is a big deal and also came up a recent School Leadership Team meeting.  Inquiry does, of course, get used, but it's always a tough item since it is easy to get "off script" when using a lesson plan that allows student-driven inquiry.  At the same time, it's hard to really teach science without it.  The issue in NYC, and probably many other places, is that since the city has instituted standardized science testing, the test is naturally content based. 

Science Resources for Teachers

Today I am at jury duty here in King's County.  That means, for now anyway, that I'm waiting for my name to be called while the machinations of justice do their thing somewhere else in the building.  But the court system has moved into the modern age, at least in some ways, like providing free wifi here in the jury assembly room.  So I can catch up on a little reading from the National Science Teachers Assocation (NSTA) elementary level mailing list.

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