Archive for May, 2009

Mysterious Floating Water Experiment

Steve Spangler just wrote a post about this mysterious floating water experiment. It’s so cool, you should check it out!

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Shoutout: Science Rockz!

Just found these great resources for Physics teachers. Science Rockz is a blog with all sorts of resources and ideas for the physics classroom.

There’s also a Science Rockz Forum where you can ask questions and discuss issues within your classroom.

Shoutout: Dan Russell

Dr. Dan Russell is a professor of Physics at Kettering University. His website is a great resource!

He specializes in acoustics (he’s got a degree in piano performance!) and has many activities listed. In one section he discusses the acoustics of baseball bats, while in another part, he provides useful illustrations and demonstrations for teaching acoustics

I am very excited to have found a solid base of resources regarding acoustics and sound!

Book Review: The Scientists

I was browsing through a book store the other day when I found The Scientists: A History of Science Told Through the Lives of its Greatest Inventors by John Gribbon. I haven’t read the book, but it looks like a fabulous resource for teachers who want to know more about the scientists involved in the growth and development of science. I am really interested in using it to teach a science class chronologically – teaching content based on when it was discovered, rather than in the traditional format. The book would also be a great resource for students if they are doing projects or writing on individual scientists.

Publishers Weekly says, “As expansive (and as massive) as a textbook, this remarkably readable popular history explores the development of modern science through the individual stories of philosophers and scientists both renowned and overlooked. Prolific popular science writer Gribbin wants to use the lives of these thinkers to show how they “reflect the society in which they lived, and… the way the work of one specific scientist followed from that of another.” While he makes this case well, the real joy in the book can be found in the way Gribbin (who has made complex science understandable in such books as In Search of Schr”dinger’s Cat) revels not just in the development of science but also in the human details of his subjects’ lives. He writes, “Science is made from people, not people by science,” and the book weaves together countless stories of the people who made science, from the arrogance and political maneuverings of Tycho Brahe in the 16th century to Benjamin Thompson’s exploits during the American Revolution as a spy for the British and his later life as Count Rumford of Bavaria (in the realm of science, he studied convection and helped discredit the caloric theory of heat). Though the names and discoveries become more and more prolific as the book reaches the 19th century, Gribbin does an admirable job of organizing his narrative around coherent topics (e.g., “The Darwinian Revolution,” “Atoms and Molecules,” “The Realm of Life”), leaving the reader exhausted by the journey, but in awe of the personalities and the sheer scope of 500 years’ worth of scientific discovery.”

Gribbin has authored other notable books including In Search of Schrodinger’s Cat: Quantum Physics and Reality. I’m excited to start to build a library of his work in the near future!

Book Review: The Last Book In The Universe

Awhile ago, I wrote a post expressing my desire to add a literacy component to my high school science classes. Books like A Wrinkle In Time, The Giver, Tuck Everlasting and other science-fiction and fantasy works sprang to mind. I want to find books that can be related to science, as well as students’ lives in order to instigate conversations about technology, progress, and scientific ethics.

Recently, I read The Last Book In The Universe by Rodman Philbrick and it was the exact type of book I was looking for!!

“Following the Big Shake, which destroyed most of civilization, a small group of individuals (the “proovs”) retreated to Eden, learned how to improve themselves genetically, and sealed their environment off from the sprawling ruins inhabited by the remaining normals. Plagued by genetic defects, a toxic environment, and illnesses, normals like Spaz live in the Urb at the mercy of latch-bosses and their gangs. Spaz knows that his survival depends on Billy Bizmo and the Bully Bangers, so when they send him to rob an old man, he obeys. Ryter willingly surrenders his few possessions except for the pages of the book he is writing-the first time Spaz has seen anything like this. And when the boy sets out to find Bean, his dying foster sister, Ryter insists on accompanying him. Along the way, they are joined by Lanaya, a proov, and Little Face, an orphan. Finding Bean is hard enough; helping her appears to be impossible, until Lanaya takes the motley group back to Eden and confronts the rulers with the truth about the outside world. This is science fiction, not a fairy tale, and everyone does not live happily ever after… Also, the science part of this sci-fi is vague. However, readers who don’t examine it too closely will be caught up in the novel. There is definitely room for a sequel…” (from Amazon.com)

This book is ideal for discussing science ethics in the classroom for many reasons. It is a middle school reading level, which is perfect for the assignment, because I’m not concerned with challenging students’ reading skills, but giving them a book which they can read with confidence (I’m in an urban setting, so literacy is a huge issue). It only took me a day at the beach to read the entire book, which is fine with me because I’m mostly concerned with students’ reacting and processing their thoughts regarding the content of the book; the assignment would conclude with some sort of cumulating project, presentation, or class discussion. Below, I’ve listed some of the main issues addressed in Philbrick’s book.

There’s even an activity guide related to the book on the author’s website!

Topics worth discussion:

  • Genetic Engineering
  • Experiencing pleasure through “probing” and how it might relate to students’ lives
  • Racism
  • How to prevent allowing technological and scientific progress to get out of control
  • No more books and/or printed materials

Ways students can identify with the characters:

  • Gang involvement
  • Poverty
  • Racism
  • Lack of access to healthcare and other daily needs

Another Physics Teacher’s Blog!!

I just found this other Physics and Physical Science teaching blog written by Scott. Physics & Physical Science Demos, Labs, & Projects for High School Teachers has all sorts of great ideas for your science class!

Check it out!!

Wolfram Alpha!

There is a great new resource out this week for science teachers. Wolfram|Alpha is a new website designed by the man who brought us Mathematica and Wolfram Demonstrations. It is similar in theory to Google and Wikipedia, but it is all about computational knowledge. Read the Daily Tech article here for more information.

To give you an idea of how powerful this search engine is — and to convince you to use it in your classroom(!) — I tried out a couple things. 

First I typed in “Columbia Teachers College” (my graduate school) and found a whole page of results with information ranging from the number of students attending to the number of academic programs and the geographical location.

Next, I entered “Physics” and was amazed with the outcome. The results page is a listing of all the applicable calculations and equations for physics. What is so incredible is the websites ability to compute for you! In the mechanics section you can compute mechanical work, rotational acceleration, and Keplers Law!

Lastly, I entered my birthday to see what would happen. I didn’t get much information in return (other than the conversion from years into days, months, and weeks), but there’s a space for holidays around the world as well as notable deaths and births. This surprised me because I know I share a birthday with Fidel Castro, Alfred Hitchcock, Danny Bonaduce, and Dan Fogelberg (what a combination!!).

I think this website is going to be a highly useful resource for student research as well as homework help or another bit of technology in the classroom!