Saturday, April 27, 2013

Magnet Boys

I'll be presenting "Skepticism in the Classroom" once again at the AAPT's Summer Meeting in Portland. (It's W42, Sunday 1-5pm.)

We'll go through this gem and plenty more of a similar nature.

A seven year old boy in Serbia is shown to possess magnetic characteristics. Not to be outdone, Croatians show off a magnet boy of their own. And he's only six! Half a world away, an 11 year old Brazilian boy mystifies a doctor with a similarly attractive body.

But on an amusing Korean television program, James "The Amazing" Randi puts real-life Magnetos to the test. You know how this will end.

Magnet Boys (Interactive QuickTime) [coming soon!]

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

California STAR Physics Reference disappointment

Despite high-level assurances that the California Department of Education (CDE) would update its published physics reference sheet. It has yet to happen, and much of California is deep into the 2013 STAR-testing administration season. We will quietly hope California's physics CST-takers won't find the changes too surprising, confusing, or off-putting.

The problem was detailed in a previous Blog of Phyz post.

The Physics Reference Sheet as used on the operational form of the STAR Physics CST is different from the Physics Reference Sheet included on the most recently published Released Test Questions document. And it's different from the Physics Reference Sheet offered as a stand-alone PDF on the CDE's STAR Program Resources: CST Science Reference Sheets page.

As of this posting, the reference sheet available at this link carries a 2005 copyright date. The sheet used on last year's operational form seems to have been changed in 2012. I must presume it's being used in 2013 as well. But to see it, you'll have to refer to the previous Blog of Phyz post. The state of California has not made this document public.

Disappointing. But not entirely surprising. I hope, at some point, to learn why CDE and ETS moved (with neither review by nor approval of its own Assessment Review Panel) to alter the document that had been used from 2004 through 2011.

They chose to then compound this error by updating neither the RTQ document nor the stand-alone reference sheet. It makes them appear completely out of touch and unconcerned. Or as if they're trying to keep the new reference sheet a secret. I can only hope this is not how they wish to be seen.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

An attempt to keep tests safe from cell phones

For years now, tests/exams administered in classroom settings have been susceptible to public distribution by cheaters who would photograph them on their cell phones and broadcast them.

I gave a student a zero on a test years ago because she was texting during a test. Her mother demanded a conference to plead her case. The parent went so far as to suggest I should have confiscated the child's phone, accessed the text messages, determined said messages were not test-related, and allowed her daughter to go about her business. I politely declined any such suggestion and proceeded with my original plan. Both parent and child were furious with my outrageous inflexibility.

My friend, Dan Burns, teaches at Los Gatos High School. He recently posted this to the PTSOS Discussion Group:

"Phones must be in backpacks, purses etc. These are put in a location out of arm's reach from where they are testing. Any student caught with a phone during a test is given a zero on the test and a cheating referral. No exceptions, no excuses. This is how the the CSET and other professional tests are administered. The important thing is to explain this in detail to students before applying these rules. Make sure your admin backs you up. Before they start any test they are given a verbal reminder and a chance to put their phone away. Once the test is handed out, any student caught with a phone on their person gets a zero. It is assumed they took pictures, distributed them and then deleted them. You do not need to catch them in the act."

Is it perfect? Completely impervious to a determined cheater's capabilities? I doubt it. But it's better than allowing them easy access to a camera/wireless distribution device during an assessment. It is something. And that's better than nothing.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

ExploratoRio 2013 in time lapse

1. Room Setup: Watch as we transform the classroom into a stage for a miniature Exploratorium.

2. Exhibit Setup: With the room prepared, the exhibition is installed.

3. A Groovy, Hands-On Experience: ExploratoRio in action.

4. ExploratoRio Night and Take-Down. 

Monday, April 08, 2013

Hewitt-Drew-it! RR Wheels

Paul links the linear-rotational speed relation to an explanation of why railroad trains stay on tracks via tapered wheel rims.

Hewitt-Drew-it! PHYSICS 35. RR Wheels

Sunday, April 07, 2013 and ftp are down during nameserver update

Pleaee excuse the cyberdust.

Email sent to will bounce until further notice.

In the meantime, is functional.

My ability to update also appears to be lost for the time being.

This all traces back to Apple's abandonment of iDisk web hosting, and thus my subsequent need to relocate. I chose Rage Software as my new home a year ago. But apparently the nameservers at needed to be changed.

Doing that caused to stop functioning correctly due to MX and CNAME records. (Obvi!)

Why Cyberduck cannot access my webspace is no doubt similarly obvious.

Changing nameservers was a requirement of Rage SW. They assured me my site would fail if I didn't do this soon. So I did it. And am waiting for them to fix my email and ftp services. I'm sure it will all be shiny when it's done. But for now, everything appears to be broken.

The school's getting wireless access that allegedly functions. Part of that process requires that I abandon my AirPort access (which worked flawlessly) and hope that the new access can be made equally functional. A bonus of the new access is that, unlike my AirPort access, you get to provide login credentials every time you begin a session of web access. Every time.

Emailing the district's tech guru got me a gentle rebuke for not using the district's SchoolWorld or Schoology for creating/maintaining the web pages that I built in the late 1990s, long before the district had a web presence. I think he hopes I'll find time time to--brick by brick--reconstruct my robust, "private" mansion among the wee cottages allowed on district property.

So many tech penalties, it makes the luddites seem like the smart ones.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Hewitt-Drew-it! Circular Motion

Paul discusses his father working as a ticket collector in a merry-go-round and ties this to a Burl-Grey problem involving circular motion.

Hewitt-Drew-it! PHYSICS 34.. Circular Motion

Monday, April 01, 2013