Thursday, May 17, 2012

Eclipse sunball portraiture: Do it!

Better yet, have your students do it!

An annular eclipse will be passing through Northern California this Sunday. The more populated areas will get a partial eclipse, but that's fun, too.

And a nice opportunity to get photos like this one from Hewitt's Conceptual Physics 11th edition.

So I made it an extra credit opportunity for students who can pull off the photographic feat.

Details on the extra credit opportunity here. That's the student handout I'll give to my students.

UPDATE: Having scoped out potential locations, it struck me that the best places for the tree shadows/sunballs to hit might be a vertical surface (wall) rather than the ground (as depicted in the Hewitt shots). The eclipse peaks late in the afternoon. Shadows are long; the sunballs/crescents may be very distorted on the ground. Just a thought.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Domino Chain Reaction

The usual caveats apply: I miss more than I see, and this one's been around for a spell.

Good, clean, unstable equilibrium, amplification fun nonetheless.

Hat tip: Fred Bremmer (one of the few people I literally look up to in the world).

Next Generation Science Standards (phase 3 of 9)

The Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) have now been drafted, reviewed by states, and revised.

The current draft can be accessed via the NGSS website.

There may be a review session hosted at your local county office of education or Science Project. CSTA has some listed here.

The window for feedback is, as might be expected, brief. May 11-June 1.

After June 1, further revisions will be made, reviewed by states, revised, and presented for public comment. Thereafter, the standards will again be revised and reviewed by states. After that, the final NGSS will be published.

My own take based on some exposure to the new standards is that they are complex. If California's science standards were checkers, the NGSS is tri-dimensional chess. California's standards were content-centric. The NGSS are much more process-centric.

It's too early for me to say whether this is good or bad. There are many details to be ironed out between this draft and final implementation.

Since these are national standards, I wonder things like... how Creationist/ID-friendly these standards will allow Bible-belt states to be. If the focus becomes too process-oriented, content loses relevance. So the content could be evolution or intelligent design, so long as it plugs into certain process activities. And I'll be nervous if we shift from physics, biology, chemistry, and earth science to 10th-grade science, 11th-grade science, and 12th-grade science.

So far, I haven't seen much in terms of accountability assessment. This seems to be the nature of high-minded, all-encompassing standards-writing projects. A blue-ribbon commission decides on an impressively robust-seeming standards set. The set is fiddled with and fussed over by lesser bodies (teachers, the public). Slightly modified standards are eventually adopted and heralded as the savior of science education.

The blue-ribbon commission is disbanded, and lesser bodies (contractors and review panels) are left to implement assessment and accountability. But the blue-ribbon standards don't always lend themselves to simple assessments. And the lesser bodies have little or no budget for assessments. But the public and politicians demand accountability.

The Devil can always find a comfortable residence in The Details. But I digress.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

How much would you pay... for the Universe?

Neil deGrasse Tyson asks a fair question.

If you were sentient in the 1960s, you'll want to wipe your tears so they won't drip onto your keyboard.

Sign the petition! (Better slacktivism than nactivism.)

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Senioritis haiku

We had our unit test on mechanical waves and sound today. A student inquired as to whether or not polarization would be covered.

I assured him that polarization would not be on this text. Nor the next unit test. But it would be on the unit test after that. A wave of panic swept the room. "We don't have time for two more units," the peanut gallery protested. I walked them through calendar to illustrate that yes, we would.

But the moment was now right for my Senioritis haiku. (And I use the term "haiku" loosely. Very loosely.) I repeat the telling of this haiku annually. Usually about this time of year.

Senioritis is the disease.
Physics is the cure.
And me? I'm the Doctor!

I go on to assure the students that they are secure in my skilled hands. I prefer to let a student quip, "So you're the PhyzIcian?"

You get the point.