Friday, November 11, 2016

Did the Coyote Catch the Roadrunner?

Fans of my Roadrunner Physics website might be wondering this after the site went black in early October. My school changed website hosts, orphaning it. Fortunately, our IT department transferred it intact to our new hosting service, thus once again thwarting the Coyote's plans. You can click on the above hyperlink or copy and paste the URL:

They also transferred my internationally popular Science on the Simpsons website. You can click on the hyperlink or go to this URL:

Unfortunately, some of the formatting of the clip descriptions is cut off.  I hope to have this fixed soon. In the meantime, download your favorite clips so you don't have to worry about the site being inaccessible in the future. These clips are posted in accordance with the fair use provisions of the copyright act. They are for educational purposes, not entertainment. However, if your students are entertained by your creative educational use of them, that is OK.
 I was inspired to create the Roadrunner website by Dean Baird's description of his use of Roadrunner cartoons to teach physics. He posted specific information about what episodes had useful clips. I used this and my own personal research to assemble the collection that I use on the first day of class. Roadrunner cartoons show my students that they already know a lot about physics. Roadrunner cartoons are humorous because they defy the laws of physics. When the students chuckle at a scene, they are revealing that they have an inherent sense of some of the rules that the universe operates under. Sometimes we focus too much on student misconceptions. Often these are incomplete thoughts that are closer to the actual physics concepts than we may realize when we focus on what is wrong about the ideas. One example is the student belief that a bullet receives a larger force than the gun. I find it more effective to acknowledge the student's belief that SOMETHING is different about the interaction. That something is of course the acceleration because of the difference in the mass.

The Science on the Simpsons website has its origins when I collected clips on a VHS tape to show my Earth/Space Science class back in the 90s. Other teachers would borrow it and I often had to hunt it down when I wanted to show it. The Coriolis Effect and Bart's Comet clips were the most popular. This motivated me to create digital clips from my Simpsons DVD collection and post them online for every teacher to use. Since then I have interacted with people from around the world who send me appreciation emails and ideas for new clips. The Simpsons are popular in Germany, Spain, Great Britain, and Australia. A few teachers used the site to support their master's thesis. Another teacher wrote an article about using the Simpsons to teach science that was published in the Spanish Newsweek. He runs a Science on the Simpsons Facebook page too. I even got a congratulatory note from one of the Simpsons executive producers:

"Hi, Dan.  My brother-in-law works at Rockefeller U. and sent me your Simpsons/physics link.  I love it and sent it to some of my colleagues who actually know something about science.  Great work -- I hope people use it.

Rob LaZebnik
Co-Executive Producer
"The Simpsons"
10201 W. Pico Blvd.
LA, CA  90035

I have been receiving emails from distraught teachers looking for the Science on the Simpsons and Roadrunner Physics websites. Please spread the word that they have moved. That would be "Excellent".

1 comment:

Dean Baird said...

Very groovy, Dan. Great work as always.

We don't always know how far our interwebz influence goes when we share...

Reminds me of My Big Bang Theory good fortune.