Saturday, March 23, 2019

Magnetoception: can it happen in humans?

When we study magnetism, we learn that certain animals have awareness of magnetic fields and can use it for navigation. Certain birds are known to have magnetite in their skulls. Here's a nice update of recent findings regarding magnetoception in birds.

Humans do not seem to have this capability. But that doesn't mean our brains are entirely oblivious to magnetic fields.

Veritasium's Derek Muller dons a sensor-laden shower cap of science to test his brain's awareness of the magnetic field it's immersed in. Could it be that the brain senses magnetic fields but doesn't share the information with our consciousness? Take a look.

Can Humans Sense Magnetic Fields?

Friday, March 22, 2019

Cheerios and thumbtacks: tribalism in a cereal bowl

What I always love about Jearl Walker's work is that it looks at the world, sees something peculiar, and says "why is that?" And proceeds to investigate.

We often hear, "Everything happens for a reason." What we should also hear is, "And that reason is physics."

So it is with The Cheerios Effect. Watch and learn.

The Cheerios Effect

There's a whole book filled with this kind of serendipity:

The Flying Circus of Physics by Jearl Walker

I highly recommend it.

Sunday, March 17, 2019

The Waves and Sound Playlist of Phyz

Here's the latest Phyz playlist, an idea I got from fellow Phyz blogger, Dan Burns.

The topic this time is waves and sound.

Curiosities: An alphabetical listing is dominated by the Ws. A chronological listing is dominated by songs released in the past five years.

Left behind: The list would be longer if not for careful curation. Apple Music search results tagged with an E (explicit) are not included. We fire up the playlist (at an Office Space "reasonable volume") during lab activities. You do not want to fill your classroom with expletives, no matter how mellifluous the tones. Because that will be followed by a conversation with your principal that you really do not want to have.

In any case, on to the list. If I missed a gem, let me know in the comments. I like that the alpha list begins with "Catch a Wave" and ends with "Waving Goodbye".

The Waves and Sound Playlist of Phyz
Catch a WaveBeach Boys1963
Don't Make WavesBrand X1979
Every Breaking WaveU22014
I Like the Sound of ThatRascal Flatts2014
Salt Water SoundZero 72002
SoundDaniela Andrade2016
Sound & ColorAlabama Shakes2016
The SoundThe 19752015
The Sound of SilenceSimon & Garfunkel1966
Veering From the WaveJennifer Kimball1998
Walking on SunshineKatrina & the Waves1985
Warm SoundZero 72004
Wave (Instrumental)Antônio Carlos Jobim1967
Wave (English)Sinatra & Jobim1967
Wave (Portuguese)João Gilberto1977
WaveBrooke Butler2017
WaveJvck James2018
WaveThe Midnight2018
Wave (feat. Kali Uchis)Major Lazer2015
Wave (feat. Masego)Abir2016
WavelengthVan Morrison1978
WavesMr. Probz2014
WavesDean Lewis2016
WavingThe Bevis Frond2016
WavingThe Delilahs1995
WavingJami Lula2002
WavingRich Whiteley2009
WavingTiny Desserts2019
Waving GoodbyeSia2016

Click the "playlist" label below to see more Playlists of Phyz. As of this post, there are playlists up for Electricity and Magnetism. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

All in a Mouse's Night ... Vision

If your curriculum visits light and color, here's a nice tangent worth traveling. Not sharks with fricken lasers, but mice with night vision.
Scientists have figured out how to confer a superpower, like those wielded by the mythical X-Men, at least to mice. Using nanoparticles that convert infrared (IR) light to visible light, researchers have given mice the ability to see in the dark. If the same technique works in humans, it could offer soldiers night vision without the need for goggles and possibly counter ailments that cause patients to gradually lose their sight.
There are important details. Read about them in this article from Science:
Nanoparticles give mice night vision

As a veteran of titling blog posts and lab activities, and as a long-time fan of progressive-era Genesis, "All in a Mouse's Night" quickly came to mind. Trust me, this gift is as much a curse as it is a blessing.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

One tendril of Dan Burns' vast influence: Kari Byron

I'm just gonna leave this right here, for the benefit of both of you who aren't on the social media.

That's two people made of win right there!

Of course my Montana-sized ego compels me to at least attempt to sourgrapes this awesomeness. Not an easy lift, but here goes:

It's a good thing Kari Byron wasn't one of my students, because if she were, I'd be about 15 years into a forehead tattoo reading "I was Kari Byron's Physics Teacher!" If we're being honest, that would only serve to ostracize me from family, friends, students, and colleagues. And I don't think Ms. Byron would ever speak to me again. So... whew: dodged that bullet!

In any case, I hope Kari will keep us all laughing and thinking, and that Dan will continue to share his pearls wisdom with readers of this blog. The world could always use more people like these two.

Sunday, March 03, 2019

YouTube Physics at The Lessons of Phyz

I have assembled and posted several web video based lessons to The Lessons of Phyz at Teachers Pay Teachers.

1. Dodge Nitro Jump
This activity engages students with a practical problem. A motorist is trying to revive his broken-down car. A second motorist offers assistance. When a jump-start is arranged, things take an unexpected turn in the parking lot at Beachs. An understanding of algebraic kinematics is required here. Certainly appropriate for AP Physics 1.

2. Tavurvur Erupts!
This activity engages students with a dramatic video that captures the initial moments of a volcanic eruption. An adiabatic expansion cloud appears and disappears, a shock wave shocks observers capturing the video, and huge boulders trace graceful arc through the air, taking many seconds to eventually crash back into the ocean. Careful analysis of the video and knowledge of physics, and the use of PhET's Flash-based "Projectile Motion" sim allows students to determine the distance to the volcano and the launch speed of those boulders. How safe were the people filming the eruption?
Add this to your mix of classroom demonstrations and lab activities to thoroughly teach the topic at hand. I developed this activity for use with my own students.

3. Inertia
This activity engages students with a few popular inertia related videos found on YouTube. Video addresses are given in the document. Since such addresses can sometimes go bad, search terms are used as titles. Examples here include "Shopping Cart Fail," "Unloading Bamboo Like a Boss," "Car Bowling Fail," and "BMW Tablecloth Trick XXXL". A Mythbusters video is also employed, as is a hilarious clip from a pair of charming German child actors.

4. Car Crash Safety
This activity engages students with Griff Jones' classic, Understsanding Car Crashes: It's Basic Physics. I use this as a review of mechanics. The activity then goes on to have students find the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's rating of vehicles they drive or are passengers in. Or aspire to own. The activity finishes with a pair or head-on collision tests showing that vehicle safety regulations have demonstrable, positive effects on vehicle design. Students are very interested in cars, so they find this activity very engaging.

5. Rolling Through Roundabouts in a Reliant Robin
This activity engages students with an amusing vignette from Britain's Top Gear automobile-themed program. It addresses a considerable design flaw in the three-wheeled Reliant Robin automobile. As is customary on Top Gear, the flaw is highlighted mercilessly, hilariously, and a solution is implemented. The activity is even more fun when the optional background research is done.

6. Backyard Water Slide
This activity engages students with a practical problem. A video shows a backyard water slide enthusiast who slides down a formidable incline that bends into a jump. The enthusiast overshoots the intended landing point. Onlookers burst into laughter. Students work through the physics of why things turned out as they did, even if reasonable precautions were taken. An understanding of rotational kinetic energy in rolling is required here. Appropriate for AP Physics 1.

7. Victoria Phyz Falls
This activity engages students fairly deeply with a thrill-seeking stunt I performed when I visited Victoria Falls on the border between Zambia and Zimbabwe in 2014. Bungee jumping is an activity rich with physics. And this jump, filmed at the Victoria Falls Bridge, does not disappoint. Six pages of analysis interrogate the mechanics of the jump quite thoroughly. Multiple representations are implemented. An understanding of harmonic motion and Hooke's Law is required here. Appropriate for AP Physics 1.

8. Color Mixing
This activity engages students with two videos that relate to color mixing. One from Science Friday shows the amazing camouflage capabilities of cephalopods via biological pixels called chromatophores. The other from the Royal Institution tells the story of how the brain and the receptors in our eyes "invent" magenta.

9. Polarized + Blue
This activity engages students with two videos: Physics Girl explores optical polarization in "Only Some Humans Can See This Type of Light" and KQED goes for a deep dive into on structural color in "Magnificent Blue".

And I'm tinkering with the notion of a bundle, hence: YouTube Physics BUNDLE. All nine lessons at a discount.

The Magnetism Playlist of Phyz

Here's The Magnetism Playlist of Phyz. It makes nice background music while students engage in magnetism lab activities.

Playlists are easy to assemble. I assembled mine in Apple Music, but there are other ways.

A scan of the Year column indicates a relative explosion of magnetism music in the past five years.

The Magnetism Playlist of Phyz
Be Direct With MeGeneral Electric1966
GorgeousTaylor Swift2017
MagnetLindsay Lohan2004
Magnet and SteelWalter Egan1978
MagneticJudith Edelman2009
MagneticCanopy Climbers2016
MagneticKelvin Jones & Sara Hartman2018
MagneticPhillip Phillips2018
MagneticEarth Wind and Fire2002
Magnetic (acoustic version)Chlöe Howl2017
Magnetic FieldsThe Capsules2013
Magnetic FieldsSome Girls2006
Magnetic Fields, Part 2Jean-Michel Jarre1981
Magnetic Fields, part 4Jean-Michel Jarre1981
MagnetisedNo Antidote2017
MagnetisedEmma Blackberry2017
Magnetised (acoustic)Tom Odell2016
Magnets (feat. Akyila)Zeds Dead & Snails2018
Magnets (feat. Lorde)Disclosure2015
The Book of LoveThe Magnetic Fields1999
The Moon is a MagnetJon Foreman2007

If I missed any magnetic music gems, let me know in the comments.

In case you missed it, here's a link to The Electricity Playlist of Phyz.