Almanacs in Astronomy Classes

In memory of my maternal grandmother Dorothy Marie Blalock Clark (1912-1997) TL;DR: Ubiquitous farmers’ almanacs are an inexpensive printed source of accurate astronomical information despite being mostly advertising vehicles. This information can be used in the classroom to generate questions and learning about not only astronomy, but also history, mathematics, and computation.  Thanks to my […]

Read More Almanacs in Astronomy Classes

Two Different Obsevers, Same Class

I’m going to present two observers’ accounts of a classroom observation that took place on April 24, 2018 beginning at 9:30 am. The class was an introductory astronomy class with eight students on the roster, five of which stopped attending without withdrawing (faculty are not forbidden “by law” from withdrawing students now) and three of […]

Read More Two Different Obsevers, Same Class

Proving the Absence of Length Contraction Perpendicular to Velocity

When teaching conceptual physics, students almost always ask why length contraction only occurs parallel to velocity and not perpendicular to it. That’s a meaty conceptual question and one that always leaves me looking for a convincing, non mathematical explanation. Earlier this semester, I finally found what I think is the best one I’ve ever heard […]

Read More Proving the Absence of Length Contraction Perpendicular to Velocity

Musical Thoughts On Teaching Physics

TL;DR There are many lessons physics teachers can learn from music teachers about teaching one’s discipline. Many, and perhaps most (all?), concepts in music have analogs in physics and mathematics. I have a background in music, spefically percussion. Marching band was my life in high school and that carried over into my college years. I […]

Read More Musical Thoughts On Teaching Physics

Angular Quantities II

In this post, I will address the first question on the list in the previous post. What exactly does it mean for something to be a vector? In almost every introductory physics course, vectors are introduced as “quantities having magnitude and direction” and are eventually equated to graphical arrows. A vector is neither of these, […]

Read More Angular Quantities II

Giving Students a Blank Check

Yesterday in my first semester astronomy class, I did something I’d previously threatened to do. I walked in, tossed my personal checkbook onto the floor in the middle of the room, and told students to write checks for any amount they felt appropriate in exchange for them becoming more engaged both in and out of […]

Read More Giving Students a Blank Check

Matter & Interactions II, Week 4

This week was entirely flipped in that class time was devoted to letting students do whatever they needed to do to practice with the material in chapters 13 and 14. Until now, no one has touched the WebAssign problem sets or much programming. In an administrative environment where “teaching” is defined as lecturing from a […]

Read More Matter & Interactions II, Week 4

I believe…

I post this with the uncomfortable understanding that in my classes within the context of critical thinking, belief requires no evidence. Everything I say here is, to my knowledge, based on what I hope is good evidence. I will go where the evidence leads me. I intend to update this post frequently. Most of it […]

Read More I believe…

Lunch With Three Former Students

This past Wednesday, I was invited to lunch with three former students. Two of these student took calculus-based physics with me; the third took first semester general astronomy with me. Of the first two, one (I will call him B) transferred to a nearby university after the first semester of physics and is majoring in […]

Read More Lunch With Three Former Students