Physics_in_movies - An Inquiry-based Course Using...

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An Inquiry-based Course Using “Physics?” in Cartoons and Movies Michael Rogers, Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY B ooks, cartoons, movies, and video games provide engaging opportunities to get both science and nonscience students excited about physics. An easy way to use these media in one’s classroom is to have students view clips and identify unusual events, odd physics, or list things that violate our understanding of the physics that governs our universe. 1,2 These activities provide a lesson or two of material, but how does one create an entire course on examining the physics in books, cartoons, movies, and video games? Other approaches attempt to reconcile events in various media with our understanding of physics 3-8 or use cartoons themselves to help explain physics topics. 9 The core premise of my School of Humanities & Sciences Honors Seminar is that the physics we see in these media are “real.” We see the events occur, so they must be real. Instead of being skeptics when watching these unusual and sometimes usual events occur, stu- dents form multiple working hypotheses that might explain the events they witness. 10 Taking a very New- tonian view of the worlds we are studying, students extract position-versus-time data using VideoPoint software (other software such as Vernier’s Logger Pro can also be used but currently does not have all of the features of VideoPoint). Line fitting to these data results in an equation of motion informs the students about the acceleration (which is frequently zero), the speed, and the initial conditions. These data and line fits are used to test student’s multiple working hypotheses. In the grand tradition of experimental sci- ence the students often find themselves forming new hypotheses and questions. Students report their results in written reports and oral presentations. Structure of The Course The course is offered Tuesday / Thursday for an hour and 15 minutes. Most class sessions begin with a 10-minute lecture covering kinematics, forces, en- ergy, gravity, bright line emission spectra, quantum mechanics, special relativity, general relativity, and cur- rent work on unifying theories. The 10-minute lecture is followed by a 5-minute discussion of experimental techniques and an outline of the objectives for the class period. Students join their self-formed groups to select clips to study, collect data, analyze data, and make conclusions. Approximately every two weeks the class concludes with a discussion of the physics studied, and analysis is conducted with an emphasis on how scien- tists have developed an understanding of the physics in our world. During the first few weeks of the semester students analyze clips that I selected from the “Road Runner & Wiley E. Coyote” cartoons and the “Matrix movies. These “experiments” help the students learn how to
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This note was uploaded on 11/23/2011 for the course PHYS 6198 taught by Professor Cohor during the Summer '10 term at LSU.

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Physics_in_movies - An Inquiry-based Course Using...

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