3. Reading, Research and Reversing Through Time

The latest outing for Thomas and Robin in the world’s foremost (only?) podcast for teachers of physics talks about the weighty issues for physics teachers everywhere.

In this thrill-packed episode…

Hawking’s Last Book
  • As Matt Groening once said: “It’s all about the merch” Robin and Thomas decide on the logo for the first podcast T-shirt
  • It had to happen. Griffiths’ law states “In any gathering of nerds, talk will always turn to time travel in a time period inversely proportional to the total geekiness of the participants” Robin and Thomas discuss time travel after Stephen Hawking’s last book is published, and frankly we’re both surprised it took us until episode 3.
  • Contributor! A huge thank you to the inspirational Lauren who contacted the podcast to share what she has been up to supporting non-specialists both in her school and further afield. And wow, wouldn’t you love to work with her!
  • Let’s get reading: Lauren introduced us to Ben Rogers’ book The Big Ideas in Physics, and talked about the book club she is part of that shares books like Ben’s. A physics teachers book club? How great would that be in your area?
  • The Joy of Playing with of Coloured Water: The ‘new’ energy is a tough new take on a physics fundamental and Lauren talked Thomas through a way to demonstrate the new thinking.
  • Research Does Work: Lauren finished by talking about her work with the Education Endowment Foundation to create the Improving Secondary Science report.
  • Empty Universe: Thomas puts Robin on the spot by asking follow up questions about energy.
  • Don’t be a meanie: Thomas shares how he has changed his practise teaching Displacement, Velocity and Acceleration after reading Ben Rogers’ book.
  • Really Worth a Look: Robin recommends the the EEF Toolkit.
Lauren’s Book Club

A huge thank you to Lauren for joining the discussion, and we would love you to join in too.  Please share ideas or successes on our Facebook Page – https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website https://the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using  the address given in the podcast (if we remember) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

We have really enjoyed making this podcast for you and want to make you a part of it in future so please don’t be afraid of getting in touch: teachers of physics are our very favourite people in the multiverse!

The music we use remains One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

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Thinking back to when I started

Talking to Imogen for the new podcast has made me think back to when I started. I remember very well how I was only a few years older than the kids I was teaching, and my knowledge was only marginally ahead of theirs. I have wondered over the years whether my knowledge has moved on much beyond A Level. I am certainly much more experienced than the kids are and can get to a right answer faster than them, but not being a Physics graduate still leaves me feeling exposed at times.

There are so many things you need to be a successful teacher over and above a Physics degree that I don’t fret too much. Loving the subject and still finding wonder in it (whilst teaching essentially the same content each year) goes a long way. 

The paper was pulled along steadily under a swinging sand-timer – SHM

2. A New Physics Teacher

We made it to Episode two! Thank you for coming back, or a very warm welcome if you’ve just joined us. In this episode:

  • Secret identity: Robin finally gets round to introducing himself
  • Out of this world: Thomas tells Robin about the recent exomoon discovery
  • Goldfinger: Thomas will not make it as a Bond villain.  He couldn’t pop a balloon with the school’s 1mW laser. Can you help him  in his quest?
  • A New Hope: We talk to Imogen, a first year Physics teacher, about the joy of doing something new in the classroom.
  • Journey and Destination: Imogen explains her path to teaching, what she is enjoying and some of the challenges she faces
  • Stores and transfers: Thomas’ cracking contraption – or continuous flow calorimeter, if you like – gets the podcast once-over

We are so looking forward to you joining the discussion, so please share ideas or successes on our Facebook Page – https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website https://the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, email using the form below (or the address given in the podcast) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because we may use your audio in a future episode.

We have really enjoyed making this podcast for you and want to make you a part of it in future so please don’t be afraid of getting in touch: physics teachers are our very favourite people in the world… or indeed the planet-moon system rotating around its common centre of gravity.   Time for bed!

The music in this episode is One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

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Fudged together continuous flow calorimeter.
Continuous Flow Calorimeter; more heaters needed at this point!

“Air Is Heavy”

After mentioning my memories of my first physics experiment I decided to look for that exercise book. I turned the house upside down a couple of times looking for the battered little grey blotter before my wife remembered a plastic bag of old school books in the roof. I had strong memories of putting the book away in a very safe place so was somewhat sceptical. Of course she was correct and the book was orange.

The write up of “Air is Heavy” makes me happy. A simple experiment that shows something fundamental that has a short write-up, a correct conclusion, and is not marked!

As for my conclusions in the first experiment, “Air Is Every where”, I am not too sure about the my conclusions! There are several more experiments (“Gas Cannon”, “Warm air expands”, “Light”, “Bottle Volcano”) in there, and some terrible and wrong ideas about why a couple of them worked. Maybe we will look at that in a future podcast.

This was done right at the end of my time in Primary School, so I had just turned 11 years old.

Transcript

This is corrected for grammar and spelling but not physics!

Air Is Everywhere

Air is everywhere. It fills every gap and crack in the world.  There is a layer of air all around the Earth which holds everything down. You can only feel air with the wind or breathing.
We put an upside-down jar in the water and the air started pushing up because it was under water. No water got in to the jar.

Air is Heavy

We hung two balloons up and they balanced each other.

We popped one and the yellow one was pulled up.

This shows that air weighs something.

1. Balloons!

Thomas and Robin sincerely hope you enjoyed the first episode of the physics teaching podcast, and that you are enthused to do some more practical work in your classroom.  The physics teaching podcast is all about celebrating the professionalism of teachers of physics. We know that many of you don’t have the professional physics networks enjoyed by other subjects – either because you are the only physic teacher in your school, or you are a teacher of another subject who is stepping up to teach physics in the absence of a specialist.  Either way, your professional identity as a physics teacher is not properly celebrated, so be proud of the physics you teach by engaging with the podcast, posting on our Facebook page or Tweeting. Details are below. We are keen to hear from you if you would like to be a part of physics teaching podcast history and be among our first guests. Tell us a practical you love and why, and we will be in touch.

Practical work is such a central aspect of physics teaching, and yet it is under threat from shrinking budgets, ballooning workload and a lack of confidence or training in physics experimental techniques.  The wonderful Gatsby foundation recently produced a report on the importance of practical work in science.

In this episode:

  • Thomas introduced himself and his reasons for wanting to podcast;
  • Jessica Rowson from the IoP tells us how she loves using a balloon to explore ideas in physics;
    • By using water in the balloon to stop it popping over a candle and exploring the idea of heat sinks and specific heat capacity
    • By shining a laser on a black/white balloon and explaining why the black one pops
    • By challenging student misconceptions about how a rocket takes off
  • Robin tests Thomas on Newton’s third law;
  • Thomas reminisces about his first ever physics experiment.

We know that in schools generally and physics departments specifically there is real concern over the budgets available, and so it was great to hear from Jessica about a series of physics principles that you can show just using a balloon!  You often don’t need a lot of money to ‘do physics’ and something Robin mentioned was the work of Joe Brock in Africa where he showed how practical physics didn’t necessarily need expensive kit. Heis work is described in a beautifully detailed pdf.  Have a chat with your technician about this – I’ll bet that between you, you’ll find something there you can use.

It would be great if you could share ideas or successes on our Facebook Page – https://fb.me/physicstp – it won’t take a minute to sign up.  Alternatively, you can message us via our website https://the.physicsteachingpodcast.com, Twitter @physicstp, by email using the form below (or the address given in the podcast) or by leaving a voice memo using WhatsApp or Telegram to the phone number in our Twitter profile (don’t call the number, nobody will answer, just hold down the microphone icon and speak your message). Don’t forget to tell us your name because may use your audio in a future episode.

The music in this episode is One legged equilibrist polka by Circus Homunculus.

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Tick-Tock

So, the first podcast will go live at 5:00am tomorrow. Arbitrary timing I know, but it gives us time to panic in the night and pull the plug on this crazy idea.

I was teaching this morning and tried a couple of the experiments we talked about because I could almost, kinda, sorta, squeeze them in to what I was teaching (OK, I couldn’t but one *did* tie in to some Thermal physics I was covering last week). One worked well, the other was a complete fail. I have posted on Facebook for help and advice.

This afternoon I have been trying to get the levels right. I played the final podcast in my car and it nearly blew the windows out. I have been learning about compressing and limiting this afternoon and am optimistic it will sound better. For those who are in the know, “my LUFS is neg 18.8”.

Do contact us if you would like to contribute:

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Steep learning curve

Wow. My respect for podcasters grows daily. We have done much testing in the last week or so and found that our backup solution for interview (Skype) could give very high quality sound when it was required. We had to use Skype with our chosen interviewee for the first podcast and the quality of the audio is pretty awful. I have cleaned it up as best I can but it is what it is.

I am also in awe of podcasters and broadcasters who sound so erudite all the time. One would imagine we (I!) will get better with time, but in post production I spent a fair bit of time removing our ‘ums’ and ‘ers’ to make it shorter and make it flow better.

We are inching (millimetreing?) towards the first release, which will be on Thursday. Please be gentle when it comes.

If you are interested in getting involved please contact us:

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Early Days

Robin and I have been talking about doing a podcast for a while, but now we appear to have committed. We are on a terribly steep learning curve and the last two weeks have involved a lot of web site setup, equipment setup, practise interviews and pondering what we are trying to produce, why and who for?

If we get just two listeners (I am pretty sure my mum will tune in), for how long will we continue?  What does success look like when the target audience is a small section (Science Teachers) of a small section (Teachers) of the Podcast Listeners in the Country (World?)?  We think that we will try to produce weekly and commit to an academic year’s worth (39) but will release podcasts in term time only.

We are hoping to release our first real podcast next week. 😬

We are currently recording a few interviews, something that we think will be the foundation of our output. If you are interested in sharing your favourite physics experiment and your joy in teaching it please get in touch with us through the form below:

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0. Vacuum Pump & Pressure

Catastrophic Spacesuit Failure

In our first ever effort at making some content, Thomas talks about how he entertained parents at Open Evening using a vacuum pump, bell jar, tin foil, marshmallows and Tunnocks Tea Cakes.

The Astronaut's head explodes