7. Ben, Big Ideas and beginnings

 Ben’s Book

Thomas and Robin talk about the podcast’s roots and where it all started, to help all teachers of physics to feel a sense of professional community. You can help by sharing it with your friends, and if you do that you have a chance to win a podcast T-Shirt! The competition lasts until 30th November 2018 and the winner will be announced in the Episode 8.

We were joined by author and all-round lovely man Ben Rogers, whose books The Big Ideas in Physics and How to Teach Them is taking the physics teaching community by storm.  Ben tells us about cognitive science (links below); why he is not opposed to practical work, and how he came up with all the history and characters in the book.

Thomas enthuses about the versorium needle (everyone should make one). 

Robin was on his soapbox again (it happens, just ignore him) encouraging teachers to avoid the temptation to treat new ideas as how they should be teaching, rather to use the ideas to enhance the good practice you’ve built up.

Versorium (needle)

Ben’s References for Cognitive Science

…and finally

Don’t forget to enter our first competition. Win a beautiful podcast T-shirt (in the colour of your choice) by interacting! To win, tell us why you like listening. There are many ways to do this:

Thomas and Robin will pick a winner and announce it in Episode 8.

It remains an engrossing and uplifting adventure making this podcast for you.  You’ve already taken it in directions we weren’t expecting; it really is your podcast, so please get in touch: teachers of physics are our very favourite breed of hero!

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

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Thomas and Robin

6. What happens when your jelly won’t hold your weight? Is it time to lose some mass?

Jelly chair aftermath

Thomas and Robin got together in the same room for a chat this week. Don’t worry, as a good physicist and a good engineer they avoided eye contact*. The big news last week was the redefinition of the kilogram which was originally based on the mass of Napoleon’s leg**, but latterly on a  lump of metal held in what looked suspiciously like a cake container. So we discussed misconceptions about mass and weight and about one of Thomas’ favourite experiments: the jelly chair.

*Well, that’s an unhelpful stereotype!  In fact we were highly empathetic and talked about our feelings extensively.

**completely made up

Competition! 

Now we have listeners, AND an Instagram page (@physics_teaching_podcast) we thought we would encourage you to share the podcast by having our first competition. Win a beautiful podcast T-shirt (in the colour of your choice) by interacting! To win, tell us why you like listening. There are many ways to do this:

Thomas and Robin will pick a winner in a couple of weeks.

It remains an enthralling and inspiring adventure making this podcast for you.  You’ve already taken it in directions we weren’t expecting; it really is your podcast, so please get in touch: teachers of physics are our very favourite breed of hero!

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

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5. Models, marbles and marvels…

In a bumper 5th episode, we chat to Stuart Farmer, self-proclaimed “Listener Number 2” about a brilliant visualisation of uncertainty.  In keeping with parsimonious podcast principles, Stuart’s practical involves nothing more elaborate than a variety of marbles and some paper cups.  You’ll love it!

Thanks to Stuart Farmer

Stuart got in touch and told us about his favourite physics, and we would love to hear from you.  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, +44 7898 814716 (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.

Once again, it has been joyous and enlightening making this podcast for you and we want you to be a part of it, so please get in touch: teachers of physics are our very favourite people in the World!

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

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4. Why Don’t More Girls Choose Physics?

Thomas and Robin try to find A New Hope in Episode 4 by addressing the perennial problem of the small proportion of girls choosing A Level Physics. 

In this Episode:

  • World Dark Matter Day, 31st October: How did you celebrate it?
  • The Perimeter Institute and their Free Resources.
  • Where are all the girls? Jessica Rowson, former IoP Gender Balance Guru explains why girls don’t choose physics (lack of good teachers of Physics, parental influence and societal pressures), and suggests three easy things to do to make Physics a more attractive option (teach in context, link physics to careers and provide displays that promote the idea of physics in a non-biased way).  
  • Unconscious Bias Tests: Harvard provides them as IAT (Implicit Association Test) in Project Implicit. Robin and Thomas took the Gender-Science one.

Thank you again to Jessica for her time and wisdom, 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 (+44 7898 814716). (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.

If you really want to help us grow, please rate and review us on iTunes, thanks!

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 World!

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

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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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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!

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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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