A Swiss Roll

26. Finding Physics Teaching at Fifty-Three

Thomas, Robin and Patrick Kaplo hear from Jonathan Shaw, a late career change to Physics teaching who is in his NQT year at 53 years old. Jonathan also challenges the team to select the most important equipment for a new physics department.


  • Vacuum cannon update @ 00:39
  • Ways to teach… Waves reminder @ 01:04
  • Physics in the News: Coal Free Electricity in the UK @ 02:39
  • Energy storage with cars @ 03:56
  • Jonathan Shaw, NQT @ 04:47
  • After the interview discussion @ 20:40
    • Swiss Roll @ 20:44
  • Which equipment should a Physics department have? @ 29:35


Thomas reminds us that the Vacuum Cannon can once more be ordered in the shop (for delivery in early June). Physics In The News leads to a chat about the UK’s coal-free week and the idea of load balancing with electric cars. This week’s guest is Jonathan Shaw, a successful businessman and entrepreneur who found his true calling as a Physics teacher late in life. What he says challenges Patrick, Thomas and Robin to justify practical work and also to come up with the equipment that a Physics department should have if starting from scratch. Robin gives his top tips for teaching other teachers to use oscilloscopes but is sceptical about a virtual oscilloscope but Thomas recommends the one at academo.org. Share your list with @physicstp on twitter with the hash tag #tptpequipment.

Ways to teach… Waves

Episode 27 will be all about ways to teach Waves. How do you do it and what works best for you? You have until Saturday night to give us your ideas, and one of them will win Alom Shaha’s excellent book Recipes for Wonder.

Please share ideas or successes – or indeed questions – on our Facebook Page: https://fb.me/physicstp .  You can also message us via our website contact form at 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. Please do leave a voice memo: Thomas thinks nobody loves him.

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

Send Message
Reset Form

Squeezing it all in + pondering momentum 😖

This week’s episode was a bumper edition, and we had to work hard to keep it down to just under 27 minutes. I really wanted to put in the Practicals In Memoriam (PIM) section and this led to cutting down the interview. Robin and I have talked a few times about the ideal length for the episodes, and hit on 20 minutes as short enough for a commute, and short enough to listen to a few on the bounce when you find the podcast.

As our production skills improve longer ones are easier to do and each podcast has been longer than the previous, but I think we will aim to keep them short. On reflection we felt that this Episode 5 was rather “busy” and maybe we should have kept back the PIM for another day. It deserved a whole podcast of its own maybe.  But when you are aiming to hit a deadline you have to make a decision and run with it. We were still tossing it back and forth on Wednesday night.

Pine nut shooters (straws)

In other news I asked Robin if he had any ideas for a class practical that could explore momentum. I wheel out the air track every year, but it is not very inspiring. He came up with pea shooters and impulse (Ft). I would really like to do something quantitative so my idea from this is you propel the pea (in my case pine nut) as hard as you can and see how far it goes as you reduce the length of the straw.  Assuming that the force is constant whilst the nut is in the straw, then the acceleration will be too and the time in the straw will be proportional to the square root of its length (suvat). The impulse is the change in momentum, so the velocity will also be proportional to the square root of the straws length and the distance the nut travels will be too. That’s my theory, but it seems over-complicated and could be done with suvat without any reference to impulse at all!  I am still humming and hahing about whether to use it.

An alternative would be Stuart’s practical, rolling balls down the slope in to cups. From suvat I can get the students to show that velocity is proportional to square root of the distance up the ruler. But where do I go from there? Pre-schoolers could tell you the cups will go further if the ball rolls faster. If I keep the velocity the same then heavier cups don’t go as far, but again, there is no obvious momentum related quantitative results I can gather. I did use Stuart’s experiment at Open Evening yesterday. IT worked well until the volunteers got excited about monkey-hunter!

I think I will be rolling out the air-track and doing the pea shooters qualitatively. 🙈