Somebody Out There Likes Us

Robin and I started with very limited ambitions, it wasn’t quite “more listeners than presenters” but not far off. We agreed to do episodes until the end of the academic year and then see where we stood. At that point we had not got much further than me telling Robin he and I should start a podcast and then months later him finding the statistic that about 50% of schools in the UK have one or zero physics teachers. We just wanted to try something, try to build a community and see what happened. I am a regular listener of The Cycling Podcast and modelled a lot of our approach on them.

As we started I had no idea about format, content, approach, social media, iTunes ratings, post production, how to talk to a microphone and had never considered a T-shirt or shop (or adding a forum) But I am top loaded with running web sites and general geekery, so I figured I would muddle through.

It was a revelation to me (physics teacher, but never an audiophile) to find that a microphone has preferred orientation. Listening back you can tell the episode where I worked out where to point my mouth when recording.  I found a great T-shirt supplier when looking for somewhere to buy a jokey shirt for Robin. They actually make the shirts on demand and provide a WordPress plugin, so one thing led to another and now… a shop! Just a bit of fun of course, as Robin says in Episode 9, this is nothing about money… But if it helps build a community then that’s brilliant.

As I went to sleep on the night before episode 1 I was not convinced I wouldn’t grab my phone at 4am and cancel it. Now, as we approach the recording of episode 10 I feel more comfortable hearing my own voice. I’ve also been dragged kicking and screaming in to social media and I feel a community is growing. (We have had a few emails thanking us for doing it and the interaction on Twitter has been fun). It has also been hugely enjoyable talking to different people and learning from them: I recorded another PIM this week which will most likely be in Episode 11. Please do continue to send us ideas. We love hearing them all. You can use the form below.

Finally, to get some 5* ratings in iTunes is pretty stunning to be honest, so thank you very much, listener(s!).

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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. ?


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