Week of January 3 & 4, 2013 & Exam Week

It is here! The end of the semester is upon us, marking a victorious moment for you as you conquer the material from this semester. Please start studying as soon as possible. The exam schedule is…


(Click the image.)

 PhysicsYour exam will cover units 1, 2, 3, and part of 4 (as discussed in class.) Use the “Unit Overview” documents to see the standards (“learning goals”) you need to master, including sample questions and lists of skills. Please use the podcasts and do practice problems from the book. I will run review sessions after school on January 3rd, 4th, and 7th as well as before school on January 4th and 7th.

Astronomy: Your exam will cover all six units from the course.

Study Strategies:

  • When watching podcasts or reviewing notes, don’t sit passively. Instead construct a cognitive map (“web”) out of the notes. We’ve talked in class about the benefits of this approach. See a sample here.
  • Do practice problems. For physics, retry problems from the book and check your answers against your old homework. Also quiz yourself from the questions in the unit overviews. For astronomy, go over the old homework, quiz yourself from the unit overviews, and practice skills such as star mapping and meridian diagrams referenced in the overviews.
  • Physics: Go to the web apps linked from the homepage of our website as well as from each unit’s webpage. Also review your lab reports to ensure you can analyze similar data. (You don’t need to memorize lab procedures or results.)
  • Break your studying up into multiple short sessions. You’ll encode the information better.
  • Spend enough time studying.

Cool Science of the WeekThis is just fun and cool. Scientists use satellites to track navigational patterns of tagged sharks, and you can see them “ping.” Sixteen-footer Mary Lee just pinged this afternoon (12-21) off of Cape Cod. For those of you vacationing near beaches, it sure is fun to think about! 😉


Week of December 17, 2012

One week until vacation! One week that we still get to do work! 🙂

This week in physics: We will deepen our exploration of the energy unit. Because we’ll be doing modeling in class, do not watch the podcasts until I tell you you’re ready. (Sixth period, you’re ready! :))

Following the full discussion of these podcasts, we’ll do assignment 1 followed by a quiz. Next you’ll need to watch the following podcasts by the date assigned in class:

We’ll then to practice problems and assignment 2 followed by a quiz. Podcasts 8, 9, 10, and 11 will support your work.

This week in astronomy: We will explore the wild, spooky, cool, and bizarre aspects of our universe, including astronomical theories* of its birth and the possibilities for its death. Come prepared to be inspired to think so hard that your brain hurts! 🙂

* We will discuss these as theories of astronomy, which is what this course teaches. We will do so with respect for other views.

Cool Science: Will the Earth be destroyed on Friday, eliminating the need to study for January’s exams?

Not likely, if you take science as your guide. Let’s look at some of the rumors:

  • Myth: An alignment of all the planets in our solar system will gravitationally tug at Earth, disrupting our orbit and making tidal waters flood and recede.
    • Reality: There won’t be an alignment like this, but if there were, the gravitational effect would not be significant. Moreover, it’s happened many times in Earth’s history (last was in Y2K,) and we’re still here. Chalk one up for us! 🙂
  • Myth: The Sun and Earth will align with the center of the Milky Way galaxy, exposing us to a massive blast from a magnetic field and a huge gravitational shift. The result will be an obliteration of migratory patterns for animals, erasure of our electronic communication systems, and other general deatlhy chaos.
    • Reality: It’s true that this alignment will occur, but it will be at its peak a few days before the solstice. Moreover, there won’t be any change to the gravitational effect of the black hole at the center of the Milky Way or magnetic fields emitted by the black hole because the change in our position relative to it won’t be significantly different from any other time. (We’re really far away. Take a step to the south, and you’re not significantly closer to Florida than you were before.) Finally, this alignment occurs regularly. This has all happened before, and it will happen again. (Battlestar Gallactica reference intended.) This article from NASA explains all of this in more detail.
  • Myth: It’s the winter solstice.
    • Reality: It’s the winter solstice. 🙂
  • Myth: Semester exams are the week of January 7, 2013.
    • Reality: Semester exams really are the week of January 7, 2013. Next week’s blog will fill you in. 🙂

Week of December 10, 2012

We’re entering the last 2.5 weeks of the semester at top speed!

This week in physics: On Monday we will quickly tie up the loose ends of our exploration of the dynamics and related kinematics of Newton’s Second Law. We will also enjoy a quick conceptual exploration of Newton’s Third Law and assignment 6. On Tuesday we’ll take a quiz over Newton’s Second Law. This will complete Unit 3, which brings us to a decision. I don’t want the Friction Lab to be due on the same day as the unit test, so each class can decide whether to postpone the lab or the test until Thursday. If a class postpones the test, then that class will begin the energy unit a day early. Based on each class’s decision, the following podcasts to begin Unit 4 – Energy will be due either on Wednesday or Thursday. These podcasts are:

Following our exploration of these types of energy, we will do assignment one from this unit. A quiz will likely occur the following week.

IMPORTANT: For the lab that is due this week, please be sure to read the blog entry from the week of December 3rd for important instructions and information.

This week in astronomy: On Monday and Tuesday we’ll do our group presentations on Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune. (If you are absent the day your group presents, you will need to do an alternate assignment. See me for details.) We’ll take a quiz over the planets on Wednesday and complete our study of the solar system unit by exploring asteroids, comets, and meteoroids/meteors/meteorites. Expect a test by the end of the week.

Cool Science of the WeekNASA has just released a free app called “Earth as Art” to share some of the beautiful images taken by satellites over the  years. I like the idea of Earth being art. Color me cheesey.

Speaking of beautiful satellite images, check out this video of the Earth at night, compiled by NASA from one of its satellites. While you watch it, think about the direction the satellite must be traveling relative to the Earth’s rotation. That will make it even more fun and science-y. 🙂

Finally, there’s much ado these days about planetary and galactic alignments, the Mayan calendar, and the winter solstice. We’ll look at that from a science perspective next week, but in the meantime, did you know you can create an online countdown clock for any event? There’s also a link on that page to a site where you can calculate the number of days between any two events, like how many days between the day you were born and today. Seems fun! 🙂