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. 🙂