So, I'm taking a class on science and math education this semester because I think they're important things for people to know, because so much of our modern world depends on them, and they often run so counter to our intuition. Even as someone who has been taking physics courses for the last six years, I often find myself not completely sure of how things work, or at least unable to explain them to people when the chance arises. For this class, I've been visiting a local high school and sitting in on their physics class. I get to help out a little, and I'm slowly learning a bit about the craft of teaching. While the part I'm most afraid of is classroom management (Not necessarily the best and handling conflict) I can only learn that from experience, and to get experience I have to plan some lessons...
The first lesson I've been given to teach is magnetism. Specifically, I chose to deal with magnetic fields, which are something really strange to people because they float invisibly in the air around us, and we don't usually think about them so much as the effect of the things that cause them. As far as I was concerned, I had two real examples to work with: The Earth's magnetic field and the magnetic field of bar magnets.
The best method I could find or come up with for introducing magnetic field lines was to take a compass and a bar magnet and trace one out. I think that actually got things across pretty well, because you have the compass needle pointing in the direction that the field points at any given spot around the magnet, and you can go from there, talking about the direction of the field (from north to south, which I taught backwards once) and then on to field strength.
I then fell back on iron filings and different shaped magnets for a lab section, which went pretty well, too. The Magnets Lab was supposed to teach about the loops of magnetic fields by showing, using the paramagnetism of iron filings.
Most of what I took away from the lesson, though, was organizational. The students needed me to write down the important things I was saying so they could take notes. I also needed to demonstrate the lab, and other things that I'd long since forgotten about, while being in college.
I'm already two weeks late on this (and less late on other things) but two weeks ago I got the chance to present my senior research at the University of Rochester. For those who haven't already read about it, I've been working on quantum optics with professor Kiko Galvez at Colgate. I got to start working on this back in September, and being only a senior in college, I can say with little doubt this is the subject I know the most about in physics. Since then, I've become attached to the subject, and was really excited to get to talk about it in front of an audience. Furthermore, since the conference was titled the Rochester Symposium for Physics (Astronomy & Optics) Students (emphasis mine), I figured I'd probably be talking to an audience that knew something about what I was talking about.
I got to talk pretty early on in the day, which was fine by me, I like being done with obligations, and didn't really get the questions I was hoping for. While I'm certainly glad the conference was put on, none of the students really seemed willing to sick their heads out and ask something. There were a couple cool projects, a couple that really didn't seem to have any physics in them (especially in the biophysics section). I guess it was a good time for people to make some of their first presentations. It really brought out how useful Colgate's Physics requirement of presenting your senior research really is. In any event, I felt good about what I did.
With that, I leave you with a link to my presentation, and a picture of the confinement fusion chamber at the LLE at the University of Rochester, which is probably the closest thing to the death star I will ever see.
This is where a whole bunch of very high energy, pulsed laser beams are brought together to cause deuterium and tritium to fuse by melting a plastic ball the fuel is contained in. These pulses are extremely short, but if you look at hole #11 in the picture (under the more visible #22), you can see a black mark that was at least 6 inches in diameter, which is from someone not aligning the mirror as well as they could have.
Last Monday, I took a step I'd been meaning to take for about 4 years, pretty much since I joined. I left facebook! There were certainly enough reasons, all of the information leak scares, knowing how much people rely on it for day to day information about people they don't really know, and the increasing feeling that I was just a pawn in someone else's money-machine.
It's been pretty interesting being out, since most people are know are still in it. I get lots of conversations that start with "What do you think about... oh wait, you're not on facebook, so you probably haven't seen..." Apparently a friend of mine was awarded a Fulbright recently, and I just found out today because she announced it on facebook. It's the sort of thing that makes me wonder whether I made a right choice. I know how much time I wasted refreshing the page and only getting news about people from high school I don't care about, who post far more than anyone I do care about. I like to think that was a failure of facebook in interpreting and selecting information, but now I'm still out of the loop on a lot of things. There are some people I don't have e-mail addresses for, and might not be able to easily contact at the moment, but hopefully I'll collect information from mutual friends and be able to get in touch with people when the need arises.
In what I like to think has become a reflexive exercise for me, I find myself thinking, what was it that I didn't like about facebook, and can I find something that is better. I don't really know anyone who uses microblogging software, indenti.ca being the notable FOSS option there, so there seems no reason to start. Maybe I just need to send out this blog to more people, and hope they'll check in on me from time to time, or add me to an RSS aggregator.
Reflecting in a different way, this is yet another way I've willingly limited my interactions with other people. I don't eat meat with them, I don't go on facebook with them, etc. I hope it makes other interactions more meaningful, instead of just cutting people off.