Physics

The Measure of All Things: The Seven-Year Odyssey and Hidden Error That Transformed the World

In 1792, the French Academy of Sciences appointed two respected scientists to survey a north-south meridian from Dunkirk to Barcelona, for the purpose of determining the size (and shape) of the earth. Why is this important? Because it would establish an international basis for the meter, foundation of the metric system.

Relativity and the Global Positioning System

An ideal companion to "The Universe in a Nutshell" is this article by Neil Ashby, a Professor of Physics at University of Colorado - Boulder. Hand- held GPS devices have become standard equipment for boaters, hikers, and technology junkies. It is now taken for granted that one's position on the earth can be obtained within a few seconds, accurately, and free.

Backyard Ballistics: Build Potato Cannons, Paper Match Rockets, Cincinnati Fire Kites, Tennis Ball Mortars, and More Dynamite Devices

This book is not politically correct, in an era in which school science experiments have been tamed to the point that there is little possibility that the teacher will kill or maim him/herself.

Vacuum Bazookas, Electric Rainbow Jelly, and 27 Other Saturday Science Projects

Those of us who were fans of the old "Amateur Scientist" column of Scientific American will enjoy this collection of projects that look to be fun to build and to play with. These are all things that the author has invented or adapted for a Saturday Science Club for kids near his home in Guildford, UK.

Nine Crazy Ideas in Science: A Few of Them Might Even be True

One of the goals of a course I teach in our Honors College is to provide non-science majors with the tools they need to differentiate authentic science from material that has merely been provided a "scientific" dressing. Physicist Robert Ehrlich has provided nine case studies that are ideal for this purpose. Do more guns in the hands of citizens decrease crime? Is AIDS really caused by HIV?

Off the Planet: Surviving Five Perilous Months Aboard the Space Station Mir

The word "Surviving" should probably be underlined in the title of this first-hand account by an American astro/cosmonaut of his experiences aboard Mir. There is precious little science in this book, but a great deal about living at the mercy of technology and Russian bureaucracy.

The Shaken-Soda Syndrome

Try this! Take two identical cans of soda (or some other beverage). Roll then down a slight incline to confirm that they roll at about the same speed. What do you think will happen if you shake up one can and roll them again? Make a prediction. Then try it. Have your students do it. Develop hypotheses and test them. This is a terrific experiment that anyone can do.

The Physics of Gridlock

How is automobile traffic like a gas? No, it's not because the collisions are inelastic. Researchers in chaos theory, especially Dirk Helbing and Boris Kerner, both theoretical physicists, have been working on traffic flow, using models similar to those of particle dynamics.