American Association of Physics Teachers
Chesapeake Section


Spring 2005 Section Meeting

Lynchburg College

Lynchburg, VA 24501

March 11-12, 2005


Friday Keynote Speaker

James Trefil, George Mason University, "Managing the Planet -- Hard Science and Hard Choices"

There are developments going on in the science right now that will, in a matter of decades, change forever the relationship between human beings and nature. In this talk we will examine how we have come to this state of affairs by asking two questions: (1) how did nature get to be the way it is, and (2) how did humans get to be the way they are? It will be argued that starting about 10,000 years ago humans began to remove themselves from nature with the development of agriculture, and that this separation has intensified to the present day. Soon, however, developments in experimental ecology, genomics, and complexity theory will return humans to nature, not as participants, but as managers. We will close by looking at some of the principles that have been proposed for managing Planet Earth.

James Trefil

(Photo 1) (Photo 2)


Saturday Talks

Bruce R. Boller, Washington & Lee University, Some Thoughts on Osculating Circles and Trajectories
In today's news of various space exploration exploits we often use in the classroom the concept of a satellite or a space probe passing near a solar system object to explain the use of Newton's laws of motion and the law of gravitation. During such exercises we emphasize how the acceleration of the space probe contains a centripetal term. Most often, circular orbits are employed because of the ease with which the problem may be solved. This is especially true when the material arises in a first semester course in general physics, whether or not it is an algebra-based or calculus-based course.

Way back when advanced calculus was in vogue as a course after a year of differential equations, parametric equations for spatial curves was one of the topics of study. The radius of curvature of the best-fitting circle (osculating circle) at any point on the curve could be determined. So the natural question arises as to what the radius of curvature of the osculating circle is when a satellite or space probe is at the distance of closest approach to the gravitating body. How is the radius of curvature dependent upon the parameters in the equations of conic sections? The energy relationships are well known but the relationship between the radius of curvature at the distance of closest approach and the constants in the equation for conic sections is not necessarily readily available. This paper addresses the answer to that question. (Presentation) (Photo)


Stuart Farrell, Lynchburg College (student), A Numerical Approach to the One-Dimensional Schrödinger Equation
I will discuss quantum mechanics and show numerical results that I have obtained. I will examine various potentials, including finite square barriers, finite square wells, and a reflectionless potential. Best Student Paper Prize Winner (Presentation) (Photo)


Harold Geller, George Mason University, Effects of Integrated Science Courses on the Physical Sciences
Many higher education institutions now offer an integrated science course to give non-science majors a flavor of all of the sciences. These courses are types of survey courses that do not demonstrate the interdependencies among the science disciplines, exposing students to each of the science disciplines individually. The effects that different integrated science courses may have on the teaching and learning of physics, astronomy and other physical sciences, to non-science majors will be examined based upon courses now available at George Mason University. (Presentation) (Photo)


John Eric Goff, Lynchburg College, Modern Application for Introductory Physics: Bloodstain Pattern Analysis
Both anecdotal and quantitative evidence from recent years suggest that the popularity of television shows like CSI has led to many students entering college or university with a desire to give the field of forensic science a serious look. New forensic science minors and majors have sprung up in schools across the country to address the growing demand. Just this spring, Lynchburg College began offering a course in forensic science. This talk will address one of the many areas in which physics plays a crucial role in the multidisciplinary field of forensic science; namely, the analysis of bloodstain patterns found at many crime scenes. (Presentation) (Photo 1) (Photo 2)


Frank Munley, Roanoke College, Moving field lines and induced emf outside an infinite solenoid
Moving field lines outside finite and infinite solenoids will be discussed. A perennial problem is how an emf can be generated outside an infinite solenoid when the magnetic field outside is zero (in the magnetostatic approximation). I will show how to do it without fancy magnetic vector potentials but with simple field lines from two superimposed semi-infinite solenoids. (Photo)


Julius A. Sigler, Lynchburg College, Take-Out Physics-Supplementary Activities for Introductory Physics Courses
This paper will describe a variety of simple experiments (some more in the nature of demonstrations) that students can do on their own outside of class and outside of the traditional laboratory environment. Handouts for participants will include sufficient documentation to guide students in completing these activities. While high school teachers will find these especially useful, teachers of college-level introductory physics courses can also use them with significant effect. Frank R. Haig Prize Winner for "Best Paper from a Four-Year College" (Presentation) (Photo)


Bill Warren, Lord Fairfax Community College, Einstein’s Miraculous Year
2005 has been declared the “World Year of Physics” in honor of the centennial of Albert Einstein’s “miraculous year” which revolutionized physics. Einstein’s 1905 papers and their significance to the development of science and human affairs will be discussed. David Dwight Prize Winner for "Best Paper from a Two-Year College" (Presentation) (Photo)


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