Frontiers of Physics
Professor Ken Pounds CBE FRS (University of Leicester, UK)
Black Holes in the nuclei of Galaxies
Ken Pounds moved to Leicester in 1960 to help form a new research group in Space Astrophysics. While X-ray Astronomy has continued ever since as a core space science activity at Leicester, the University programme has now expanded to include Planetary and Earth Observation Science and is now among the biggest academic space research centres in Europe. As Head of Physics and Astronomy for 12 years Professor Pounds was also instrumental in the Department taking a UK lead in using astronomy and space science as popular vehicles for teaching undergraduate physics.
In 2008 Emeritus Professor Pounds was the first British scientist to be awarded the prestigious COSPAR Science Award, recognising his outstanding contributions to space science. Previous accolades for Professor include the 2007 Planetary Award of the Association of Space Explorers and the 1989 Gold Medal of the Royal Astronomical Society. Professor Pounds was elected a Fellow of the Royal Society in 1981 and President of the Royal Astronomical Society from 1990-92. He was the first Chief Executive of PPARC (1994-98), the research council responsible for astronomy, particle physics and space science in the UK. Recently Professor Pounds has been an active advocate for the UK reversing its opposition to human spaceflight.
ABSTRACT: Many galaxies are seen to have a bright, star-like nucleus which, in extreme cases, can dominate the light of the host galaxy. Observations with the Ariel 5 Satellite in the 1970s first showed that the nuclei in such ‘active galaxies’ are also powerful sources of X-radiation.
Subsequent observations with ever-more sensitive space-borne observatories have provided definitive evidence that matter falling onto a massive black hole is responsible for the enormous power of these active galactic nuclei.
The extreme conditions close to a black hole make observations at X-ray wavelengths the best way to explore their properties. In turn that demands observations from Space, a requirement which has given Leicester researchers the chance to play a leading role in that exploration for over 30 years.
Professor Steve Swithenby (Open University, UK)
Brain imaging and learning physics
Professor Swithenby has a background in experimental physics. After an early career at Oxford and Sussex Universities, he joined the Open University where he pioneered the development of biomagnetic instrumentation in the UK. After an extended period of building instruments and devising analytical approaches, he shifted his main attention to applications in cognitive science. Areas studied over the last decade, in collaboration with colleagues in Oxford, Helsinki and Aston, include autism, face processing, language processing and decision making. Professor Swithenby has combined this research with senior management roles in the OU, including Dean of Science, and an interest in pedagogical research. He is at present the Director of the Centre for Open Learning of Mathematics, Science, Computing and Technology and is beginning a new strand of work on the neurophysiology of learning and the acquisition of expertise.
ABSTRACT:The ways in which we teach are heavily influenced by our background assumptions about the way the brain works and how the brain develops. For example, the growth of problem based learning, peer assessment, and the formal teaching of problem solving techniques are all underpinned by psychological theories I will discuss the relationship between psychology and our approaches to teaching and point out where I believe psychology is being misapplied.
In spite of these difficulties, I will suggest that modern cognitive neuroscience could underpin a new era of ''evidence based teaching'. After introducing the functional imaging methods used in studying cognition, I will suggest that they imaging of brain activity could offer new insights in teaching physics, an assertion that I will attempt to justify by describing the early results of an empirical study. This work, a collaboration between the Open University and Oxford, involves using magnetoencephalography to observe how expertise in algebra is reflected in the patterns of activity in the brain. The early results are striking with clear indications that experts don't just think better or faster - they think differently. Can we use this information to improve our style of teaching and our support of individual students.
Professor Els de Wolf (Nikhef/ University of Amsterdam)
ANTARES and KM3NeT: detection of high-energy cosmic neutrinos
Els de Wolf is associate professor at the University of Amsterdam and the Dutch national institute for subatomic physics, Nikhef. After a career in particle physics, she moved to the field of astroparticle physics by joining the Antares collaboration which was formed to build a neutrino telescope at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea. Since 2006 she is also involved in the design of the new generation neutrino telescope KM3NeT. Since 2008 she is the European coordinator of the production preparation of this telescope.
ABSTRACT: The observation of high-energy cosmic neutrinos is one of the most promising future options to increase our knowledge on non-thermal processes in the Universe. Cosmic neutrinos can bring us information over distances much larger than can be achieved with electromagnetic radiation. They point straight back to their source, thus allowing for its identification, and can escape from the inner core of violent astrophysical objects, such as Gamma Ray Burst or Active Galactic Nuclei. Since neutrinos interact only weakly with matter, their observation requires detectors of cubic kilometre scale. The detection of cosmic neutrinos relies on the detection of the Cherenkov light emitted by neutrino-induced muons by an array of sensitive photosensors. At the South Pole, such an array, the IceCube neutrino telescope, is being built and taking data. In 2008, the ANTARES neutrino telescope has been completed at the bottom of the Mediterranean Sea at a depth of about 2.5 km. Together, these telescopes provide full sky coverage for the observation of cosmic neutrinos. Building on the experience with the ANTARES detector, the next generation neutrino telescope KM3NeT is being designed. The presentation reports on results of ANTARES and the status of the design of KM3NeT.
Dr Martina Knoop (PIIM CRNS-University of Provence, Marseille, France)
High precision spectroscopy of trapped ions - from metrology to quantum information
Dr.Martina Knoop is a researcher with the French National Research Centre CNRS, working in a laboratory at Université de Provence in Marseille. She is an experimentalist in the areas of atomic physics, optics and quantum optics. Her research activities and interests include storage of ion clouds and single ions in radiofrequency traps of various size, lifetime measurements, investigation of collisional effects with trapped ions, spectroscopy in miniature traps, generation of different (laser) wavelengths and laser stabilisation techniques, manipulation of atomic states with laser radiation, novel interrogation protocols for THz standards, multipole traps for the investigation of ion dynamics, sympathetic cooling for the creation of cold atoms and molecules.
As a German citizen she pursued Diploma studies at the university in Tuebingen/Germany. Since 1991 she has been working in Marseille, first as a PhD student, then as a researcher, and presently heads a small research group. She is a member of the French and the German Physical society, and a member of the EPS executive committee since last year.
ABSTRACT: Charged particles can be stored in traps by oscillating AC electric fields (Paul trap) or a combination of static electric and magnetic fields (Penning trap). Trapping is possible for a large variety of species: from a dust particle to a single atomic ion. The confinement times in these devices can be extremely long (several days) in a quasi-interaction free environment. The long trapping times and the extremely well controlled experimental conditions allow to perform very high-precision spectroscopic measurements. Laser cooling of the trapped ions reduces the Doppler broadening; increasing the observed fluorescence signal and enhancing the spatial localisation of the particles. Individual ions can be probed and observed, constituting an ideal sample to test the fundamentals of quantum physics. Larger sample sizes of up to 100000 ions allow to observe the formation of crystalline structures.
In this presentation, I will give an introduction to the basics of ion trap operation. I will then describe and discuss two milestone experiments demonstrating the performances of the technique and present different state-of-the-art applications ranging from frequency metrology to quantum information.
Professor Dean Zollman (Kansas)
Web-based Pedagogical Assistance for Under-prepared Teachers of Physics
Dean Zollman is the William & Joan Porter University Distinguished Professor, Distinguished University Teaching Scholar, and Head of the Department of Physics at Kansas State University He has focused his scholarly activities on research and development in physics education since 1972. He has received three major awards – the National Science Foundation’s Director’s Award for Distinguished Teacher Scholars (2004), the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching Doctoral University Professor of the Year (1996), and American Association of Physics Teachers’ Robert A. Millikan Medal (1995). His present research concentrates on investigating how students transfer learning while applying physics to new contexts and the effects of different pedagogies on future teachers. He also applies technology to the teaching of physics and to providing instructional and pedagogical materials to physics teachers. Dr. Zollman earned his PhD in Theoretical Nuclear Physics from the University of Maryland – College Park (1970) and his MS (1965) and BS (1964) from Indiana University – Bloomington.
ABSTRACT: Recently President Obama noted a serious concern about secondary science education in the United States. “Yet in high schools, more than 20 percent of students in math and more than 60 percent of students in chemistry and physics are taught by teachers without expertise in these fields.“ This problem is not new, so several years ago we began a Web-based effort to address it. The Physics Teaching Web Advisory (Pathway) is an endeavor to demonstrate the ability to address pedagogical issues of many physics teachers via the Web. Pathway’s “Synthetic Interviews” are a unique way to engage inexperienced teachers in a natural language dialog about effective teaching of physics. These virtual conversations with experienced teachers and related video materials are now providing pre-service and out-of-field in-service teachers with much needed professional development, and well-prepared teachers with new perspectives on teaching physics. The database is a growing digital library and now contains about 6,000 different recorded answers and over 10,000 question/answer pairs. An additional component is a collection of videos which can be used directly in the classroom. This collection includes both professional and teacher-produced videos. Unlike YouTube they are screened for usefulness before posting, but also will soon take advantage of the vast resources on YouTube and other similar sites. Pathway is available at http://www.physicspathway.org
Professor Josip Slisko (Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla, Puebla, Mexico)
Repeated errors in physics textbooks: what do they say about the culture of teaching?
Josip Slisko is a Professor – Researcher at the Facultad de Ciencias Físico Matemáticas of the Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (Puebla, Mexico) and member of National System of Researchers (Level II). Since 1991 he has been interested in studying conceptual and methodological difficulties students face while learning physics in different contexts (reading a textbook, observing a video, constructing an explanation of a seen physical phenomena, answering a conceptual question or solving an uncommon physics problem). He is author of two physics textbooks for junior high-school (Física. El encanto de pensar) and two textbooks for high-school (Física. El gimnasio de la mente). Since 1993 he has organized International Workshop "New Trends in Physics Teaching", taking place every last weekend in May. He holds BS in physics (University of Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina, 1971), MS in philosophy of science (University of Zagreb, Croatia, 1978) and PhD in philosophy of physics (University of Skopje, Macedonia, 1989).
ABSTRACT: I shall present and discuss some differences between "doing physics" and "teaching physics". The biggest difference is "error persistency". In research, through peer-reviews in journals and critical feedback from the community, the errors, either in physical thinking or in calculations, are rapidly corrected. In physics textbooks many errors remain even after they are demonstrated as such in pedagogical journals. Among the errors are those related to (1) terminology, (2) explanations, (3) drawings, (4) numbers in physics problems and (5) the history of physics.
As the same errors are repeated in many textbooks, which are revised and used by thousands of highly-qualified physicists, the errors cannot be seen as merely personal carelessness. They are rather a reflection of the notion that teaching is a second-hand academic activity. In my view, a project should be started to create an error-free manual (or even, encyclopedia) for physics teaching.
Dr Elizabeth Swinbank (York)
Physics in the real world: connecting physics to the wider community
Elizabeth Swinbank is a Fellow in Science Education in the Department of Educational Studies at the University of York, where she works mainly on physics-related curriculum development projects. She joined the University after doing a PhD in physics (radio astronomy) followed by several years teaching in a large comprehensive school. Currently she directs the Salters Horners Advanced Physics (SHAP) project, chairs the editorial board of Physics Review magazine, and is a member of the directorial team for Perspectives on Science (PoS). SHAP is a two-year course for post-16 students which is based around contexts and applications of physics. PoS is a course in the history, philosophy and ethics of science taken by a broad range of post-16 students and assessed by individual dissertation. Her other projects have included Salters GCSE Science, Science Focus, Prime Science, Open University teaching and course development, and the Teaching Resources Unit for Modern Physics (TRUMP) initiatives.
ABSTRACT: Many people regard physics as a rarefied intellectual discipline, too difficult for them to get to grips with and remote from their everyday lives and interests. Sometimes this view can even be held by those who choose to study physics at upper high-school level, who can become quite knowledgable about ‘physics facts’ and profficient at mathematical manipulation while at the same time not truly connecting physics to the real world.
I will describe two initiatives that have sought to address this issue and report on the extent to which they appear successful.
The Salters Horners Advanced Physics project has been running for several years. It is a two-year programme for students aged 16-19 that is built around contexts and applications of physics. The programme covers physics concepts and principles with the same depth and rigour as more conventional programmes, and leads to a physics A-level (the main UK university entrance qualification). The use of contexts as starting points, rather than incidental illustrations, goes some way to ensuring that students connect their study to the real world.
Perspectives on Science (PoS) is a one-year programme in the history, philosophy and ethics of science for students in the 16-19 age range, leading to a qualification at A-level standard. It is intended both for students who have chosen to specialise in science subjects and those who have not. Rather than having the specified content and written exams common for most UK qualifications, PoS has no designated content and is assessed entirely by individual student research project. There is a taught course in which students develop skills of research, analysis and argument using a selection of recent and historical science-based case studies, followed by a period of supervised research leading to a dissertation and oral presentation. PoS students explore issues relating to physics (and other sciences), enabling them to connect the science to the wider commmunity.
Professor Erik Johansson, Stockholm University
ATLAS Experiment: Outreach and Informal Education from the LHC
Erik Johansson is Professor in particle physics at Stockholm University, Sweden. He is initiator – now Director Emeritus - of Stockholm House of Science, a science laboratory devoted almost entirely to schools. He is co-coordinator of the Education and Outreach group in the international, 2500 physicist strong ATLAS experiment at CERN and was chairman for five years of the EPS Education Division and for six years of the European Particle Physics Outreach Group until he resigned in 2008. He has initiated several education projects, like the Stockholm House of Science and the well-used Hands on CERN web education project using real data from a frontline particle physics experiments at CERN. In 2004 this project was awarded the best physics web site by ScientificAmerican.com and in 2005 Johansson received the Webby award for the best science web in New York. These projects, well documented via publications and conferences (around 20 refereed physics education publications), have been used by more than hundred thousand students and teachers, and are important ingredients in using frontline physics experiments to enthuse students and teachers. His main activity as ATLAS Education and Outreach co-coordinator and as initiator of the Learning with ATLAS education project supported by the European Commission is to make the physics of the ATLAS experiment and today’s physics in general known at schools. During the last 20 years the DELPHI and ATLAS experiments at CERN have been the dominating physics projects. Erik Johansson is a fellow of Institute of Physics.
ABSTRACT: Late in 2009 the ATLAS physics experiment, one of the largest and most complex scientific experiments for the investigation of the fundamental processes in nature, is expected to start observing high energy particle collisions at the Large Hadron Collider at CERN. The aim is to explore the fundamental building blocks and forces of nature, and to probe deeper into matter than ever before. ATLAS has for many years had an active and innovative education and outreach programme. New tools are being explored to make the physics of the basic building blocks of nature available for schools and the general public. The ambitious EU education project “Learning with ATLAS”, particularly directed towards teachers and students at schools and university, is presently developing a web portal which incorporates tools for analyzing data from LHC collisions, animations of the physics processes and a description of the way the ATLAS detector works, the award winning ATLAS movie and other photographic and educational material. The aim of the ATLAS experiment will be presented, focusing on ATLAS detector animations and demonstration of the tools for analyzing and understanding LHC data intended for schools and other education arenas.
Professor Phil Scott (Leeds)
Teaching Physics Concepts: A Neglected Art?
Phil Scott is Professor of Physics Education and Director of the Centre for Studies in Science and Mathematics Education (CSSME) at the University of Leeds (UK). He is also Visiting Professor in Physics Education to The Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), Trondheim, Norway. Prior to working at the university Phil Scott taught physics/science in high schools for 15 years. Current interests lie in planning and evaluating approaches to teaching physics conceptual knowledge, focussing in particular on the patterns of talk in the classroom. Phil Scott is currently co-editor of the journal Studies in Science Education and an elected Executive Board Member of the USA National Association for Research in Science Teaching (NARST). Away from physics education, Phil is a lifelong fan of Sunderland Football Club and a keen mountain biker.
ABSTRACT: There is never any shortage of new developments in the world of physics education and teachers are remarkably adept at dealing with the latest trends in approaches to teaching. Thus in the recent years we have new developments related to: inquiry/investigation-based approaches to teaching; argumentation in science education; how science works; ICT-based independent learning; approaches to authentic science instruction. The list is a long one which appears to refresh and re-new itself on a regular basis.
In some ways this is a good thing. Professional perspectives change and things move on, hopefully in a positive direction. The concern which I do have, however, is that ‘new’ approaches such as these tend to 'take away' from the fundamental job of teaching and learning scientific conceptual knowledge.
A worrying trend that I detect sees new approaches being set up in opposition to each other in an unhealthy dichotomy: thus investigative or inquiry-based approaches are seen as an alternative to 'traditional' ways of teaching science concepts. Furthermore, and all too often, approaches to teaching scientific conceptual knowledge are cast as being 'traditional', 'didactic' and 'bad', whilst inquiry approaches are seen as being 'innovative', 'child-centred' and 'good'.
My own view in these matters is that there is an appropriate place for all of these forms of teaching: it just depends on what the teacher is trying to achieve. For example if the goal is to teach about the representation of forces as arrows, it would not make sense to employ an inquiry based approach. At the same time, it is the responsibility of the teacher to teach about force arrows in an accessible, and interesting way which supports meaningful learning by the student. This is quite different to the 'traditional' ways of 'just telling'.
In this presentation I shall explore some of these ideas, emphasising the importance of teaching physics concepts in an engaging way and making the case for moving away from harmful dichotomies in talking and thinking about teaching.
Professor Hans Niederrer (Bremen)
Student Ownership in Physics Learning
Hans Niedderer is a retired professor of physics education from University of Bremen, Germany. He is now working as a guest professor at Malardalens University in Sweden. His interests are: Learning processes in physics (electric circuits, quantum atomic physics, geometrical optics, sustainable energy, chemical thermodynamics); physics learning as cognitive development; currciculum development and evaluation in quantum atomic physics; labwork in physics education; ownership, motivation, holistic learning in mini-projects.
ABSTRACT: The theoretical framework student ownership of learning (SOL) was developed both theoretically related to self-determination theory (SDT) and with qualitative research from physics teaching. In the talk, I will give examples and case studies from physics teaching to show how SOL can help for better motivation and learning. These examples are taken from upper secondary and university level. The role of SOL in some teaching strategies will be analysed.
One example (more examples will be given during the talk) The example comes from group work with acceleration in grade 11 (age 17). After some traditional teaching, especially on acceleration and how to measure it, the students got the following task:
What causes acceleration? a = f(???). Design your own experiment to find out!
Students were first asked to write down their ideas and expectations, then to look for equipment in the lab to do their experiment. During the next lesson they did their experiments and finally wrote a report. They developed about 10 different questions, and worked on them in about 10 different groups.
One group developed the following question: How does the acceleration of a body depend on air resistance? Students fastened a sail to a small car. This car was set into motion and then braked by an electric hairdryer. Measurements were taken how acceleration depends on the power of the hairdryer and on its distance. Students developed ownership by developing their first question; by taking their own hair dryer from home; by designing in detail their experiment.
From a strictly physical viewpoint their results were not very good. But from a motivational view it was incredible: These students (three girls) had the lowest grades in the class, and in spite of that had fun with doing an experiment in physics.