## Archive for January 2008

### A Breaking Wave of Physics.

January 28, 2008

Waves are everywhere around us at all times. There are light waves, sound waves, water waves, pressure waves – waves are an essential part of physics. Waves are a way of transferring energy without transferring mass. To put it more simply, I could transfer energy to you by throwing a medicine ball at you which you catch (transfers mass to you)- knocking you backwards (thus transferring energy to you), or I could transfer energy to you by tying a rope to you and then whipping the rope (you don’t gain mass, but you do gain energy).

### An Elemental Approach

January 27, 2008

The first subject for the year is Chemistry, and the topic that we are studying is Reactions. in this topic you will learn about the formation and decay of molecules, and the different ways elements can join and separate. We will be looking at this information from an atomic perspective, and learning about the role electrons play in the various reactions. Students would have been introduced to this topic last year, and the first thing we will do is review some of that knowledge and look at the structure of the Periodic table.

January 27, 2008

Calculators have evolved a great deal from their origin as simple counting devices, through to mechanical calculation aides (such as the abacus), to the first automatic devices (Charles Babbage’s Analytical Engine), to where we stand now, with devices such as the Casio ClassPad 300.

The ClassPad is a CAS (computer algebra system) Calculator. This means that, unlike previous many types of previous calculators, the ClassPad can solve algebraic expressions in a logical, mathematical fashion. Previous types of calculators (including the TI-series (up to the 84+) could also solve many algebraic problems, but they used a method called “numerical approximation”, which is basically a fancy way of saying “guess-and-check”. Some of you may have already purchased a ClassPad for yourselves – the rest of you will have to if you intend to enrol in Mathematical Methods next year.

### Wheelin' & Dealin'!

January 27, 2008

Most of you would have seen the game show “Deal or No Deal” on television at some time. If you haven’t it is a simple game where the contestant has a chance to win one million dollars. The play requires the selection of a single briefcase with an unknown amount of money in it, and then the player must select other briefcases to open, while the host tempts them to quit early by offering them a cash payout. How would you do? Would you get the million? Let’s find out:

### A small Ghoti* in a large pond…

January 24, 2008

English is an unusual language. The English language is technically (originally) a creole. This means that it has evolved as a language from the mixture of one or more other languages. Many of these borrowed wordsare commonly used in English today, such as : coffee, anchovy, robot, typhoon, lychee, dollar. In fact, James Nicoll, once said of English that:

…We don’t just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary.

This means that English has very irregular pronunciations of words that appear very similar in print. Take for example laughter and slaughter – the only difference is an ‘s’, yet the pronunciation is dramatically different, because the words come from different languages and were adopted by English. There is a famous, torturous poem, that if you can recite flawlessly will show your complete mastery of the intricacies of English pronunciation:

### The unbearable lightness of …light?

January 24, 2008

Light is very strange stuff. What is it? To be honest, we (Physicists) really don’t know, exactly. But that is not going to stop us; we will teach you about the properties of waves, using light (and sound) to demonstrate various phenomena.

Physics is both a theoretical and practical subject, and you must cast aside any ideas you have about physics being easy, either because “I am good at science” or “It is math-y and I’m good at mathematics”. Physics is one of the hardest of the sciences and will require a great deal of work and effort from you. In class we will do many experiments, and you will be required to write reports on them (Practical Rubric 2008), in order to help you understand and explain what you see. This is the often the hardest task in high school physics – to explain what is happening in a particular situation clearly, completely and concisely.