## Day 54: The black hole a the center of our galaxy

We took 3 students to see a lecture titled “The Black Hole at the Center of our Milky Way Galaxy” last night. The lecture was great—just at the right level to stimulate lots of interest and questions from students.

## Day 48: A rest in the woods

Today was a nice day for a walk in the woods.

## Day 46: Rhett’s Lecture

This evening Rhett gave a lecture titled “Physics is Everywhere” to about 50 of our students. The lecture was completely optional and on a Friday evening, and I was really impressed with the turnout. Rhett’s lecture was awesome—I feel like a blog groupie detailing his set list—he discussed flying R2D2, the huma-coptper, the statos jump and blaster fire in Star Wars. I can’t wait to catch the next show.

## Day 45: Hanging with Rhett

The incredible Rhett Allain is visiting our department for the next few days. We’ve invited him to come and coach our physics teachers, and deliver a talk on some of the awesome things he does. Last night, we just had a “physics extravaganza” where he was hanging out with a bunch of physics students in the physics lab, who were trying to do all sorts of video analysis experiments and write a VPython simulation of a the Stratos jump.

## Day 42: Speeding up

One of the things I’m struggling with is the time it takes for my students to complete assessments. Slowly but surely we’re turning 20 minute assessments into 40 minute ordeals. I don’t want to be the teacher ripping papers from students’ hands, and I don’t really feel like time pressure should factor into demonstrating student understanding, but at the same time, we’re losing valuable class time, and students are losing some of the time they need to give themselves good feedback.

I’ve tried giving general time guidelines, reminding students when 10, 20 and 30 minutes have passed and asking them to mark their papers, and in a few cases, I’ve asked kids to find the place where they spent the most time, but I can’t help but think the thing that would help the most is students learning to build a sense of when they don’t understand something, and simply move on, knowing that it will be more productive to learn what they don’t understand by examining the solution or practicing later, rather than simply trying to will themselves to the answer. So I’d love any suggestions you might have for how to work on this.

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## Day 41: Astrophysics research

After a great meeting with an astrophysics professor at a nearby university a few weeks back, I’ve assembled a group of students who are interested in getting involved with an original scientific research project. We had our first meeting on Sunday and drew 6 participants—3 boys and 3 girls.

We’re beginning, as most research does by trying to make sense of a pretty massive 50 page reference paper on low mass brown dwarf starts that the professor gave us.

## Day 40: LaTeXit

As bang for the buck apps go, LaTeXiT is really high on my list and not just because it’s free. If you invest a tiny amount of time learning LaTeX, you’ll quickly find you have the easiest to use and most beautiful equation editor in the world at your disposal. Best of all, LaTeXit free, though you do have to install a full version of LaTeX in order to be able to use it (a 2.1GB install on the mac).

## Day 38: Tennis ball sculptures

Today was an awesome day in Algebra II Honors. After building a model for a free falling object by studying a falling basketball, students worked out how to arrange tennis balls on a fishing line so that they would appear to look like a strobe photograph of a falling ball. I’ll definitely be writing up all of this on my main blog soon.

At one point, a colleague came in and said “you’re having way too much fun in here for a math class.” The great thing is that there’s so much more fun to come—this is just the first phase in our efforts to build our own Ana Soler sculpture on our classroom.

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## Day 37: Mass Spectrometer

Today, one I had to cover for a chemistry colleague, and got to talk about a mass spectroscopy lab the students had been working on. In particular, they had been working with a mass spec analogue, where they roll ball bearings at a very powerful magnet and then measure the deflection angle of the bearing. This experiment allows them to collect a number of different data points using ball bearings of different masses. Students can then analyze this data and determine that deflection angle is proportional to $mass^{-\frac{3}{2}}$, but I’m not sure of a way to derive this result theoretically.