Physicopoeia
φυσικοποιΐα
THINGS I WISH I'D KNOWN WHEN I STARTED TEACHING PHYSICS
Home
Physics Topics
Mechanics
Often regarded as the 'ground floor' of Physics, it can be easy to think there's nothing major to be wary of or to misunderstand when teaching about forces and motion. Based on my experience, this would be an unwise assumption. Here are some things that I've either had to get clear in my own mind, or known others understand imperfectly or even teach less than ideally, together with some resources you might be interested in.
Worksheets
Newton's Laws in the original
Newton's First Law - do we need it?
Newton's Third Law
Deriving Conservation of Momentum
Air Resistance
Finding the Centre of Gravity of a Train
Parabolic Trajectories
Electricity
For many pupils, this can be one of the hardest topics to get to grips with. I'm not proposing any new ways of teaching Electricity, but here are some things I've known trip teachers up:
Ohm's Law
Calculating resistance values from graphs
Power Equation Confusion
How to be a Resistor Jedi
13A fuses
Transformer Efficiency
Black Box Circuit Simulators
Magnetism
This is sometimes the first Physics topic pupils encounter when they're quite young. The danger can be to teach it at too simplistic a level. Here are some things that can get overlooked and some ideas to extend your teaching:
Drawing Magnetic Field Lines
Waves
Are water waves Transverse or Longitudinal? Why should you be careful teaching about picket fences in the context of Polarisation? This and other thoughts:
Polarisation - the danger of the picket fence analogy
Overtones and Harmonics in Standing Waves
Are water waves Transverse or Longitudinal?
Thermal
Currently a very restricted topic on many syllabuses, certainly compared with what I remember having to teach early in my career. Here are some things that sometimes get overlooked or badly described:
At Home with a Thermal Imaging Camera
Heating a Solid to a Gas - getting the graph right
What should p/T = constant be called?
Combining the Gas Laws
Maxwell-Boltzmann and other Statistical Mechanics resources
The Laws of Thermodynamics
Black Body Curves
Simple Harmonic Motion
The adjective 'simple' sometimes puts pupils off and they convince themselves it's a complex topic. It needn't be, but there are some oddities you might come across:
Simple Pendulum - how small is small?
Resonance
O Botafumeiro - bigging up SHM
Fields
At school level, this usually means gravitational or electric fields. There are a few things here that it's easy to get wrong, and a few things that are rarely in modern textbooks but which I find are helpful to include in my teaching:
Gravitational and Electric Fields - similarities and differences
Gravitational Field Lines... inside a planet?
Explaining Tides
When is g not the same as g?
Changing weight by travelling
What is my local value of g?
How do you weigh a planet?
Permittivity and Permeability
What's in and out of Phase in Transformers?
Electrical and Magnetic 'circuits'
Radioactivity and Nuclear Physics
This is also usually fairly straightforward at school level, but there are some interesting things that textbooks don't often deal with.
What should the 'Half Life' of my dice be?
Fission Decay Products
The Binding Energy Curve - which way round should it be?
How long can the Sun go on shining for?
Current data on Background Radioactivity in the UK
Quantum, atomic and particle physics
At school-level, you'll probably be fine with what you've got in textbooks and from watching the occasional decent TV documentary or 'pop' science book. However, it does tend to be rather qualitative at school level - here are some ways you can bring in a bit more maths to make it more realistic
Deriving the Bohr Model of the Hydrogen Atom
Electron Diffraction - don't just look at the rings!
Deducing atomic energy levels
Particle Physics
Space, Astrophysics and Cosmology
Equations for Stellar Formation
Measuring the Age of the Universe
What sort of telescope should I buy?
Galileo's original diagrams
Materials Science
This is a subject where those of us who went into teaching from a pure Physics background are sometimes at quite a disadvantage to our colleagues who instead went down the Engineering path. Certainly, this is an area where I felt my knowledge was initially rather limited and I enjoyed finding out a lot more about it to improve my teaching.
Materials Science Definitions
How do you get the Young Modulus from a Stress-Strain graph?
The Lennard-Jones Curve
Giant Mutant Ants and Galileo Scaling
General Physics
Vectors, Scalars, Uncertainties, log-log graphs, Fermi questions and much more:
Vectors and Scalars
Uncertainties
Factor and Percentage Change Questions
Log-Log Graphs
Estimating (Fermi Questions)
Beyond School
University Entrance advice, plus how to tell if you're naturally a Physicist or an Engineer:
Should I apply for Physics or Engineering?
Recommendations
Feedback
Raison d'etre
Physics Topics
Space, Astrophysics and Cosmology
SPACE, ASTROPHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY