Tag «symmetry»

Matter & Interactions II, Week 7

This week, I was away at the winter AAPT meeting in Atlanta. Students began working on the experiments from chapter 17, which serve to introduce magnetic fields. I want to emphasize some really cool things about the mathematical expression for a particle’s magnetic field: This is really a single particle form of the Biot-Savart law. …

Matter & Interactions II, Week 5

This week was all about calculating electric fields for continuous charge distributions. This is usually students’ first exposure to what they think of as “calculus-based” physics because they are explicitly setting up and doing integrals. There’s lots going on behind the scenes though. In calculus class, students are used to manipulating functions by taking their …

Matter & Interactions II, Week 1

This week was supposed to begin on Monday, but we lost both Monday and Tuesday to snow and icy roads so this week was effectively just a two day week. On Wednesday, I demonstrated Jupyter notebooks and informed the class that effective this semester, we’re moving away from Classic VPython. From this point on, we …

Matter & Interactions I, Week 5

This week, we transitioned to chapter 1 of the Matter & Interactions textbook (fourth edition). I have WebAssign problem sets for each chapter available for formative assessment and practice while working their way through the reading. I encouraged them to use the book the way it was intended to be used, specifically by stopping and …

Help Me! Question About Tensors and Projections

I need some help. I am working hard to find ways to bring more geometry into introductory calculus-based physics (and conceptual physics as well). By geometry, I mean specifically the geometry associated with vectors and tensors, and the information encoded therein. Yes, I said tensors. I have been heavily influenced by these notes by Kip …

Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XXIII: A Question About Fields

This question came to me while I was planning for this semester’s introductory calculus-based e&m course (using Matter & Interactions of course). My overall desire and plan is to move away from the traditional number crunching type of problems, where all students really do is manipulate coordinate components of vectors or perhaps vector magnitudes, all …

Introducing Noether’s Theorem in Conceptual Physics

With little advanced notice, I was assigned a section of conceptual physics to teach this semester (because second semester astronomy was cancelled due to low enrollment and replaced with a section of conceptual physics with the same low enrollment..go figure). After teaching Matter & Interactions for over a decade and after much enlightenment I have …

Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XVI: Superposition Arguments

Superposition is a powerful principle in physics, especially in introductory electromagnetic theory. A charged particle’s electric field exists independently of the fields of any other particles. A thorough understanding of superposition can prevent the frequent misunderstanding that fields can somehow be “blocked,” which is subtly different from saying that the net field at a point …

Conceptual Understanding in Introductory Physics XV: Symmetry Arguments

Symmetry is part of the foundation¬†of contemporary physics, but it is seldom emphasized in introductory physics in proportion to its significance. There may be some value in discussing how symmetry applies to otherwise traditional introductory problems rather than just replicating numerical examples from a textbook (even a good textbook). These questions illustrate symmetry in electromagnetic …

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