Doppler duck;Resources;Science amp; technology;Books;Review

31st December 1999 at 00:00
THE RESOURCEFUL PHYSICS TEACHER - 600 ideas for creative teaching. By Keith Gibbs. Institute of Physics. pound;18 Tel: 0117 929 7481

On one level The Resourceful Physics Teacher is a no-nonsense, practical resource. It is accurately titled and clearly organised according to the canonical chapters of physics: Mechanics, Waves and Optics, Thermal Physics, Electricity and Magnetism and Modern Physics. In addition, the writing is succinct and the diagrams are simple.

The busy, inexperienced teacher will easily find many traditional and reliable ways of showing the phenomena and ideas of physics. For example the magnetic (Indian) rope trick, how to let a can roll uphill, boil water in a paper bag, and demonstrate fusing with steel wool. Those with more experience will not be disappointed either, as there is often added appeal to the familiar. For example, not only can baked alaska cake show insulated cooking, but what about cappuccino versus filter coffee in the cooling stakes?

The author shows his 30 years' experience in this rich collection, which includes techniques (alcohol on the finger to make a wine glass sing), modern technology (television camera at water level to view refraction) and models and analogies (milk flow filling cartons for quanta, dice and spreadsheets for radioactive decay).

Many ideas cry out to be tried - they so obviously meet a teaching need. For example, using a swimming mechanical duck and an orbiting piezoelectric bell to show the model and the phenomenon of the Doppler effect. Others could prompt a change in teaching, such as using a mop on a string to show the leverage exerted by our back muscles when we bend.

Still others begin practically - using very dilute milk to show the scattered colours of sunset, and develop into something more romantic:

"Your beautiful blue eyes are the result of unlinked molecules in your iris causing light to scatter". In physics every couple has its moment!

Some of the suggestions will take a bit of fiddling to work and may not be suitable for all ages, but this collection has something to enrich everyone's teaching.

MARTIN HOLLINS

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