High School Mathematics-Physics SMILE Meeting
25 January 2005
Notes Prepared by Porter Johnson

Don Kanner [Lane Tech HS, physics]          Three No-Trumps
Don made a presentation on candles, based upon a Mr Wizard program featuring Don Herbert.  Don lit a candle, and asked us what was burning, and where it was hottest.  We discussed the issue for a moment.   Don placed a horizontally-held sheet of metal gauze intersecting about half way up the vertical height of  the flame. When we looked down at the flame from above, there was no flame above the gauze, and the the flame below was hollow; with only its outside burning!  The candle wax must melt and then vaporize, and it is the vapor that actually burns, by chemical reaction with oxygen in the air. Roy Coleman suggested that he hold an unburned wooden match stick into the flame, to show that the stick begins to burn only at the edges, at first. Don was able to re-light the candle above the gauze sheet with a match.  Don then put a glass chimney down and centered around a burning candle.  He then sprayed smoke across the top of the chimney.  Amazing -- the smoke flowed down the inside surface of the chimney to the flame, and rose above the flame through the center of the chimney, and out. [Don  Herbert, Don Ivey, and Don Kanner constitute the three no-trumps.]  

Fascinating, Don!

Marilynn Stone [Lane Tech HS, physics]           Constant Speed Buggies 
Marilynn showed a novel use for constant speed buggies  [mp092804.html].  She tied a loop in one end of a piece of string, and attached the other end to the side of the buggy.  She then put the loop over the vertical shaft of a ring stand on the floor.  When she turned on the buggy motor and released it, it moved on the floor at constant speed around a circular path.  Thus, she produced Uniform Circular Motion.  She measured the radius of circular path to be R = 0.61 m, and the time for one revolution to be T = 9.6 sec.  Thus, the speed is v = 2 p R / T =  0.40 meters/sec. The buggy moves with constant speed, but not with constant velocity. (Its direction is constantly changing.) It experiences an acceleration toward the center of its circular motion (centripetal acceleration) of a = v2 / R = 0.26 meters/sec2. This acceleration is produced by the force of tension in the string, which continually pulls the buggy radially inward.  When Marilynn cut the string, the buggy went on a straight path thereafter. She was able to hit a target some distance away with the buggy, by cutting the string at the instant the buggy was headed toward the target.

Good job, Marilynn!

Fred Schaal [Lane Tech HS  mathematics]           Prose and Poetry Day
In connection with the upcoming Prose and Poetry Day at his school, Fred read us several selections from the classic book Fantasia Mathematica by Clifton Fadiman [http://www.zooscape.com/cgi-bin/maitred/WhitePulp/isbn0387949313].  In particular, he read Bertrand Russell's Dream by G. H. Hardy, as well as "There Was A Young Fellow Named Fisk" by that prolific author, AnonymousFadiman frequently appeared on the TV program What's My Line

Thanks for the ideas, Fred!

Roy Coleman [Morgan Park HS, physics]           NCLB and Miscellaneous Stuff 
Roy distributed a refinement of the proposed NCLB (No Child Left Behind) program, which contained some humorous acronyms, such as the following:

SMELL  (Special Mastery Elective for Learning Language)
PRUNES  (Preparatory Reading for Unprepared Nationally Exempted Students)
This refinement should help clear the air for the program.

Roy showed us a small car, called Push N Go, which is available in bulk at about 50 cents each from Oriental Trading Company http://www.orientaltrading.com. He uses this car, as well as its larger counterpart, for having students observe its motions, and draw graphs of Displacement, Velocity, and Acceleration versus Time, as described recently [mp092402.html].  He found that students were reasonably accurate in their descriptions of Velocity and Acceleration versus Time, but often quite in error for Displacement versus Time.  That graph, although most closely related to observations, is challenging for many students.

Roy announced that a CD containing all information on the SMILE and SMART websites, as well as other information and programs, can be obtained for $10, plus any shipping costs. In particular, the CD contains programs for loading the Mozilla™ web browser to both PCs and Macintosh machines.  Porter Johnson has taken real advantage of a novel feature of the Mozilla™ browser -- the scale of print fonts can automatically be changed in Print Preview, so that a document can easily be adjusted to fit on, say, a single page.   Also, Charlotte Wood-Harrington said that this browser maintains better security with regard to "pop-ups" and "spyware" programs.

Very informative, Roy!

Bill Colson [Morgan Park HS, mathematics]           Idea for School Development 
Bill  passed around information concerning a Science Fair Workshop at Sauk Valley Community College in Dixon, IL on 30 April 2005. It contained some good ideas applicable in school development programs, which will be required throughout the system next year.

Bill also asked us to identify the following objects:

A million Watt Microphone is a ................ Megaphone
A 2000 pound Mockingbird is a ................ Kilomockingbird

Thanks, Bill!

Rich Goberville [Joliet Central HS,  physics]           New Toys
kept an eye out for presents for himself while shopping for Christmas gifts last year, and found several interesting items. He first showed us a flexible, dilating dodecahedron produced by Hoberman Designs [http://www.hoberman.com/fold/main/index.htm]. This device is a variation of the more familiar Hoberman Sphere. The gadget, called a FlipOut!, magically changes shape and colors when thrown into the air:  http://hoberman.com/fold/flipout/flipout.htm.

Rich also showed off his new HoverCopter Radio Controlled Flying Saucer: http://paranoidnews.org/2010/12/pp37-hover-copter-the-radio-controlled-ufo-flying-saucer/.  It serves as a more dramatic device than a toy helicopter to illustrate Newton's Third Law as the explanation for aerodynamic lift.  The downward draft of the toy helicopter is rather mild, but you can point it sideways, and definitely Feel the Breeze!  The radio control permits it to go up and down, but it is rather difficult for the device to hover --- as it is for real helicopters.

Neat stuff, Rich!

Bill Shanks [Joliet - New Lennox Environs, retired]           Point n Measure Digital Tape:  How Far?
Bill recently obtained Point n Measure Digital Tape [Item W5746] at Menard's for about $9.  He turned it on, pointed its laser beam at a nearby wall, and showed the recorded distance as 5.01 meters (or 16 ft 5 in).  We then made estimates for the area of our classroom, ranging from 60 meters2 to 120 meters2. He then used the gadget to measure the length of the room L = 11.17 meters (36 feet) and the width W = 7.64 m (25 ft), corresponding to an area of 85 meters2 (900 square feet).

Very nice gadget!  Thanks, Bill!

Walter McDonald [CPS Substitute Teacher]           Interference of a Digital Clock
Walter obtained a new laptop computer, along with a router for wireless operation on the internet.  When he plugged an old digital clock into the same receptacle, he noticed that the digital clock began to run erratically and quite fast.  Why?  One possibility was that the digital clock, which is supposed to count the Voltage peaks of 60 Hz AC current, was also counting small Voltage spikes, as well.  The clock chip might be interpreting a voltage fluctuation as an AC voltage maximum, and including it in the time count.  Early digital clocks would sometimes respond to such spurious signals, in the more recent versions this usually does not occur.  Unfortunately, the clock soon stopped working, so that it would be difficult to study the problem now.  What do you think about this?  Could the wireless circuitry be involved?

That's quite a puzzle!  Thanks, Walter.

Ann Brandon [Joliet West HS,  physics]           Scotch Tape Electrostatics
Ann passed out materials as described in a handout containing the following instructions, and we soon were doing all these things:

A very nice phenomenological experience! Thanks, Ann!

Notes prepared by Porter Johnson