Holiday reading, Conf registration, New Resources. Vicphys News 7/T4/18

This final newsletter for the year has some suggestions for holiday reading and some new resources.
Physics Conference registration is now open.  Register early to get your session preferences.  A school purchase order can be used to accompany the form.
There is also a talk this Thursday on the 2018 Nobel Prize in Physics at Swinburne University and finally VCAA has extended the accreditation period for Units 1 and 2 to the end of 2021.  All four units will now expire at the end of 2021.

The Vicphysics Executive Team wishes you a relaxing Christmas break.

Frances Sidari (Pres), Bronwyn Quint (Vice-Pres), Barbara McKinnon (Sec), Terry Tan (Treas) and Dan O’Keeffe (Coord)

Table of Contents

  1. Holiday Reading
  2. Physics: Interactive Physics Simulations
  3. Latest Job Ads
  4. Events for Students and the General Public
  5. Events for Teachers

7. Physics News from the Web
a) Try the Physics World Dark Matter Flow Chart:  What kind do you prefer?
b) Beyond the Lithium-Ion Battery
c) A wave of discovery: Gravitational Waves

1.  Holiday Reading
One physics writer that has made a big splash in recent years is Carlo Rovelli.  His first book ‘Seven Brief Lessons on Physics’ was an international best seller and translated into 41 languages.  His latest book ‘Reality is not what it seems – The journey to Quantum Gravity’ . His writing has a persuasive clarity, an engaging read. 

2.  oPhysics: Interactive Physics Simulations
This is a comprehensive set of simulations written by a recently retired US physics teacher, Tom Walsh. The simple and elegant illustrations on various physics principles have been written in GeoGebra.  There are no worksheets nor are there any experimental simulations but the animations require user input.  There is limited text, but they are instructive. The EMI and standing wave model for energy levels are impressive.

Nine topics are covered: Kinematics (vectors, graphs projectile motion, relatve velocity) – 14 animations, Forces (friction,conical pendulum, Kepler’s 2nd law) – 5, Conservation (collisions and springs) – 6, Waves (SHM, superposition, standing waves) – 15, Light (colour, mirrors, lenses, rainbows, the eye, interference) – 20, E & M (Coulomb, fields, DC motor, EMI) – 12, Rotation – 10, Fluids – 2, Modern (energy levels) – 1.
This resource has been suggested by Alan Sutton.

3.  IOP’s ‘Physics Education’ Free downloads of selected articles.
The IOP’s Physics Education journal provides free access to several popular articles that are available until 31st December 2018, after which a new set is released.  Currently the list includes:

  • Let’s have a coffee with the Standard Model of Particle Physics!
  • The warm rich sound of valve guitar amplifiers
  • A simple wind tunnel to analyse Bernoulli’s Principle using a mobile phone
  • How to delude your senses
  • What is an image?
  • A ‘sparkling’ low cost revisitation of the historical Hertz’ experiment
  • Nine optical black box experiments for lower secondary students
  • Learning about students’ understanding of particle physics using concept mapping
  • Finding the average speed of a light emitting toy car with a smart phone light sensor

Also check out the ‘What happens next?’ The Archive which is a collection of short, entertaining, brain-teasing demonstrations using the Predict-Observe-Explain model.

4. Latest Job Ads

As schools lodge information about a vacancy, they will be placed here on our website.  The list of government schools seeking physics teachers has also been updated with 11 schools seeking physics teachers.

5.    Events for Students and the General Public
a)  3D Astro Tours, School holidays, Swinburne University
Experience the Universe in 3D during the summer 2019 school holidays. The 50-minute session includes a journey starting in the solar system and then on to explore the Universe. AstroTours feature the 3D movies, created by the award-winning Swinburne Astronomy Productions team, and all sessions are presented by the Centre’s astronomers or post graduate researchers.
Dates and Times: Tues, 15th Jan at 10am, Thurs, 17th Jan at 2pm, Fri, 18th Jan at 2pm, Tues, 22nd Jan at 10am, Thurs, 24th Jan at 2pm
Venue: AR104 Hawthorn Campus, Swinburne University
Bookings are essential and can be made via email to
Cost: $10 per person which can be paid at the door by cash or cheque. If you would like to pay by credit card please ask for a form which you can pre-complete and bring with you on the day, with your card. Please aim to arrive at least 10 – 15 minutes before the advertised start time.
Astrotours are suitable for children aged 6 years and above. Unfortunately, they are not able to admit children younger than this, with one exception: 5 year-olds are able to attend if they are accompanying another child aged 6 years or above. Swinburne University apologises for any inconvenience this may cause. For safety reasons, no prams/strollers, etc. are allowed in the theatre.

b)  Physics Days at Luna Park: Tuesday, 6th March to Friday, 9th March, 2019

Next year there will be two extra rides on offer one of which is the Road Runner located next to the Spider.  Up to 9 people sit in a car as it twists, turns and sways while moving backwards and forwards through a curved dip. It will be useful for data logging and also simple calculation of g forces from using a stop watch and estimating distances.  The other ride will be a new ride, which is yet to be announced.

Bookings are now open for next year’s Physics Days at Luna Park.  You can make a booking for a particular day at this year and change your day once your timetable for 2019 is known. But please remember to notify Luna Park on any change of date at least a fortnight before the event.
An aerobatic display by a member of the Roulettes has been requested, but confirmation is often not provided before February next year.

6.     Events for Teachers
a) Thursday, 13th December, 6:30pm, AIP 2018 Nobel Prize Talk, Swinburne University.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 11.07.14 pm
The many uses of optical forces – Art Ashkin’s legacy presented by Prof Kris Helmerson, Monash University
Abstract: Arthur Ashkin was awarded the 2018 Nobel prize in Physics for his invention of optical tweezers and it’s application to biology. Ashkin’s research on optical tweezers, which evolve from his fundamental studies of optical forces, the force arising from the momentum of light, has had a far greater impact. This lecture will describe the use of optical forces to manipulate and study systems ranging from atoms in Bose-Einstein condensates – the coldest matter in the universe – to cells, viruses and biomolecules.

Speaker: My research interests are in the physics and application of ultracold atomic gases and the application of optical techniques to address problems in biophysics and biotechnology. A common thread in my research is the use of lasers and, in particular, the optical forces that can be generated by light. Current studies with ultracold atomic gases include superfluidity in the presence of disorder and/or reduced dimensionality, quantum turbulence, and the physics of two-dimensional electron gases simulated by atoms in an optical lattice. Current experiments in biophysics include the development of techniques for isolating and studying single biomolecules, the behaviour of biomolecules in confined geometries and directed self-assembly of nanoscale objects from biomembranes.
Venue: Room EN103, Engineering (EN) Building, Swinburne University, Hawthorn Campus
To book

b) 2019 Physics Teachers’ Conference, 15th 16th February, La Trobe University
Register now to get your workshop preferences.  A school purchase order can be used to accompany the registration form.
The Friday program includes two addresses:

  • Opening Address: Precision Cosmology with the next generation of Telescopes with Dr Laura Wolz from the University of Melbourne
  • Pre Lunch Address: Responding to short answer questions with Andrew Hansen, the Chief Assessor.

There are also three sessions of workshops with 16 workshops on offer in each.

The Saturday program has two Excursion tasters on offer to the Synchrotron and VSSEC as well as a two hour Medical Physics In-Service at Peter Mac.

The cost $188 for an individual STAV member, $305 for a STAV School subscriber, $330 for a non STAV member and $78 for a retired teacher.  Registration includes morning tea and lunch.  Program details, registration forms and online booking are available here. Check Vicphysics website as well.

b)  9th – 13th December, AIP Congress: Teaching Nexus – Evolving Physics Education in our Schools, Perth

This year the AIP Congress includes a two day program for teachers on Tuesday and Wednesday.  There are two keynote talks on ‘Science as a Human Endeavour: What does this mean and how can we use it to connect students to the physics’ and ‘How to strengthen physics by making it inclusive’ plus three workshops. The registration fee for the two days is $290. For registration details clickhere. For more details about the program for teachers click here.

7.   Physics from the Web
Items selected from the bulletins of the Institute of Physics (UK).
Each item below includes the introductory paragraphs and a web link to the rest of the article.

a) Try the Physics World Dark Matter Flow Chart: What kind do you prefer?
Dark matter is the name given to the mysterious stuff that makes up some 27% of the universe. This flowchart, composed by former Physics World feature editor Louise Mayor, guides you through the many options for what it could be. It’s just for fun, but the flowchart will help guide you through the maze of possible options for this stuff, be it familiar stuff like massive compact halo objects (MaCHOs) or non-baryonic matter like neutrinos, WIMPS, gravitions, sterile neutrinos or maybe even axions or something to do with supersymmetry. Or perhaps you’d just rather modify our theories of gravity instead. (You can Click to enlarge the image or open in a new tab and zoom in for the full detail.)

b) Beyond the Lithium-Ion Battery
The batteries we depend on for our mobile phones and computers are based on a technology that is more than a quarter-century old. Rechargeable lithium-ion (Li-ion) batteries were first introduced in 1991, and their appearance heralded a revolution in consumer electronics. From then on, we could pack enough energy in a small volume to start engineering a whole panoply of portable electronic devices – devices that have given us much more flexibility and comfort in our lives and jobs.

In recent years, Li-ion batteries have also become a staple solution in efforts to solve the interlinked conundrums of climate change and renewable energy. Increasingly, they are being used to power electric vehicles and as the principal components of home-based devices that store energy generated from renewable sources, helping to balance an increasingly diverse and smart electrical grid. The technology has improved too: over the past two and a half decades, battery experts have succeeded in making Li-ion batteries 5–10% more efficient each year, just by further optimizing the existing architecture.

c) A wave of Discovery: Gravtational Waves
James Hough outlines the last 30 years of gravitational-wave astronomy, from building prototype detectors to making a revolutionary discovery.

“Gravitational waves, yet to be convincingly detected, promise to open a new astronomical window.” Those are the words I wrote for Physics World in early 1989. Today, with six detections of gravitational waves confirmed over the past three years, I am delighted to see how many of the predictions I made in that article have come to fruition.

Almost exactly a century after they were predicted by Albert Einstein in his general theory of relativity, the first detection of gravitational waves – produced via the collision and subsequent merger of two black holes – was made by the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-wave Observatory(LIGO) detectors in the US, on 14 September 2015. Since then, four more black hole coalescences have been reported. Although the initial observation took all of us completely by surprise, it was a much-awaited discovery. These observations provide the first direct proof that black holes exist; that they can be in binary orbits; and that there is a family of black holes of tens of solar masses, which were not thought to exist.