Vicphysics Teachers' Network Inc.
Dear *|FNAME|*,

The recent Physics In-Service in part talked about different ways of assessing learning. There are details of a survey for teachers on the methods they use.

There is a lecture on dark matter for students this Wednesday.

For teachers, there are a batch of useful websites as well as a selection of interesting articles including one by Carlo Rovelli and another on N95 masks.  There is also a short piece on the movement of the Earth's axis.

The next meeting of the Vicphysics Teachers' Network will be on Wednesday, 5th May at 5:30pm. It will be an online meeting. If you wish to participate, please contact Vicphysics.

Dr Barbara McKinnon (Pres), Sandor Kazi (Vice-Pres), Dan O'Keeffe OAM (Sec) and Deepa Jain (Treas)

Table of Contents
       1. Assessing Learning - A Survey
       2. Some Physics Teaching Resources

       3. Climate change and the movement of the Earth's axis
       4. Vicphysics Subscriptions
       5. Events for Students        6. Events for Teachers
  • Big Ideas in Physics: A New Scientist Online Lecture Series
       7. Physics News from the Web 
  • Is the 'new muon' really a great scientific discovery?  For now I'm cautious by Carlo Rovelli
  • Sunny superpower: Solar cells close in on 50% efficiency
  • Super-resolution microscope sees deep inside the brains of living mice
  • Slingshot spider pulls more 'g's than cheetahs do
  • The Astounding Physics of N95 masks
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1. Assessing Learning - A Survey
The last newsletter referred to a talk on Assessment and Feedback by Dr Syd Boydell and Dr Merryn Dawborn-Gundlach from the University of Melbourne at the Beginning Physics Teachers' In-Service.  The link to the material from that in-service is here. The webpage also has links to some of the techniques referred to in the talk and in the discussion that followed, including Kahoot, Plickers, KWT Tables, Mind maps, Quizlets, Quizizz and Exit Tickets.

They are conducting a survey of physics teachers about the various methods of progressive or formative and as well as summative assessment that they use.  There are 5 tick the box questions asking which tools you use and how useful you find each of them.  It should take between 4 and 8 minutes to complete.

You are also able to view progressive survey results as well as read the comments by some of the respondents, both which should be instructive in themselves.

The survey can be accessed here.

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2. Some Physics Teaching Resources
a)  Understanding Car Crashes. Two 25 min videos by Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (US).  The titles are : i) It's Basic Physics and ii) When Physics Meets Biology.  The videos have viewing 3 options: Full video, Full video with questions, Video segments with questions.  There are also three video assisted hands on lessons as well as POE engagement videos.
b) Astronomy video: The Stars Within Us, nuclear cosmogenesis (4 min, middle level). 
c) Understanding Rolling Resistance: A Youtube video from LearnEngineering (5 min)
d) Aerodynamics and paper planes. A Youtube video (16 min) on Aerodynamics explained by a World Record Paper Plane Designer, it looks at five designs with a comprehensive discussion of the physics principles.
e) The Camscanner turns photos taken on a smartphone into a pdf file. Microsoft's Office Lens is similar.

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3. Climate Change and the movement of the Earth's Axis
This piece is not about physics teaching, rather an intriguing phenomenon which might interest you.

A recent article in The Guardian suggested that climate change had shifted the Earth’s axis.  The article and follow up reading revealed the following surprising information.

Measurement of the Earth, called geodesy, has become increasingly sophisticated with the use of satellites.

Observations of the poles, which began in 1899, show that the poles are in constant motion, in a circular path, but the centre of the circle has moved over time and the radius has also changed.  Generally there has been a slow southward drift along the line of longitude of 70 W at a rate of about 10 cm / year.  This drift is thought to have been caused by deglaciation since the last ice age.  However in about 2005, the drift abruptly turned Eastwards.  The image at the side shows the circular path over time. The unit, mas, is an angular unit in milliseconds of arc, 1 mas is approximately 3 cm of movement of the pole.

The measurement technology includes long baseline interferometry, satellite laser ranging and lunar laser ranging.  With the introduction of GPS, the position of the pole can be location to an uncertainty of 0.03 mas, which is equivalent to 1 mm on the surface.
One possible explanation for the Eastward movement is the shift of land ice from Antarctica and Greenland to water in the ocean, another is the pumping up of ground water, which also ends up in the oceans, both of which increase sea levels.  In the last 50 years, it is estimated that 18 trillion tonnes of water has been removed from underground aquifers without being replaced with an expected impact on agriculture that relies on diminishing aquifers

Source of images: Geophysical Research Letters

4. Vicphysics Subscriptions
The free introductory offer has lapsed. To now access the Teachers resources section of the website a paid subscription is required. Details are at the bottom of the home page.
a) VCE lectures, 4:30pm, Wednesdays, University of Melbourne
This series of lectures are held on Wednesdays about once a fortnight at a new time of 4:30pm and because of COVID students need to register to attend and they can also register to access the lectures on-line.  For details of the full program check here.

i) Bringing Dark Matter to Light4:30pm Wednesday, 28th April
Speakers: Maddy Zurowski and Bill Dix, University of Melbourne
Abstract: The researchers reveal the mysteries of dark matter and how we can use some clever Physics to detect this elusive particle right here in Australia.
Venue: Medley Theatre/online, Redmond Barry Building, University of Melbourne

To register for audience tickets or to view the lecture online, click here.   Registration is required

ii) Protecting Astronauts from Ionising Radiation on the Mission to Mars, 4:30pm, Wednesday, 12th May
Speaker: Prof Susanna Guatelli (University of Wollongong and 2021 AIP Women in Physics Lecturer)
Abstract: Human missions to Mars have been identified as a main goal of human exploration by the International Space Exploration Coordination Group. The roadmap to the human exploration of Mars started with the International Space Station mission about twenty years ago and is envisaged to continue with a human outpost on the Moon and finally with a mission to Mars within the next twenty years.

A human mission to Mars would expose astronauts to serious health hazards, including acute and late risks caused by exposure to cosmic radiation, eventually leading to cancer and death. The design of shielding solutions and of powerful and accurate radiation monitoring systems are subjects of research to facilitate the human exploration of the Solar System.

However, the testing of proposed novel technologies on Earth is limited as there is no facility capable of producing the cosmic radiation the astronauts would encounter in space.

So how do we make sure our astronauts will be safe? Professor Guatelli will be taking students through her research here on Earth.

Venue: Medley Theatre/online, Redmond Barry Building, University of Melbourne

To register for audience tickets or to view the lecture online, click here.  Registration is required

Notes from previous lectures on topics including relativity, electricity and nuclear energy from recent years are also available at the website.

b) Girls in STEM: Empowering Curiosity - Friday, 18th June
An event for girls in Years 9 to 10:
  • An opportunity to be inspired by women who have forged impressive careers in STEAM industries.
  • Engage in hands-on activities to stimulate interest and engagement in STEAM based careers.
This event explore females in STEM careers with an emphasis on the importance of mathematics required for success. Students will hear from leading industry experts in a range of fields about their experiences working in a STEM focused career.
Experts will share their stories; the journey they took, the contributions they have made, the impact of being a female, tips for success, and how to overcome obstacles along the way.
The importance of mathematics in VCE subject selection, university degrees and in STEM careers is addressed. An interactive panel discussion follows the individual presentations.
Students will then engage in two hands-on STEM based activities that require students to be curious and creative, delivered by our supporting partners. One activity includes a hands on engineering experience run by 'Engineers without Borders'.
Please note that morning tea is provided. Teachers and students will need to BYO lunch. (Subject to change according to COVID safe plans)
Venue: Ivanhoe Girls' Grammar School 
Cost: $35 /$25 per student. Max 20 students per school
To register: click here . For more information click here

c) Victorian Young Physicists' Tournament - Registrations now open
VYPT is back this year with a number of changes. For those not familiar with VYPT.  It is a competition for students in Years 10 and 11. During Terms 2 and 3, in teams of 3, the students experimentally investigate a common set of three topics, then on Sunday, 12th September in a series of one-on-one 30 minute contests with other teams, they describe their method, explain their findings, and question and challenge the presentations of others.

The topics for 2021 are:

  • Conical Piles Non-adhesive granular materials can be poured such that they form a cone-like pile. Investigate the parameters that affect the formation of the cone and the angle it makes with the ground.
  • Saxon Bowl A bowl with a hole in its base will sink when placed in water. The Saxons used this device for timing purposes. Investigate the parameters that determine the time of sinking.
  • Falling Tower: Identical discs are stacked one on top of another to form a freestanding tower. The bottom disc can be removed by applying a sudden horizontal force such that the rest of the tower will drop down onto the surface and the tower remains standing. Investigate the phenomenon and determine the conditions that allow the tower to remain standing.
These topics are engaging, accessible at different levels, don't require a lot of equipment and not restricted to the science classroom. They are an ideal challenge for keen students.

The features of the competition are:
  • it is team based,
  • focused on experimental investigations and
  • uses oral presentations.
Prizes: There is a prize for every student, with major prizes for top place getters and a trophy for the winning team.
Mentors: This year sees the involvement of university students, who will not only assist teachers on the judging panels, but will be available as mentors to the teams. Teachers will be able to request a mentor for each team when they register.
Venue: University of Melbourne
Registration: This year there is a fee: $20 per team for a Vicphysics subscriber, $40 per team for a non-subscriber.  Registrations are now open and will close on 23rd July, see links to 'Teachers' below. 
Note: One teacher for every two teams needs to be nominated, who will be a member of the judging panels on the day.
Travel Subsidy will be available for regional schools.
Live-Streaming: Vicphysics has received funding from Inspiring Victoria to enable one of the contests in each round to be streamed. The registration form includes a section on approval to be part of the live streaming.

For further details, there are four relevant webpages on the Vicphysics website:
  • For general information,
  • For teachers to register teams, along with advice on planning, including a promotional flyer and a link to the video of Physics Teachers' Conference workshop with a discussion among a panel of teachers who have participated before.
  • For students, with guide questions, hints and links to useful resources.
  • For University students, interested in being judges and mentors.
d) The Exciton Solar Cell Challenge
The special features of the Exciton Solar Cell Challenge are:
  • It is an experimental challenge for Year 7-10 students in teams of 2 - 3.
  • Students construct their own Dye Sensitised Solar Cell (DSSC) using a dye they source.
  • Kits are sent to schools and students complete the challenge with teacher support (20 free kits per school, extra kits are $20 each) and then send in evidence of experimentation.
  • This challenge is best for extension groups and STEM clubs.
  • Prizes and certificates are sent to students upon challenge completion.
  • The challenge is running through Terms 2-4 this year with a very flexible timeline.
The website has sections about key dates, information for teachers, digital copy of resources and a registration link.  The kits sent to the schools has the two more difficult to acquire materials, the rest are common science equipment and chemicals.

When you register you can request a researcher to present an introductory zoom lesson (30 mins) for the students.
6. Events for Teachers

a) Big Ideas in Physics: A New Scientist Online Lecture Series
  • How fast is the Universe growing? with Jo Dunkley, 6pm, 6th May. Prof Dunkley is a British astrophysicist and Professor of Physics at Princeton University.
  • How Time Works with Sean Carroll, 6pm, 3rd June. Prof Carroll is a Research Professor at CalTech.
These talks are held at 4:00am Melbourne time, however a ticket purchase gives you on demand access to the lecture and the Q&A session for 12 months.
Individual tickets are £13 (early booking rate) and there is a 25% discount on the series ticket.

  7.   Physics from the Web
Items selected from the bulletin of the Institute of Physics (UK).
a) Is the ‘new muon’ really a great scientific discovery? For now, I’m cautious.
An article in The Guardian by Carlo Rovelli, the author of 'Reality is not what it seems' and 'Seven Brief lessons on Physics'.
There is something curious about the great experiments and discoveries in fundamental physics from the past few decades. They have covered black holesgravitational wavesthe Higgs particle and quantum entanglement. They have led to Nobel prizes, reached the front pages of newspapers and made the scientific community proud. But they haven’t told us anything new: they have confirmed what we expected about the world.

The comments after the article are also worth reading.  There are many insightful comments on the nature of physics and the quality of science journalism.  The discussion of the meaning of words such as law, theory and hypothesis with misconceptions on display could be the basis for an educational activity.

Sunny superpower: solar cells close in on 50% efficiency

Researchers are working to improve the efficiency of multi-layer solar cells. This article explores whether their practical benefits are more likely to be realized in space than on Earth.
For solar cells, efficiency really matters. This crucial metric determines how much energy can be harvested from rooftops and solar farms, with commercial solar panels made of silicon typically achieving an efficiency of 20%. For satellites, meanwhile, the efficiency defines the size and weight of the solar panels needed to power the spacecraft, which directly affects manufacturing and launch costs.

To make a really efficient device, it is tempting to pick a material that absorbs all the Sun’s radiation – from the high-energy rays in the ultraviolet, through to the visible, and out to the really long wavelengths in the infrared. That approach might lead you to build a cell out of a material like mercury telluride, which converts nearly all of the Sun’s incoming photons into current-generating electrons. But there is an enormous price to pay: each photon absorbed by this material only produces a tiny amount of energy, which means that the power generated by the device would be pitiful.

c) Super-resolution microscope sees deep inside the brains of living mice
Visualizing subcellular structures deep inside the brains of living animals could improve our understanding of how neurons function in their native environment. Thanks to an improved super-resolution microscopy technique that dream is now one step closer to reality.
The researchers combined stimulated emission depletion (STED) microscopy with two-photon excitation (2PE) to visualize, in three dimensions, the dendritic spines of live mice.  The microscope marks the next generation of 3D-STED technology. Importantly, the technique could offer an in vivo view of several nanoscale structures buried deep within biological tissues.

d) Slingshot spider pulls more 'g's than cheetahs do.
Using their silk threads as a catapult, members of a family of orb-weaving arachnids rocket themselves and their webs through the air to capture prey.  This is the research article that the article is based on, it has videos and accel'n vs time graphs.

e) The Astounding Physics of N95 masks A Youtube video (6 min)


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Copyright © *|CURRENT_YEAR|* *|LIST:COMPANY|*, All rights reserved.

Our mailing address is:

Want to change how you receive these emails?
You can update your preferences or unsubscribe from this list