Day 3: Starting Particle Physics

My Modern Physics class started thinking about particle physics with the gold foil experiment. We used another QuarkNet Data Portfolio activity and simulated the experiment using marbles as the alpha particles and dice as the gold atoms.

They made a histogram of hits per 10 rolls by using sticky notes on the wall, then figured out the size of the particles (the dice and marbles are about the same diameter, so we assumed they were the same) by thinking about the probability of one marble making a hit.

We are going to spend a little more time with this activity in the next couple of days. We want to think more about how well it simulates the gold foil experiment and what changes we can make to it in order to improve it as a model.

My second section of Physics 10 did the position-time experiment with the buggies and had a solid board meeting. They were wrestling with an idea about whether the intercept on the graph had anything to do with the velocity, whether it was needed to find the velocity, etc. In talking to them about it more, I think they were (in part) getting at an idea about whether the cart was moving when the graph “starts” and the difference between the intercept being “where the cart starts” and where the cart was when they started their stopwatches—some subtle things to keep sorting out in the next two days of the unit.

They are working on finding their rhythm as a class during the discussions, but they are already picky and careful about how they present their work.

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