Shell Game: Do You Know Where Your Electrons Are?

Although students are often shown simple, iconic images depicting electrons traveling in circles around the nucleus of atoms, these infinitesimal busybodies don’t really behave that way. What’s more, as Jim Clark over at ChemGuide points out, it’s impossible to plot a path for electrons. Instead, electrons have a probability of existing on the surface of an area enclosing or near the nucleus of the atom. It’s an area referred to as a shell or orbital. Science teachers trying to explain this concept should take a gander at Orbital Viewer. It’s a Windows-based program designed by David Manthey for drawing orbitals.


Copyright, Right?

I’m constantly getting questions about what educators can and can’t do with copyrighted material. Some instructors are so terrified of copyright restrictions that they totally forgo using any copyrighted material. That’s sad, because many copyrighted resources are excellent tools for learning and teachers really needn’t feel so restricted. Thankfully, one of my friends, a media specialist’s media specialist by the name of Paula Galland, recently sent me a link to a great resource that’s designed to discern whether a teacher’s intended use of copyrighted material meets U.S. legal requirements. Exceptions for Instructors presents straightforward questions that teachers can answer in order to find out if their intended use of copyrighted material will be problematic.


Thanks, Paula!

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Building a Mystery: Pseudoform, Physics, and Phun

I’ve been keeping my eye on an extremely promising project that should enhance critical thinking skills, student engagement, creativity, and reveal the joy of learning. The object of my attention is Pseudoform. It’s a project dedicated to creating an engrossing, near-addictive “first-person puzzle-solving” game. Although no downloads (beta, alpha, or otherwise) are currently available, I’m hungry for an opportunity to tinker with what Pseudoform is promising. An exploration of the site’s media collection is enough to make visitors to play with its developing product.


While waiting for Pseudoform to take form, educators and students interested in interactive multiphysics simulation resources have a number of related diversions to keep them occupied. For example, Microsoft Physics Illustrator (also referred to as Magic Paper), is a 2D physics simulator developed by MIT’s Design Rationale group that’s as fun as it is informative. Although it was originally developed for use on tablet PCs, the application can be used with non-tablet PCs as well. For a more amusing and game-like experience that will get mental wheels turning nonetheless, teachers and pupils can explore the principles of physics and work their way through a goodly portion of confounding fun with Crayon Physics. It’s a pleasurable means of learning about physics that was designed by a fantastic Finn named Petri Purho, who showcases his work at Kloonigames. While watching and testing hypotheses centered around gravity, mass, kinetic energy and the transfer of momentum, those using Crayon Physics will most likely get an itch to investigate the game’s descendant, Crayon Physics Deluxe. And finally, there’s Phun, a “2D physics sandbox” that encourages users to take a constructionist approach to learning about how and why things happen the way they do

Frame of Reference

I’m doing a lot of my work on non-PC/Linux-based OS machines these days. As a result, I’m patiently waiting on Google to release a version of its Chrome browser for Mac and Linux. In the interim, I stumbled across CrossOver Chromium, a Mac and Linux port of the open source Chromium web browser while nosing around the Codeweavers site. I intend to give the application a whirl.

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On a related note, yesterday I found out that Google is releasing an early version of its Google Chrome Frame. It’s a nifty open source (what else would you expect from Google?) plug-in that delivers HTML5 and some other open web technologies to Internet Explorer. As expected, this turn of events has people talking. Thomas Claburn over at InformationWeek has a timely post about the significance of Google’s deft move.

Season to Taste: Headed for a (Great) Fall

autumn-leavesAs Michael Ritter explains at his site, The Physical Environment: an Introduction to Physical Geography, as the Earth revolves around the Sun, seasons come and seasons go. Today, for example, here in the northern nemisphere, we’re welcoming the arrival of the autumnal equinox. Those of us in the southern U.S. are delighted. Along with gorgeous Fall colors, Georgians and other denizens below the Mason-Dixon line are more than ready for cooler temperatures.

Since it is the autumnal equinox and there’s talk of revolving round the Sun, why not introduce students to some great free resources such as Stellarium and Celestia? Both of these open source programs will help students understand the difference between important astronomical concepts such as rotation and revolution while simultaneously displaying the wonders of the heavens.

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