Saturday,  April 25

University of California, Los Angeles

Local Host: Prof. Shanna Shaked


Order of Magnitude question: How many molecules are in the atmosphere?

Our hosts at UCLA have arranged for a delicious Mexican catering by Rubios, the on Campus restaurant. The meal is FREE for those who RSVP for Lunch.

UCLA Campus Map


  • Exit the 405 at Sunset, go East
  • Turn Right on Hilgard
  • Turn Right on Westholme
  • Find the info booth on the right
  • Get a map & parking pass, park in lot 2
  • Walk passed Knudsen / Astronomy Building
  • Go to Physics/Astronomy Building: PAB 1-425

Free parking will be available in Lot P2 for the morning and then in lot 32 with the pass you get a  from the info booth at Westholme and Hilgard

The deadline for submitting an abstract has passed.
8:00-9:00 AM Registration, Refreshments, Exhibits
9:00-9:05 AM Welcome and Announcements
9:05-10:05 AM

An overview of fusion energy research: Taming turbulence in magnetized plasmas

Troy Carter, UCLA  Link to Presentation

I will give an overview of the challenges associated with harnessing nuclear fusion as a terrestrial power source and the progress that has been made in research in this area. In particular, I will discuss
turbulence in magnetically-confined plasmas and how transport associated with this turbulence limits the confinement achievable in current and planned experiments. I will present recent UCLA research
that has helped advance our understanding of the basic physics of turbulence and turbulent transport in magnetized plasmas. PDF Presentation

10:05-10:35 AM Drift Waves and Turbulence in a LAPTAG Plasma Physics experiment

Walter Gekelman et al., LAPTAG and UCLA  Link to Presentation

  Whenever there is a pressure gradient in a magnetized plasma, drift waves occur spontaneously. Drift waves have density and electrical potential fluctuations but no self magnetic field. In our experiment the drift waves form spontaneously in a narrow plasma column (Density = 5X1011 cm3, Te = 3eV, dia =3 cm, Boz = 160 G). As the drift waves grow from noise, simple averaging techniques cannot be used to map them out in space and time. The ion saturation current is recorded for an ensemble of 50 shots on a fixed probe located on the density gradient, as well as for a movable probe. The movable probe is under computer control and moves throughout a 2D-plane transverse to the background magnetic field. The data is collected with a digital oscilloscope and transferred to a computer as the probe moves. The probe signals are not sinusoidal and are filtered to calculate the cross-spectral function, which can be used to extract the time varying wave patterns. The wave field can be expressed in terms of axial and azimuthal wavenumbers. The dominant wave is a rotating spiral with m=1. The theoretical drift wave dispersion relation is verified. A discussion of the entropy of the waves and the Jensen Shannon complexity will also be presented. LAPTAG is a university-high school alliance outreach program, which has been in existence for over 20 years.

10:35-10:50 AM

NGSS/Common Core – A Rebuttal

John Altounji, LA Valley College  Link to Presentation

  This is a commentary on the presentation of the fall meeting about NGSS.  During the Fall SCAAPT Meeting three speakers presented on NGSS.  These three also served on a panel to which the audience could pose questions.  This talk extends that dialog after some reflection.

10:50-11:50 AM

 Planet Finding and Infrared Instruments

James Larkin, UCLA

Our laboratory makes infrared cameras and spectrographs for the World’s largest telescopes. I’ll present our recent instrument for the Gemini Planet Imager that is conducting a survey around nearby young stars looking for planetary systems like our own. I’ll also present scientific results from the OSIRIS integral field spectrograph at the Keck Telescope and our development of a first light instrument for the planned Thirty Meter Telescope due to be completed in 2023.

11:50-12:00 AM Business Meeting
12:00-1:00 PM Lunch provided by UCLA
1:00-1:15 PM Show and Tell
1:15-1:45 PM

Why Magnetic Levitation is Impossible and Five Ways to do it  Link to Presentation

Marty Simon, UCLA

  There are no theoretical stable configurations for magnetic levitation.  However, in practice there are many ways to set objects into levitation in magnetic potential wells or superconductivity, etc.  In this talk I discuss the theoretic explanations for why magnetic levitation is impossible as well as outlining five ways to perform magnetic levitations which are also demonstrated.

1:45-2:15 PM

Infrared Experiments Made Awesome – for High School and College

James Lincoln Tarbut V’Torah HS  Link to Presentation

  It’s time that Infrared Light stopped being invisible! In this talk I outline video and experimental techniques that will make Infrared Light as real as visible light. I will address Near, Far, and Intermediate IR Light and vividly demonstrate several video and photographic techniques that you can replicate. Many of these demos are original, to be seen nowhere else! Special attention is paid to interactive engagement, direct measurements, and practical demos for both the beginner and the advanced physics instructor.

2:15-3:15 PM

A Physicist Outside the Visible Spectrum: Johann Wilhelm Ritter

Jocelyn Holland, UC Santa Barbara   Link to Presentation

  Johann Wilhelm Ritter was an original thinker and a brilliant experimentalist whose tendency toward excess was recorded with fascination by friends and detractors alike. Between his arrival in Jena as a student in 1796 and his induction into the Bavarian Academy of Sciences in December of 1804, he earned a reputation for himself through early experiments in the rapidly developing fields of electricity, galvanism, and chemistry. He not only discovered the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum, he also constructed the first dry cell battery and proved the connection between galvanism and chemical reactivity. Ritter also made acute observations on the effect of electricity on muscles, sensory organs, plants, ruthlessly subjecting even his own body to numerous experiments at high voltage. This talk will highlight the contributions of this physicist whose work has long been overshadowed by the more prominent names of his time, such as Volta and Galvani. It will also explore what exactly doing physics might entail around 1800 and show how Ritter’s fascinating (and sometimes bizarre) scientific intuitions were deeply indebted to the poetic and philosophical trends of his time.

3:15-3:30 PM

Low-hanging Fruit for Active Learning in Large Lectures   Link to Presentation   BulletBlockVid1 BulletBlockVid2   BulletBlockVid3

Shanna Shaked, UCLA

  In a recent meta-analysis, traditional lecturing was found to be sufficiently less effective than active learning that it would be considered “unethical” to use as a control in a medical trial, according to a recent PNAS paper (Freeman et al. 2014). But teachers have limited time and effort, so what are the low-hanging fruit to optimize educational gains by using active learning? I will discuss my experiences and results in teaching large introductory physics for life science majors, using clickers, peer instruction, authentic assessment, peer grading, and semi-flipped lectures.
Because we all teach in different environments, I will also introduce attendees to a physics education research search tool to find evidence-based methods appropriate for their level of teaching and size of class:
If you are attending, feel free to send me your questions in advance ( Do you use active learning, how much do you use it, and what obstacles do you find in implementation?

3:30-3:45 PM Development of high school modules based on atmospheric physics research

Jasper Kok and Shanna Shaked UCLA    Link to Presentation

  We plan to develop several modules for use in high school physics classes that draw on active research in our groups concerning the physics of wind erosion, turbulence, and climate change. These modules will be developed with the NGSS and California Science Content Standards in mind, and will include lesson plans, real-world case studies, and rubrics for authentic assessments. This presentation will give an overview of these plans, and our hope is to connect with interested high school teachers to partner with, both in developing these modules, and in implementing them into the classroom.


Dividing Line between Quantum and Classical Trajectories in a Measurement Problem: Bohmian Time Constant        Link to Presentation

Antonio Nassar, UCLA and Harvard-Westlake High School

This work proposes an answer to a challenge posed by Bell on the lack of clarity in regards to the dividing line between the quantum and classical regimes in a measurement problem. To this end, a generalized logarithmic nonlinear Schroedinger equation is proposed to describe the time evolution of a quantum dissipative system under continuous measurement. Within the Bohmian mechanics framework, a solution to this equation reveals a novel result: it displays a time constant that should represent the dividing line between the quantum and classical trajectories. It is shown that continuous measurements and damping not only disturb the particle but compel the system to converge in time to a Newtonian regime. While the width of the wave packet may reach a stationary regime, its quantum trajectories converge exponentially in time to classical trajectories. In particular, it is shown that damping tends to suppress further quantum effects on a time scale shorter than the relaxation time of the system. If the initial wave packet width is taken to be equal to 2.8 x10^-15 m (the approximate size of an electron), the
Bohmian time constant is found to have an upper limit, i.e., 10^-26 s.

4:15 PM The World Famous “Order of Magnitude Contest” and Door Prizes
4:30 PM Meeting Adjourns / Tour of Plasma Lab

Over fifty members of the Southern California Section of AAPT gathered at University of California at Los Angeles for an exciting day filled with new physics and helpful advice for the classroom. SCAAPT thanks Shanna Shaked who hosted the meeting and Bradley “Peanut” McCoy, who served as Program Chair of the meeting. The meeting was called to order by SCAAPT President James Lincoln.

The meeting included many fascinating invited presentations:

Troy Carter, UCLA, gave an overview of the challenges associated with harnessing nuclear fusion as a terrestrial power source and the progress that has been made in research in this area.  Link to Presentation

Walter Gekelman, UCLA, and some of the high school students that work in his lab presented the theory and experimental results from UCLA’s Large Plasma Device. (LAPTAG is a university-high school alliance outreach program, which has been in existence for over 20 years.) Link to Presentation

James Larkin, UCLA, described his group’s use of infrared cameras and spectrographs, and how they aid our understanding of planetary formation. Gemini Planet Imager is conducting a survey around nearby young stars looking for planetary systems like our own. Link to Presentation

Marty Simon, UCLA, discussed the theoretical explanations for why magnetic levitation is impossible as well as outlining five ways to perform magnetic levitations, which were also demonstrated.  Link to Presentation

James Lincoln, Tarbut V’Torah HS, presented video and experimental techniques that make infrared light as real as visible light. The demos help to show the wave nature of IR, the differences between IR wavelengths, various methods of “observing” IR and ways of countering some of the many misconceptions related to IR.  Link to Presentation

Jocelyn Holland, UC Santa Barbara, talked about Johann Wilhelm Ritter who was a brilliant experimentalist that worked in the then rapidly developing fields of electricity, galvanism, and chemistry. Among his many accomplishments- he constructed the first dry cell battery and discovered the ultraviolet part of the light spectrum.  Link to Presentation

Antonio Nassar, UCLA and Harvard-Westlake HS, strove to answer a challenge posed by Bell on the lack of clarity in regards to the dividing line between the quantum and classical regimes in a measurement problem.  Link to Presentation

Several other SCAAPT members also gave engaging contributed presentations:

At the annual section business meeting, the members passed several amendments to the Constitution and By-laws that are intended to clarify the definition of a member. Link to Presentation

The ever-popular Show ‘n’ Tell featured demonstrations by Bernie Cleyet (surprising effects of convection currents in water), John Altounji (variation of the Brachistochrone) and James Lincoln (visualization of charging and discharging of capacitors).

At the end of the eventful day, members took a tour of the plasma lab at UCLA. Dr. Gekelman gave them the grand tour of the Large Area Plasma Device, The Toroidal Plasma Device, the High School Plasma Lab and some of the 3D images of flux ropes in a plasma.

SCAAPT thanks its corporate sponsors –Arbor Scientific, UCLA and PASCO– for their support and donation of door prizes and food.