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Program for the Fall 2012 meeting

Saturday, November 3rd
CSU Northridge

Meeting Room: Donald Bianchi Planetarium

Local Hosts: Norm Herr, Say-Peng Lim

Contribute a 15 minute talk or a brief demo for the Show'n Tell segment using the online submission form or communicate directly with the program chair, Peanut McCoy. The deadline for contributions has passed.

Please RSVP for catered Thai food lunch (cost is $8) via this online form. Reservations are due by October 27.

The buffet will include a variety of noodle and rice dishes with meat and vegetable choices. Please let us know if you want to request tofu instead of meat. If you do not chose the Thai lunch, know that there are other dining options on campus.

Driving Directions from CSUN website
Annotated campus map

On campus in G3 parking structure is in G3, cost $6. (Off Campus Free.)


Cenco/ Sergent-Welch

Please take some time to check out the commercial workshops and exhibits at the meeting and especially to thank the representatives for their support of our organization.

What fraction of the local atmosphere passes through an internal combustion engine on a typical week day? (Contributed by Myron Mann)

Program Schedule  


Registration and refreshments


Welcome and announcements


Matthew D’Alessio, Loraine Lundquist (CSUN) – Water-Powered Rockets with collaborative, computer-supported approach.

Each year, our physical science class for pre-service elementary teachers launches water-powered rockets based on the activity from NASA. We adopted this classic activity to use a collaborative, computer-supported approach using simple and easily-available functions in Google Spreadsheets to pool observations, provide instant feedback, and publicly display results from all teams side-by-side in real-time. These instant comparisons promote student accountability and engagement, inspiring them to think more carefully about why answers may be different and notice sloppy data or unlikely outcomes -- in short, to facilitate and motivate expert thinking about data.


Norm Herr & Brian Foley (CSUN)  The use of collaborative web-based documents to create scientific research communities in physics classrooms.

New collaborative web-based document technology provides students and teachers the opportunity to readily collect and analyze large sets of data from multiple lab groups and class sections. Such resources may be used to create an environment that more closely resembles the collaborative environment of a professional scientific community in which researchers develop hypothesis and explanations in light of their own findings and those of their colleagues.


Invited talk: Damian Christian (CSUN)- Our Star, the Sun, and the Discovery of Earths Outside our Solar System 

We live in an exciting time in which Astronomers are discovering over 100 new planets orbiting nearby stars (exoplanets) each year.  NASA's Kepler mission is finding Earth-sized planets. I will review several of the search methods for exoplanets and present recent results. There are education materials available from several exoplanet surveys and the Kepler mission ( The understanding and characterization of new planets also requires us to have better measurements of many of their host star's properties. Understanding the activity of nearby stars leads us back to our own star, the Sun. CSUN has studied solar activity for almost 40 year and I will review these results and new results from NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory (


Invited talk: John Louis Callas (JPL)- Curiosity and the robotic exploration of Mars

For many years now, robotic explorers have been conducting field geology day after day on Mars at different locations on the surface. These rovers have traversed great plains, climbed mountains, descended into deep craters and survived rover-killing dust storms and frigid winters.  As the rovers move, each day becomes a brand new mission with new sights and new geology to explore, making significant discoveries in understanding the Red Planet and finding evidence of past habitable environments that could possibly have supported life. The surface robotic enterprise has just been joined by another, larger, more capable rover, the Mars Science Laboratory, Curiosity. In addition to extending the geologic exploration at a third location on Mars, Gale Crater, Curiosity begins the next phase of exploration with the ability to search for the chemical building blocks of life, organic molecules, moving closer to answering the questions, was there life on Mars, is there life on Mars?


Business meeting


Lunch – Thai Food Buffet (RSVP $8), on campus options also available


Show and Tell


Invited talk: Robert Cousins (UCLA)- Observation of a new particle at CERN -- the long-sought Higgs boson?

The Higgs Boson was postulated nearly five decades ago as a crucial element of the modern theory of the forces of nature, and has been the subject of worldwide searches ever since. On July 4, two huge collaborations, working at the Large Hadron Collider outside Geneva, announced independent observations of a Higgs-like boson. I will describe the motivation, the experiments, the data, and the interpretation.


Planetarium Show: Jan Dobias (CSUN)


Bill Layton (UCLA)-Transformer basics, wall warts and vampires

In an effort to develop an inexpensive demonstration of reflected transformer impedance, a convincing demonstration evolved to show why the utility companies are worried about the constant power drain from plug in wall transformers, even when the device connected is off or disconnected.


Sissi Li (CSU Fullerton)- Techniques for Developing the Undergraduates’ Identity in the Physics Community

Physics teachers teach more than physics content. Implicitly and explicitly, teachers model what doing physics means and how to be a member of physics communities. We show that real world connection is important by asking students to make sense of real physical situations. From the student side, they learn what is expected of them in the discipline and the extent to which they can influence the community. By being a part of a physics classroom community, teachers and students contribute to the students’ physics learner identity development. This talk will highlight research findings about some of the ways of contributing.


James Lincoln (Tarbut V’ Torah HS) - Techniques for Successful Student Films

Engaging students through the production of student films has become an instructional method that has gained in popularity in recent years. For this reason, it would be beneficial for someone with expertise in this area to provide guidance and instruction on how to arrange a unit around this instructional model.  In this talk I outline a unit I taught on making short science films.  Included are resources and tips for instruction on how to structure, develop and produce successful student films.


Nancy McIntyre (Robotics Education and Competition Foundation) Grants Available for Robotics Programs

I have a number of grants available to help begin VEX Robotics teams in Arizona, New Mexico and California schools.  The value of each of the  grants is $1,200.00.  Including team program registration for the season and a kit that will give a rookie team enough materials to build a competitive robot that will be able to compete in your state.  Robots have been a positive vehicle to focus students on the importance of STEM education.


Pari Spolter (Orb Publishing)-Kepler’s second law and conservation of angular momentum

Kepler’s second law is calculated for 18 planets and asteroids. It is shown that equal areas are swept in equal intervals of time only near the perihelion (P) and the aphelion (A). A highly significant relation between the ratio of the area swept at the average of P and A to the area swept at semimajor (S) in the same interval of time and the eccentricity is presented. The equation is ratio = ab+c with a = −0.617, b = 2, and c = 1.00. The correlation coefficient is 0.9975. The ratio is equal to , which is equal to sin θ, where θ is the smaller angle between the two vectors v and r. Angular momentum is a vector perpendicular to the plane formed by v and r and is conserved, indicating that there is no torque in the direction vertical to the plane of the orbits.


Order of Magnitude contest and door prizes



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