Day 106: Taco Party

Today was the taco party. Four years ago, one of my students left a bottle of taco sauce in my room. The bottle was brought for a fiesta in Spanish class but was never opened. The students had opened up a jar of salsa instead. So the bottle sat in my room for a while. Then I started having students turn in their labs right next to the taco sauce. Later, the taco sauce ended up on a top shelf. This year, we realized it expired in February of this year, and we planned for a taco party.

Today was the day. We had lots of sugary treats, some nacho chips and taco meat, and no plates. We managed. 

We also took a test, whiteboarded the last, relatively straightforward problems about pendulums, and played a little bit with the long slinky. We're moving on to mechanical waves tomorrow.

Day 103: Starting Restoring Force

We finished magnetism today. The change in the magnetic flux can be hard to see, so I made skid some flash cards after school today. We had pictures of various situations on one set and descriptions of possible changes to the flux on the other set. One from Set A, one from Set B, then go! What is the induced current?

We then moved to a mass on a spring. The graphs were pretty, and we could explain them well.

Day 102: Ferromagnetism

Today was a hodgepodge of things. We started by whiteboarding what was mostly a review of right-hand rule problems, and we got to clarify what was going on. Then we did the classic "why is the object going so slowly down the pipe" demonstration. 

Then it was on to the three types of materials: ferromagnetic, paramagnetic, and diamagnetic. We, of course, had to see the levitating frog video. Then we practiced some last Faraday's law questions. 

Day 101: Practicing Magnetic Induction

We went slow and steady today. Magnetic flux is not an easy concept, and we want to make sure we understand it and the long, causal reasoning that goes into electromagnetic induction.

We started by debating a lot about how the flux changes. One student in particular mentioned an interesting point about what happens when you push the magnet in through the loop. Doesn't the magnetic field change direction? It took a while to clarify the question, and in that clarification, we got to talk about how the magnetic flux doesn't really have a direction. It's just positive or negative. 

We spent a lot of time talking about the reasoning we'd use to figure out the direction. We got to hear many ways to explain our thinking. At the end of class, we even got to see magnetic induction using the function generator, and the current in the second loop only happened when the current in the first loop changed. We can explain transformers and wireless charging now.

Day 100: Magnetic Induction

I got confused today in class.

Class started great. We discussed that the magnetic field seems to created when the electric field changes. So is an electric field created when the magnetic field changes? We had lots of loops of wires connected to sensitive voltmeter, ammeters, and galvanometers, so we could test it. We saw that the changing magnetic field does make an electric field, and we figured out it doesn't matter if the wire moves or the magnet moves.

Then, we had to figure out if we could predict the direction of the current that was induced. We tried to explain it, and I kept getting confused. It didn't seem to jibe with Lenz's Law. I couldn't figure it out. After a bit of stress sweating, I just had to let it be and teach Lenz's Law.

At the end of the day, I tried it again. What was I doing wrong? It worked perfectly. I could explain it easily. That kind of momentary brain lapse happens.

Day 99: Explaining the Mass Spectrometer

Magnetism is hard. I'm going slow this year. I want to spend time thinking about the direction of things. Three-dimensional thinking is hard, and it's a good skill to have. It's a predictor of success in engineering, so I'm willing to spend the time on it. We talked about how a mass spectrometer works. Crossed magnetic and electric fields are hard to visualize. 

Day 98: Quantifying the Magnetic Force on a Wire

We came up with various quantities that could change the magnitude of the magnetic force on a wire. We tested the number of magnets (as a proxy for the strength of the magnetic field), the length of wire, the current through the wire, and the thickness of the wire. (I liked the thickness of the wire test, but we didn't have a good way of measuring the thickness of the wire; I'll see if I can fix that for next year.) We wanted to check temperature, but I couldn't get the equipment together in such short notice. I like the fact we can test lots of different possible independent variables so that when we have our final model, we feel we've investigated everything we could.

We also spent a lot of time talking about the assessment on the electric field model. It was a tough test on a tough unit, and I have to think that some of it was my fault. How can I make the connections between field and potential really strong as well as the connections between potential and energy?

Day 97: Finishing the Magnetic Force on Moving Charges

Today was mostly a long test. It happens. The unit on the electric field is the longest unit I teach, and I'm not sure how to split it up. It would make sense to start it at the beginning of a semester, but it just didn't work out that way this year. The electric field unit is definitely one I have to think more about.

We whiteboarded a few problems figuring out the direction of the magnetic force. So many questions. Some were just trying visualizing the right-hand rule, which is very difficult sometimes. The others were deep questions about the consequences of the magnetic field. Students were starting to ask questions that would lead to the Hall effect or magnetic induction, and I just had to evade the questions.

Day 96: The Magnetic Force on a Wire

I read Arons today before class and it helped. This is a lesson I need to relearn every few months.

By Arons, I mean Teaching Introductory Physics. It's so good, and so massive, that every time I dive in, I learn something new. This time, it's to think about the Newton's Third Law with magnetism. If the current pushes on the magnet, then the magnet must push on the wire. Clever! So we learned the right-hand rule for forces on wires.

But we also diverged into special relativity when a student asked about magnetic potential energy. After reasoning that the magnetic field could do no work, I said special relativity was needed to explain why it looked like the magnetic field caused the magnet to move. This video by Veritasium explains more.

Day 95: The Magnetic Field around a Wire

Yes! We're starting magnetism!

We started with a big charged plastic corrugated sheet that charges up nicely when we rub it against a certain student's curly hair. We put it next to a very strong magnet. What happened? How does that help us differentiate between magnetic interactions and electrostatic interactions?

Then, we got out the iron filings and sketched what they did near the magnets. They seemed to align to patterns we had seen before with electrostatics. There seems to be an analogy between magnetic fields and electric fields. We know, though, that any analogy isn't perfect, but it seems in our north-o-centric, up-o-centric, positive-o-centric world, we'd define the magnetic field in the direction a north pole would feel a force. (Question I didn't ask in class, but should've: where is the north pole that makes the Earth's magnetic field?)

After we sketched out some magnetic fields around magnets, we started looking at the magnetic fields around a wire. We knew there had to be a magnetic field since we saw the compass move when placed near a wire carrying a current. So we investigated it, and, in doing so, defined the right hand rule.