Archive for June 2011

Baseball Physics

June 14, 2011

We went to a minor league baseball game on Sunday.

This photo provides an opportunity for a high school physics exercise. You can see the ball in the picture. It’s the blur on the right hand side.

Problem Begin by estimating the length of the blur. Then use this estimate to calculate the speed of the pitch. The exposure time for the photo was 1/80 of a second. First calculate the speed in feet per second. Then convert to miles per hour. (There are 5280 feet in a mile and 3600 seconds in an hour.)

Heading North

June 11, 2011

Probably most of you blog readers know that I’m moving and starting a new job. Today some friends threw us a baby shower, and from talking to some friends there I realized that not all my friends even knew about the move!

Beth and I are moving to northern Maine at the end of June, and in the fall I’ll be teaching three sections of high school physics at the Maine School of Science and Math.

In the state of Maine, it seems that north is kind of like a competitive sport, at least among people who live north of Bangor. People who rarely leave the southern part of the state might think of any place north of Bangor as “northern Maine.” People from southern New England, would almost certainly subscribe to that viewpoint. True northerners scoff at that idea, and probably rightly so.

Maine is not only the largest state in New England. The rest of New England would almost fit inside of Maine. So there are huge tracts of land north of Bangor, which really is still in the southern half of the state. We’ll be moving to the northernmost county, Aroostook county, which is nearly the size of Connecticut and Rhode Island combined! It’s the largest US county east of the Mississippi. I knew we were really really going north when I found that no Mainers would object to my calling Limestone, “nothern Maine.” Most respond with, “oh, where’s that?” or “yeah, that’s way up there.”

We’ll be about five miles from New Brunswick to the East (in a different time zone, in fact, did you know there was another, further eastern, time zone in North America?) and hour’s drive south of the province of Québec.  So we can listen to the radio in French, and we could watch French language TV if we decided to get TV service. Génial!

We went up last week to find a house to live in. I’m really excited about the move, the house,  and the new job. No more video game explosions  or middle of the night bass guitar through the wall of my apartment. Hopefully no more knife or bottle fights on the street, and I’ll be able to snowshoe to work in the winter. It might not be far enough to justify putting skis on unless I take some detours.

I’m sure not everyone (in my scientific circle) understands the career change I’m making. Loving to teach is really why I went into physics. I love physics and math, and I love teaching students about both of them. I originally (when I was in high school and college) wanted to be a professor in physics or math. However, a large part of the professor game (at least early on) is getting tenure. Witnessing that process, it’s not anything I want to take part in while raising my pre-school-aged child. If I were able to get a tenure track job in the next couple years, I’d be working the hardest longest hours, and under the most stress to bring in research money (a necessary part of science, but not one I love) during the time when my baby will be at home, becoming the person he’ll become. Babies are awesome, and I’ll only have one or two.  I’d rather travel less, work more regular hours, and be home more, especially during those early years.  Also, baby or no baby, I’ll get to teach all day, which is what I primarily wanted to do in the first place, and something I don’t currently get to do at all.

I’ll be teaching one calculus-based AP physics course, one algebra-based AP physics course (there are two different physics AP exams), and one section of algebra-based, not AP physics.  Also, in January, I get to design a two week course, on any topic of my choosing. One idea I have for that class is computational physics using the Python programming language. I’d also like to teach a class on the history, the math, and the technique of spinning fiber. I don’t know which one would be more popular. I think either one would be pretty fun and interesting for me and for the students.

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