Happy National Physics Day!

Some people say that science takes the fun out of life- that things are less interesting if you can explain them.

Those people are entitled to their opinions, but I strongly disagree with them.

Rainbows are still pretty after you’ve learned about diffraction.

Roller coasters are still exciting after you’ve learned Newton’s laws of motion.

Sticking balloons to walls is still fun after you’ve learned about static electricity.

Burning dinner is still easy after you’ve learned about heat transfer.

And spinning around in an office chair is still awesome after you’ve learned about rotational motion.

For me, all of these experiences were intensified after I’d learned the science behind them. If you disagree, I strongly encourage you to follow these instructions:

1) Sit in a spinny office chair.

2) Hold your arms out parallel to the floor.

3) Start spinning.

4) Keep spinning and tuck your arms in by your sides.

5) Now bring them out parallel to the ground again.

Happy National Physics Day!

I should have written this on March 14th

One of the most difficult things about teaching math and science is figuring out interesting and accurate ways to make concepts concrete.

Solutions frequently involve pie. I have used pie to explain everything from the extremely straightforward (how to calculate the area of a sector of a circle) to the less tangible (the amount of thermal energy in an object depends on both its temperature and its mass). Bill Nye has used pie to demonstrate the transfer of momentum. Mixed-variety pies can show how ratios work; while my examples generally include more mundane flavors such as apple, banana, and cherry, the ratio of “crack” slices to candy bar slices to cinnamon bun slices in Momofuku’s “frankenpie” is 2:1:1. This ratio doesn’t definitively tell you how many slices there are, but it does tell you that the total number must be a multiple of 4. (I’ve never had this pie and it looks delicious, but the price is awfully steep. Maybe I could use it in a tutoring session and write it off as a business expense?)

I’d write more- the pies-as-science possibilities are endless- but for some reason I’m suddenly ravenous. Pardon me for a moment.