“AMA” means more than “ask me anything”

The very first textbook chapter I edited (way back in 2008!) was on work and machines, so I have a soft spot for the topic. It’s also the focus of the “Science Playground” exhibit at the science museum I work for (and no, I will never, ever tire of the phrase “the science museum I work for”.)

There are lots of things to push and pull, and it’s a ton of fun interacting with guests who are lifting 550 pounds for the first time. It’s made me nostalgic for my textbook days, so I thought I’d summarize some of the key concepts and formulas here.

Continue reading


Physics (not) by the numbers: work and energy

I tutor several physics students right now, and I find myself starting a lot of conversations with the phrase ‘let’s look at this conceptually for a second’. Don’t get me wrong, I love math, but sometimes we have to step away from the numbers and formulae and use our words.

Work and energy are good topics to tackle conceptually. Like many words, they have very specific meanings in physics that differ from the colloquial usage.

Continue reading

Snowed-in Science

This post goes out to all of my friends back in Boston who are snowed in because of Nemo. If cabin fever sets in, try this activity. I’m particularly partial to it because I did it when I was a high school physics student, used it in my own classroom when I was a high school physics teacher, and may have even adapted it for one of the books I worked on as a textbook editor. As a throwback to my editing days, I’ve written up the directions in middle-school-lab-manual format.

Are You More Powerful Than a Light Bulb?

Power is a measure of how quickly something uses energy. Power is measured in watts: a 60-watt light bulb uses 60 joules of energy in one second. Are you more powerful than a light bulb? Who’s the most powerful person in your house?

Continue reading