Monday, March 04, 2013

Eight Percent: Not Too Shabby!

When it comes to estimation, being off by an order of magnitude is.. not too shabby. You might not be in the in-field, but at least you're in the ballpark. And that's where my estimate landed on the year anniversary of my first Teach Me video.

My estimation? One million views. The reality: eighty thousand. Not quite packing the Big House (I grew up near the University of Michigan Football Stadium) but filling all other local sports stadiums to capacity and then some. (Accurate or not, that's how I visualize these statistics: sports stadia brimming with curious minds, eyes fixed on a giant YouTube screen above the field.)

Anyway, I've learned a diverse amount of information from this project so far. First, some topics are more popular than others. Yeah, it sounds obvious in hindsight but the results are quite opposite the prediction. I had no idea that Kirchoff's Rules (a second semester topic) would be one hundred times as popular as Impact Speed (a first semester topic, also covered in intro courses). I've guessed at the reasoning for these stats but only further experimentation will confirm my suspicions: you've gotta suffer for a while before you admit that you really need help.

Regarding production, the quality of video I'm producing now makes me blush at my first couple videos. (Which is how it should be with any entrepreneurial endeavor, I think.) It's still not perfect but I'm hoping that the addition of a second soft box and the use of a more sophisticated editting program (I'm using Apple's iMovie at the moment) will leave little for want in the production area.

Most importantly, I've seriously leveled up as a teacher. Some of this was through effort and research but most of it was the emulation and innovation. I happen to work with one of the most talented teachers in physics education (Dave Stoddard, Oakland Community College) and he has been very generous with his time and advice. His lectures have completely revolutionized my approach to teaching. And his suggestions regarding my videos are so useful and pertinent that sometimes I'm nervous to show him my work lest I need to scrap it and return to the drawing board. Scarcely a day goes by that I don't wonder where I would be as a teacher had I not been hired to work with him.

So... Quo vadimus? Well at risk of sounding repetitive, I predict again that (armed with the insights of a year of testing and tweaking) at this time next year the Teach Me videos will exceed one million views. As to which videos I'll produce, I'm torn between catering to the hungry crowd (making videos for upper level students looking for help) and building the foundation for the series (starting with lower level material). And though it may sound childish after all this technical analysis and post-game wrap-up, I will likely choose to make whichever videos are... the most fun to make.

Follow your bliss, right?


Physics Problems Driving You Bananas? Try This.

Folks rightfully resist the adoption of rigid, formulaic approaches to problems. In this case however, resistance is futile. That's because it's really difficult to overstate the utility of this problem solving method. And it's use can actually extend beyond the physics classroom. The reasons are simple. DAP: We are visual creatures. KNU: Failing to plan is planning to fail. EQN: Selecting the right tool for the right job. SSF: Haste makes waste. CYA: More than just covering your... it's an opportunity to review your work and understanding. From the production side, I'm very pleased with how this video turned out. In fact, I finally feel like the delivery is on par with the contents!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Down, Down, Down in a Freezing Ring of Ice

Non-calculus limit problems are fantastic for reinforcing the conceptual aspect of new physics principles. Nick Weckesser, an old college buddy, came up with this one and it remains one of my favorite. And as always, enjoy!

"F@#$ it! We'll do it live!"

Inspired by O'Reilly's viral rant and the prolific work of YouTuber PatrickJMT, I decided to experiment with a different format: live voice-over with minimal editting. The pros: no post makes cranking out videos a cinch. The cons: the videos are far less polished, and possibly less effective in conveying the information.


How to Row Reduce like Dr. Seuss

Oh, all those numerous and nasty equations!
All the plugging and chugging, it takes too much patience.
I've got just the thing for such an awful occasion:
It's mighty, it's sleighty! It's Gauss-Jordan Elimination!
First, our equations enjoy preparation.
Each variable is queued in ascending gradation.
Once aligned and accounted, their nice numeral agents,
Get bumped to a matrix in corresponding locations.
Next, we apply a few matrix operations:
Addition and subtraction. Division, multiplication.
Yes, our rows are massaged with arithmetication,
Until they're reduced to the simplest notation.
Lo', all of our multiplex math manueveration,
Concludes with a comely, concise configuration.
The name of this sexy and subtle sophistication?
She goes by Row Reduced Echelon Formation.
To the left: a delightful diag-one-alation.
To the right: our solutions, in column notation. 
Such a time-saving tool! Such a cool calculation!
It's mighty, it's sleighty! It's Gauss-Jordan Elimation!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

"Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire." - William Butler Yeats

And edutainment is making that fire dance to music! Given the simplicity of construction and operation of a Rubens' Tube, coupled with the enthusiasm it generates in the classroom, this totally tubular device is near the top of my must-have demo list. The stellar song in this video was written by bassist Andrew Kratzat.

You hear that, Mr. Anderson? That is the sound of Row Reduced Echelon Form.

If I had to pick between bullet-dodging skills and linear algebra skills, I'd probably go with bullet-dodging skills. But since Mythbusters already demonstrated that bullet-dodging is not an aquirable skill for mere mortals, I decided to make a video tutorial on Kirchoff's Rules using linear algebra.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

One atom. Two forces. And a physics problem that will change the way you see the world.

The gravitational force governs the motions of solar systems and galaxies. But in the atomic realm, the electric force is king. In this problem, we compare these two fundamental forces using the proton and electron pair in the Bohr Model of the Hydrogen Atom (BMOTHA). The result will shock you! (Bah-dum-pshhhh!)

Friday, March 23, 2012

One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Dinner.

From the air track to the particle collider, the Principle of Conservation of Linear Momentum (POCOLM) is one of the most useful tools we have to predict, explain or analyze the outcomes of an exchange of force. I felt compelled to make this particular collision more interesting than other intro-to-POCOLM classics: bodies-on-ice (ooooh) or particles-in-space (aaaah). So here we have two fish colliding in an inviscid lake (one of the lesser prominent locales of Physicsland). Enjoy!

Thursday, March 22, 2012

When the prof's in the crib, ma'...

(... drop it like it's hot.) One of the first topics in an introductory physics course is falling bodies and impact speeds. Analyzing the motion of a dropped object turns out to be relatively simple - negecting air resistance, of course. In this video we determine the impact speed of a dropped body using The Big Three (a.k.a. the Kinematic Equations) and some simple algebra.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Zepplin rules! So does Kirchoff.

I was incredibly flattered that so many folks - from so many different places! - enjoyed my lecture video of Kirchoff's Rules that I posted on YouTube for my students at Henry Ford Community College. I was also a bit perplexed. Why did so many folks skip over the higher quality tutorials to watch fuzzy old me scrawling on a whiteboard? The answer, I found, was because high quality videos explaining physics don't really exist... yet.

This blog, and the embedded videos, are my humble attempt to remedy that situation. And get rich and famous. (What? A guy can have delusions of grandeur, can't he?) I hope that my efforts are helpful to many and enjoyable to most.

Hello, world.

Saturday, May 01, 2004

Friday, April 30, 2004

when you help a person up a hill

"when you help a person up a hill, you come so much closer to the top yourself." - anonymous

truth is strongest

"Wine is strong,
 the King is stronger,
 women are strongest,
 but TRUTH conquers all."
 - translation of an inscription in the Rosslyn Chapel (near
   Edinburgh, Scotland).  The original reads "FORTE EST VINUM, FORTIOR
   is taken from Chapter 3 of Esdras in the Apocrypha.

Wednesday, March 31, 2004

announcement from Apple

Apple Computer is going to make an important announcement April 18, 2004 at NAB.

memory effect

i keep forgetting which kinds of batteries have a memory effect. my friend luke tells me:

batteries that have memory effect:

normal alkaline batteries*
rechargeable alkalines
most older Li-ion (like the kinds laptops have)
wet cell batteries** like car and UPS batteries

* there are chargers that can charge normal batteries
** I'm not sure about that