Wednesday, September 15, 2010

South Jersey: Astronomy Open House

This should be of interest to those in South Jersey (quoted from Rowan news mailer.)
Rowan Observatory Open House: Autumnal Equinox, Harvest Moon, Jupiter, and Uranus
Date: Wednesday, September 22nd
Time: 7:30 p.m. - 10:30 p.m.
Location: Science Hall, Rowan University

Fall officially begins Wednesday, September 22nd and the Rowan Astronomical Observatory will host an open house to mark this and several other astronomical events. Come to Science Hall to celebrate the Autumnal Equinox, the Harvest Moon, the opposition and closet approach of Jupiter since 1963, and the conjunction of Jupiter and Uranus - all of which occur within a 48-hour period. A brief show in the Edelman Planetarium describing the night time sky will be offered at 7:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. At 8:00 p.m. (weather permitting), the observatory and observing deck will open to the public. A suite of telescopes will be available to view Jupiter, Uranus, the Moon, and many more celestial objects. Brief tours of the observatory dome will be offered and guests will be invited to operate the controls of the 0.4-meter telescope. This free event is open to the public and children are welcome with parent supervision.

In the event of clouds, the open house will be held completely indoors with a short program of planetarium shows, lectures and tours.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Never rely on physics textbooks for history

I've always believed my physics textbooks which have statements like "Einstein did not even mention the famous Michelson-Morley experiment in this classic 1905 paper"

But this year I'm also using Alan Lightman's The Discoveries: Great Breakthroughs of Twentieth Century physics, which includes translations of the original papers. Sure enough, here's Einstein in 1905:

Examples of this sort, together with the unsuccessful attempts to discover any motion of the Earth relative to the "light medium," suggest that the phenomena of electrodynamics as well of mechanics possess no properties corresponding to the idea of absolute rest.

If that's not a mention of Michelson-Morley's experiment, I'll eat my hat. What is true is that he did not "cite" it in the regular way, and presumably that's been changed over time to the idea he didn't mention it.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Physics Major to Congress

I'm always looking to see what else people do with Physics degrees.

Here's a physics undergraduate major:

According to the Arizona Daily Wildcat, a guidance, navigation and control engineer who works for Raytheon Missile Systems won the GOP primary in Arizona’s 7th congressional district in late August and now hopes to unseat U.S. Rep. Raúl Grijalva, a four-term Democrat, come November.

Ruth McClung, a self-described “rocket scientist”, earned a bachelor's degree in physics in 2004 from the University of Arizona in Tucson before going to work for Raytheon.

(I can't find the original article at The Arizona Wildcat.) She studied towards, but didn't finish, a master's degree in optical sciences.

So we see two careers here: Becoming a politician, and (more practically) working for the defense industry, missile defense in particular. (Actually, back in the 80s, my best friend's father always claimed SDI was a fake jobs program for physicists.)

The three -- an all-time record -- current PhD physicsts in Congress are Democrats Rush Holt and Bill Foster and retiring RepublicanVern Ehlers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Frames of Reference

I'm teaching PHYS309, Physics of the 20th and 21st Century, at UD this year and I thought I'd go ahead and show the first 9 minutes of this old, but illustrative, NSF film on Frame of Reference:

Is it helpful? We'll see what the students say.