Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2000 15:54:04 -0500

Author: "Reid, John"

Subject: RE: Suggested experiments?


Here's a few ideas I've tried. Each of the experiments
below took more than one week and some were done in parallel
with other experiments.

1.One "non-standard" thing I do with my students in our modern
physics lab is to give them at least one project where they must
rebuild and troubleshoot an apparatus.

For example, last year I had them work on a diffusion pump.
First they each did some library work on diffusion pumps. Then
we had a group discussion on the library work. I had 6 students
in the class. They formed 2 groups of 3. Each week one group
would work with the disfusion pump while the other group worked
on a more standard experiment. They had to figure out how to take
it apart and then clean it and reassemble it. At the start of each
session the 2 groups had to discuss their progress with the other group.
They also had to develop a manual for operating the pump.

At first they wanted to jump right into it and tear the pump apart.
I emphasized the usefulness of being thoughtful and methodical.

2. Another lab we did this year was to leave a scintillator counter
connected to a spectrum analyzer running for a week to study
background radiation. We did not do an in depth analysis, but
they did do some library work on radon and associated progeny
and attempted to relate the peaks they saw with the radon chain.
If nothing else it helped to emphasize the usefulness of log scales
and also to see that very small peaks (peaks that may be hard to
see) can still be statistically significant.

3. We also did a standard Ba137 1/2 life experiment. The twist was
that I had the two groups combine their data and do weighted fits
using statistical errors. It seemed to be a good lesson in comunication.
At first they had a difficult time sorting out why the plots looked so
different. They found mistakes in each other's work and also had to
resolve differences of scale and units.


John D. Reid, Ph.D. Geology & Physics Dept.
Assistant Professor of Physics Lock Haven University
(570) 893-2078, 227 Ulmer Lock Haven, PA 17745

-----Original Message-----
From: kyle forinash []
Sent: Friday, December 08, 2000 3:54 PM
Subject: Suggested experiments?


I would appreciate any suggestions this group might have for good
'modern' experiments suitable for a lab component for the typical
third semester undergrad course in 'modern physics'.

I'm getting tired of the old standards (Millikan oil drop, Franck
Hertz, radioactive decay, J.J. Thompson e/m, etc.). I've not had
contact with anyone teaching this course for some time- what
experiments do people typically do in this course these days? How
many experiments is 'enough'? What are we trying to teach in these

kyle forinash 812-941-2390
Natural Science Division
Indiana University Southeast
New Albany, IN 47150