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Re: [Phys-L] Display case suggestions?

Embalming is embalming. But if you put in a real variety of different
things to challenge students, once in a while an individual will notice it.
I used to tape all kinds of science articles outside my room in the hall. I
just put up NY Times or other periodical articles. On year I put up a
series of articles starting with the birth of the univers all the way to
speculations as to its ultimate fate. In between I put articles on physics,
chemistry, and biology (evolution) as appropriate.

One time the chemistr teacher asked a question in class and a student
responded with an unusual answer. She asked where they got it from, and
found they had read it on my wall. I wonder when they found the time to do
it as they should be in class 90% of the time? However the goof offs often
are more interesting than the totally dedicated students. They are also the
ones who might end up coming up with really new ideas. But you probably
don't want something that is such a distraction that students spend all
their time in the hall rather than the classroom.

Sometimes just a simple plasma lamp can draw attention. We put one in our
front window on Halloween and children were drawn to look at it.

John M. Clement
Houston, TX

Dear List, 

   I'm now THE committee for physics display case
demonstrations and displays at my University, and I'd like
your input on what makes an entertaining/pretty, or
educational/interesting display case demonstration
[preferably change the "or" to an "and", of course]. 

   I do not yet know how many such cases I will be in charge
of, nor how large each might be, so space limitations may be
a big factor. Nor do I know if any of them will be viewable
from all angles. I also don't yet know what kind of power
draw limitations each might have (so something that requires
a joint recirculating water pump and dehumidifying system
might be overkill). On the other hand, I'll have access to
each display, so that if something requires periodic
maintenance, I can do it.

   I suspect that everything from "Here's a lucite-encased
meteorite with explanation" display, to interactive chaotic
pendulum, to "look at this live barometric feed today and
come back tomorrow and compare reading and weather to today's
reading and weather", to "drinking bird" might be fine. With
some time I could even cobble together a large and imposing
and dangerous-looking Jacob's ladder. One which should be
easy and probably lots of fun would be to set up a microwave
doppler system which could detect people moving around the
display and give a nice oscilloscope display of their
relative movements.

   So: What might draw the eye and the brain? What butterfly
wings might plant a seed of wonder in a small visiting
child's brain and make him think, years on, that perhaps this
science stuff isn't all that boring? What passive or active
demonstrations might *you* like to see done well, and what
would make them done well for a large range of viewers/users?
Forum for Physics Educators