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Virtual Three Experiments


In this Immersion, participants will learn how to teach several of the remote versions of labs from the new book “Experimental Physics: Principles and Practice for the Laboratory” (Taylor & Francis, 2020). The remote labs are based on a combination of interactive videos, sophisticated computer simulations, and in-depth data analysis. These labs are especially of use for teaching students who cannot come to campus, but are also helpful in providing all students a wider exposure to areas of experimental physics with zero equipment cost (other than the purchase of the book by each student).Haverford-amplifier_image_small.jpg

The first day of the Immersion is devoted to techniques of low-noise electronic measurements, including the development of a noise model for commercial (or homebuilt) amplifiers, the physics of capacitively-coupled interference, and Johnson noise. The emphasis is on correct technique and correct interpretation of results, rather than on equipment construction. Low-noise electronic measurements are important in most cutting-edge research in physics and metrology, and in much of engineering. Immersion participants will perform the actual equipment (using loaned equipment) versions of experiments on amplifier basics and on Johnson noise, followed by doing the virtual versions. Participants will need a Windows or Mac computer with a full-size USB port.

The second day centers on a study of drop pinchoff. As a drop of water falls from a faucet,Haverford-drop_pinch_off.png one body of liquid separates into two. This everyday event is actually a beautiful and accessible finite-time singularity that introduces several key topics in fluid and nonlinear physics. Optional experiments with dissolved polymer are an introduction to non-Newtonian fluids and polymer physics. Drop pinch-off itself is an area of active research, owing in part to its role in fuel injection, spray-coating, and inkjet printing. This one-day portion of the virtual Immersion will focus on: predicting the behavior from first principles; a walk-through of a working apparatus; exploring the camera triggering circuit in a simulator; measuring features of the provided experimental movies; and comparing to predictions. Participants will need a computer with FIJI software (free), their preferred plotting and curve-fitting software, and ~8 GB disk space to download the images.

On the third day, participants will learn how to teach a lab that uses insects (crawling fly larvae) Haverford-drosophilia.pngto investigate how animals use a simple set of rules that modulate components of their behavior to achieve navigation in complex environments.  The main physics frame of reference for the lab is the random walk (diffusion), as students learn how randomness and purposeful motion combine to generate directed motion.  In particular, students build increasingly sophisticated Monte Carlo simulations of crawling trajectories and compare them to empirical data in order to identify fundamental components of behavior. Biology experiments, especially animal behavior, increasingly draw on more quantitative and analytic methods from physics. For example, learning about how very simple animals modulate behavior (this lab) can lead to important findings about how brains process information and organisms make decisions based on their surrounding environment.

Again, the virtual version of these experiments has zero cost, other than the purchase of the book by each student and the availability of a computer.

The version using actual apparatus for each day has the following equipment costs:

Day one: (About nine three-hour lab sessions for students) Total cost from $300 to $3500 per setup, depending on your preference for purchasing vs. building equipment. (Assumes you already have oscilloscope, signal generator, and computer.)

Day two: (about 8-10 three-hour lab sessions for students) Total cost of about $1600 per setup. (Assumes you already have a computer and oscilloscope.)

Day three: (about eight three-hour lab sessions for students) Total cost of about $600 per setup. (Assumes you already have a computer.)