Tag Archives: buggies

#modphys 13/180: First Practical

I think that the aspect of modeling which excites me the most is the practical. The idea is brilliant: once students have mastered a model, you set up a situation where they use the model (usually in a multi-step way) to make a prediction about the behavior of a real phenomenon. Our first practical was to predict the location of the collision between two buggies on a straight track.


Fortunately, two students who used a mostly-correct method and were careful in their measurements made the best prediction. However, I could see some wrinkles in the system:

1. Some students have trouble getting started, and it can be difficult to point them in the right direction.
2. I am not sure how to differentiate a practical — there is a certain basic amount of physics that needs to be done.
3. Unlike the paradigm labs where I can carefully choose apparatus that will give good results, I cannot guarantee that a lucky guess here won’t occasionally beat a careful calculation that is off because of random error.

I also did the electric potential mapping experiment today. I think it is a very clever way to understand electric fields.