Entries by Dr. Courtney

An Accurate Simple Harmonic Oscillator Laboratory

Learning Objectives * Execute a specific experimental procedure to test a specific hypothesis. * Use the Tracker video analysis software for a simple experiment. * Analyze the acquired data with a spreadsheet to test the hypothesis. * Explain in one’s own words whether the experimental data supported the hypothesis, and (if so), how well. *Use […]

An Accurate Hooke’s Law Laboratory

Learning Objectives * Gain confidence and experimental care in making accurate measurements. * Understand the relationship between force and spring stretch. * Use a neat and orderly lab notebook in which data are recorded. * Execute a specific experimental procedure to test a specific hypothesis. * Analyze the acquired data with a spreadsheet and graphing […]

Direct Echo-Based Measurement of the Speed of Sound

Figure 1: Distance vs. time a firecracker report echoed off of a building at different distances on both a cold and a warm day. The speed of sound varies slightly with temperature, but at constant temperature, the distance sound travels increases linearly with time according to the equation, D = Vt, where D is the […]

Work Ethic Is a Key to Success for Science Majors

After earning a 4.0 GPA in his first semester as a Physics major at an esteemed state university, our son (and homeschool grad) attributes his success to: 45% work ethic, 30% homeschool subject mastery, 25% reasonable course load. I was surprised he gave such greater weight to the work ethic we imparted rather than actual […]

Niches for Publishable Undergraduate Research

Undergraduate interest in research is a good thing; it’s even better if they aspire to publish their work for review and consideration from a broader audience.  First, we should consider what it means to be publishable. Usually, “publishable” means a paper contains a novel and interesting result in either theory or experiment that is more […]

Real Research in Unexpected Places – Boat Ramps

Read part 1 -Backyards, Barns, Bayous Real Research in Unexpected Places – Boat Ramps When I was offered a job at the Air Force Academy, it seemed like an opportunity to exercise both my commitment to academic rigor and my desire to serve my country while continuing with the basement and boat ramp approach to research. […]

Real Research in Unexpected Places – Backyards, Barns, Bayous

21st century science labors under the myth that good experimental science requires expensive lab facilities in a university or institutional setting. We have the example of Marie and Pierre Curie discovering radium in an abandoned shed, Lavoisier’s seminal Chemistry work in his home laboratory, and Isaac Newton’s seminal work in optics in his mother’s farmhouse (Woolsthorpe […]

Blaming Government for Teacher and Scientist Failures in Integrity

The article, “Governmental policy is wrecking science,” makes some interesting points but is fundamentally in error, because government policy is only a small part of the problem. Government is depending on scientists and teachers to police students and each other regarding scientific and academic integrity.  To a harmful extent, scientists and teachers are failing to […]

Resources for High School Physics at Home

A year long high school Physics course is important preparation for all college majors in science, engineering, and medicine, because students in these majors will all be required to earn credit in a year long college level Physics course. Some schools, like our military academies, require every student to earn credit in a year long […]

Resources for High School Math at Home

The popularity of home schooling and failures of the public schools often present the need for parents to teach or supplement college preparatory math courses at home. A common sequence is Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2, and Precalculus. In many cases, the challenges of these courses is beyond what parents themselves can muster, and the […]

Secrets of Successful Science Projects

Abstract Over the past few years, the author and his wife have served as teachers, qualified scientists, mentors, and/or parents on dozens of science projects assisting students ranging from elementary school projects that can be completed in a weekend to high school and college freshmen projects that take a semester or year to complete and […]

Trials and Tribulations of a Physicist who Became a Math Geek

How did I go from the brink of changing my major from physics to ceramics (no more math) to the Math faculty of the Air Force Academy? How did I go from choosing to be an experimentalist (too bad at math to be a theorist) to consistently having my theoretical more widely cited than my […]

False Physics Major Dichotomy: Theorist or Experimentalist?

Many physics majors believe that pursuing a PhD in physics requires they make a choice between theory and experiment. Due to my weaknesses in math, I thought I had chosen to be an experimentalist when I chose an experimentalist as my mentor for grad school. But as I chased interesting projects, I ended up publishing […]

Science for Love or for Money

When I look over the most highly cited papers and my favorite accomplishments, I am struck by the fact that most of the projects were not funded by an external research grant and many were not even performed while I was “on the clock” in a scientific position. I guess that makes me an amateur. […]