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What do smoores and the speed of light have in common? - Sep 30, 2008 at 9:18PM
50 Posts

Hello fellow nerds

So, if you're ever looking for an awesome demo to do with your SPS group, I've got you covered:

Measure (well ok, "calculate" for you politically correct readers)  the speed of light with a microwave and chocolate/marshmallows!!!  Basically you put your chocolate/marshmallows on a plate and put it in the microwave for a few seconds, just enough for some parts to get melty. The nodes of the wavelength will be the melted parts, so measure your wavelength from that and use the frequency on the microwave to get the speed of light, lambda*nu=c :D

Here's more instruction:

My group found that the marshmallows worked a bit better...but try both! then everyone can have smoores after the experiment is done!

Post edited September 30, 2008 at 9:22 PM EST.

Hubble is down :( - Sep 29, 2008 at 10:42PM
50 Posts

Well, it seems like lately I'm just the bearer of bad news...but NASA has released news that Hubble has had a malfunction and can not send any data.

Let's hope that the service missions next year will be able to fix everything. It's sad to think that our view is now much blurrier.

Sad news in the "Higgs Hawking Deathmatch!" - Sep 25, 2008 at 12:26PM
50 Posts

Sad news from CERN, if you haven't heard yet:

Although it's sad that we'll have to wait for the repairs to be made...this article is pretty funny.  Apparently a "boffin" is some British word for a scientist.  I also learned that these boffins are out to "punish protons" and that the Nobel prize committee was going to "be compelled to install some kind of automated prize-dispensing machine in the CERN cafeteria; on busy days, this would give the appearance of a fruit machine paying out a jackpot."   hahaha!

Funny Physics Problem - Sep 22, 2008 at 10:27PM
50 Posts

Sorry for the lack of  Monday funny posts...but I just started grad school and let me tell's craziness...but fun!

Anyway I found this today while surfing the mighty interweb ocean.  I can guarantee you, if/when I become a physics prof...I'll be giving this problem:


Post edited September 22, 2008 at 10:29 PM EST.

Post edited September 23, 2008 at 10:01 AM EST.

Future Faces of Physics: WOWSA!!!!! - Sep 18, 2008 at 11:53PM
50 Posts

The times they are a changing in physics and astronomy.  In the past 50 years, huge advances been made in both  our understanding of the world we live in and in the demographics of those individuals that make scientific discoveries. SPS' theme for this year: "The Future Faces of Physics,'' increases excitement and knowledge about this trend and acknowledges that while the physical sciences still have a long way to go in terms of increasing the number of women and minorities, we are improving every year.  In honor of this, The Assistant Editors of the Nucleus will be interviewing and highlighting groups and individuals that are at the forefront of making  physics a more diverse field.

Physics and Astronomy are, stereotypically, not seen as being particularly  female friendly.  This is certainly not true in most departments, and the University of Wisconsin Madison's Astronomy department is as inviting to women and minorities as they come.  The WOWSA group (Women of Wisconsin Strengthening Astronomy) at UW does a great deal to promote a female friendly environment in the department. The group meets once a week to discuss issues that are related to being a women in physical sciences, particularly Astronomy.  They usually have speakers, either from UW or a female colloquium speaker, and discuss issues in a informal environment over cookies and tea.  The group generally excludes men and Sr. female faculty members from attending, claiming that they want to create a 'safe place' where grad and undergrad women can talk without fear of their advisors or other men.  WOWSA at UW is largely a copy of an idea several women at the University of Arizona had for a group ( The Women's Science Forum) that raises awareness about women's issues in Astronomy.  Because this model has been successfully implemented at two major universities, it can certainly be executed elsewhere...perhaps at your home university!?  I interviewed WOWSA leaders Laura Chomiuk and Emily Freeland in order to give Nucleus readers some insight into starting their own 'WOWSA' type group:

Q: What are the goals of WOWSA

L & E: The goals of WOWSA are facilitating relationships among women at UW Madison Astronomy.  We want to make the department and Astronomy as a whole more friendly for women and minorities. We want to Increase the confidence of women in science and discuss issues in a non threatening environment. We also hope to provide broader contact with female role models in astronomy through meetings with female colloquium speakers and to reduce attrition among female astronomy graduate students at Wisconsin and in astronomy in general, and increase the probability of all WOWSA participants' success in academic astronomy.

Q: Why did you feel the need to create WOWSA at UW Madison?

L & E:  We needed to hear success stories from women who had 'made it.' How to juggle career and family, how comfortable you feel as a woman in this career.  It is comforting to hear success stories and gives us an idea of what to expect from this choice of study.

Q :  What would you recommend to others that want to start a WOWSA type group at their university:

L& E: It's easy!  Just send out an email to colloquium speakers to come talk and send out an email to students asking them to come!  We have a list of questions we usually ask (maybe given out upon request).  There is also ways to get money from your university.  We recently received a grant to fund successful women in astronomy at other universities to come to UW and speak to the department about their scientific research as well as talk to WOWSA about their experience. So definitely look into what your university offers


WOWSA memebers with speaker Dr. Elena Sabbi

WOWSA is just one such group that is promoting the idea of encouraging new faces in physics.  If you have a group or an individual at your school that you think is doing their part to promote diversity and make everyone feel comfortable in physics and astronomy, write me at .... I'd love to hear about them and get their great work out there!

End Note: Guys, did this article make you feel left out? Fear not! Several male grad students at UW have talked about creating a men's WOWSA (MOWSA??)  where they will sit around, eating pizza and playing video games!

Post edited September 19, 2008 at 12:10 AM EST.

Post edited September 19, 2008 at 12:14 AM EST.

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Re: Future Faces of Physi...   (Felix Lin - Sep 21, 2008 at 5:15PM)
Re: Re: Future Faces of P...   (Blay - Sep 21, 2008 at 8:47PM)
Teach the controversy? - Sep 12, 2008 at 5:19PM
50 Posts

One of the biggest middle/high school controversies in recent years is the debate on whether creationism should be taught in the science class room along with the big bang theory and Darwinism.   Well, you might have your own opinion on this, but my personal view is that only science, that is something that can be tested( mathematically and ultimately experimentally) and is reproduceable, should be taught in  a SCIENCE class room.  Anything else should be taught somewhere else.  I imagine most fellow physicists reading this will feel the same.

However, never fear! That 'somewhere else' certainly does exist!  The Creation Museum, a $27 million dollar 'museum' in Kentucky, teaches Genesis bible stories as science.  In many of its exhibits it shows two sides of the story, what science says (such as the Earth being billions of years old) and what the people who interpret the bible think that the bible  says( that the Earth is 6000 years old).   Either way, the "museum" is in my home state of Kentucky and I wanted to go see it simply for the shear shock of it.  However, they charge $21 admission, a price higher then what most real museums charge.  I recently stumbled upon a site that documents the museum and is hilarious to boot:

Also check out the official website for the museum if you'd like further amusement:

Well, whatever your opinion might be, if you really want to teach the controversy you might want to look into Hindu Cosmology, and Geocentric theories.  The following site will provide you with the fashion to match your favorite flavor of creation story:\


In honor of the LHC - Sep 9, 2008 at 12:33AM
50 Posts

The first scheduled attempt to circulate a beam through LHC is on the 10th! I've had several non-physics friends asking me if they should be freaked out by black holes and strangelets....well obviously the answer is NO!  However, I found a good article on badastronomy that explains in more detail why no one should be freaked about us evil scientists bringing about the end of the world; not through LHC at least....mwahahah!

Because most physicists love beer... - Sep 7, 2008 at 3:47PM
50 Posts

Science discovers how to make ancient beer...Jurassic Park style!

Monday Physics with Ali G - Sep 1, 2008 at 12:08PM
50 Posts

Happy Labor Day! Even though today is a good Monday (no work!!)  I still thought I'd share some humor from Ali G's rap on physics:

In case you don't know, Ali G is a TV show by Sacha Baron Cohen (the guy that did Borat).  He interviews people who think he is a real TV host from the UK. Considering how ridiculous the character is, It is a hilarious show!

Post edited September 1, 2008 at 12:10 PM EST.

Quantum Paradox - Sep 1, 2008 at 11:59AM
50 Posts

Quantum is confusing.  I'm sure I'm not the only one that feels this way.  Richard Feynman even said, "I think I can safely say that nobody understands Quantum Mechanics."  One of the most confusing notions is the wave-particle duality of light.  It is often described as a paradox that light can behave as both a wave and a particle.  I've never really heard a good physical explanation for this (plenty of good mathematical ones though). This paper by Art Hobson is a good read on the field nature of light and attempts to resolve the seeming paradoxical duality of light. check it out!

Politics and Physis....keep yourself informed! - Aug 30, 2008 at 1:23PM
50 Posts

I thought I'd share this awesome article from physics today about where the candidates stand on science funding and education.  No matter who you are planning to vote for in November, it's important to keep yourself informed:

The right hand side has several issues to choose from...just click and go!

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Re: Politics and Physis.....   (reederj - Sep 2, 2008 at 11:45AM)
Re: Re: Politics and Phys...   (Blay - Sep 2, 2008 at 10:23PM)
Re: Politics and Physis.....   (Dave - Sep 3, 2008 at 2:42PM)
GLAST is a go! - Aug 26, 2008 at 11:37PM
50 Posts

Exciting news from GLAST, the Gamma-ray Large Area Space Telescope (well... It's now the Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope )!  The first all sky survey of gamma ray emission.  This is a great start to a program that seeks to understand particle acceleration from AGN, accretion from black holes, and dark matter.

Go here for more info!

Monday physics rap! - Aug 25, 2008 at 9:43AM
50 Posts

Perhaps we should make this the official song of AIP?

Note the Pi bling! This kid has got talent for sure.

Current Replies - View all
Re: Monday physics rap!   (Gary - Aug 25, 2008 at 10:01AM)
Re: Re: Monday physics ra...   (Jessica Tucker - Aug 25, 2008 at 11:43AM)
Q: How to Improve your SPS Chapter? - Aug 21, 2008 at 10:39PM
50 Posts

So, I realize that this is a big topic!  There are many ways that an SPS chapter can be improved...from the number of meetings held per month, membership numbers, trips, off campus activities, outreach...the list goes on!  As a 3 year officer of my local chapter (treasurer, vice president, and president, respectively) and as the 2007 Zone 8 zone councilor, and now as one of the nucleus assistant editors (wow...thats a lot of SPSing!)... I have a few tips and tricks I've learned that can help improve your local SPS chapter.

Since the Fall semester is almost upon us, I'd first like to focus on membership.  Increasing your membership is one of the best ways to improve you chapter, improve the undergraduate population in your department, and improve the chapter's funds!  Plus, the more lively and full your chapter is...the more fun you will have!  Last year, my local chapter (Univ. Louisville) went from having maybe 6-10 regulars at our weekly meetings, to 20-30 attending.  I feel the increase in membership was primarily due to:

1) Food - Yes, I know, it sounds like a really cheap way to get people to come...but it works!  You don't need to have expensive stuff or a full lunch every week...some soda and chips or cookies will probably do the trick.  For your kick off meeting (the most important one to get people to come) pizza or a cook out is best.  As long as you collect dues at that first meeting, you're pretty much guaranteed to break even and make a profit from the pizza.

2) ADVERTISE! Don't just rely on word of fliers!  My chapter posted up really funny/witty flyers around the Natural Science and Engineering buildings and this  got the word out (we also advertised the free food).  A few people said they came just because our flyers were funny.  If you'd like example fliers send me a message and I'll be happy to share them. Also, be sure to make regular SPS meeting announcements in physics classes, especially the lower level ones and the labs.

3) Have fun at your meetings and make them regular.  This is one of the most important ones for long lasting attendance.  You're meetings should never be boring.  Having the colloquium speaker come to every single meeting and talk for an hour is not exciting.  Mix it up.  One week have a speaker, the next do a demo, the next watch a physics related film.  Some ideas are: speaker, film/funny youtube videos, physics demos, games (physics jeopardy is a great prep for the GRE), sports (go explore the physics of ultimate Frisbee!), electing a physicist of the month...ect.  Have regular officer meetings to plan ahead so you're never unprepared. 

4) Take trips and do activities beyond campus - this all depends on your budget...but it doesn't have to be expensive.  Plan a SPS dinner/movie night out or host a movie night in your department.  Take a trip to a national lab or museum.  These sort of activities can be more expensive, but national SPS is here to help you out with many monetary awards (you just have to apply for them)!  Plus, look into what your university offers recognized student organizations.  Many schools will give travel money for recognized organizations. Trips are well worth the trouble of procuring funds because they are tons of fun and bring your group closer together.

5) Outreach - Well, this won't improve your chapter quickly...but over time it just might!  Outreach is a GREAT way to get local kids not only to think about being physics majors...but also gives your department and university publicity...which means more physics majors in your SPS group!  National SPS also gives a good amount of money for outreach projects. It's pretty easy to set up an hour chat with a local high school (I find high schools are easiest) and chat with the kids  about physics, college and opportunities.  You'd be surprised at how much they care.  Get won't regret it!

These are all things that worked for my chapter. Please add more of your own experiences on how to make a SPS chapter better.  :)

Post edited August 21, 2008 at 10:43 PM EST.

An Engineer's Guide to Cats - Aug 18, 2008 at 10:31AM
50 Posts

Happy Monday!  I couldn't help but share this one....if you love cats or are an Engineer....this is too cute!

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Re: An Engineer's Guide t...   (Jessica McNutt - Aug 21, 2008 at 10:37AM)
Beyond the Nucleus - Physics blogs! - Aug 14, 2008 at 3:09PM
50 Posts

Hey all!

So, while I can't imagine anyone getting bored with all that the Nucleus has to offer, the internet is indeed a big place!  I wanted to share a few of my favorite physics blogs:


This site is great!  Tons of different topics- yet all related to physics!  They also have user specific blogs:


One of my favorite personal blogs - very well done and by a wife-husband team, physicist and a scientific publisher. Scroll down on the right to pick topics


Particle physics blog.  


Bad astronomy is awesome and hilarious! Check it out!


Not really a blog, but if you've never been...for the love of god, go!!  Hilarious comics abound!

Monday Stupids - 8/11/08 - Aug 11, 2008 at 3:48PM
50 Posts

So, if you're anything like hate Mondays.  So, to cheer everyone up, I figure it's best to have a traditional blog post of making fun of bad "science".  Here is one I found today:

I've heard of the young Earth creationist but this is beyond stupid!  People actually still believe the world is flat??  I'm pretty sure we solved that problem in the 4th century.  

You can check out the official Flat Earth Society web site here:

Clicking on the "Why  a Flat Earth" provides such gems of physics as: "if the world were round, the oceans should all fall "down" into the sky, leaving the planet dry and barren, and the atmosphere would simply float away. Why, just look at the moon. It is round, like a ball, and yet it has no atmosphere at all."  The logic is flawless.  Unfortunately, the "Fighting the evidence" link is currently under construction.... my guess is because the evidence is pretty crushing.

You can even join!!!...only as long as you provide your favorite jelly bean flavor and write an essay as to why you want to join this esteemed society.  Hey, not just anyone can be a Flat-Earther!

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Re: Monday Stupids - 8/11...   (Felix Lin - Aug 11, 2008 at 4:56PM)
Future Faces of Physics - part 1 - Aug 8, 2008 at 1:18AM
50 Posts

The current adopted theme of SPS is the Future Face of Physics, so what better topic exists to start a blog on!?  I've been thinking a lot about what this theme means and the problems of how to apply in force such a broad and important topic.  Well, of course there is the obvious interpretation: physics and engineering are well behind ever other field in terms of the number of women and minorities at every level, especially tenure track positions.  People cite many reasons, ranging from how we are socialized as young to someone such as the Larwrence Summers, President of Harvard, claiming that women have "innate differences" from men when it comes to ability in math and science (maybe he should read this: ). Whatever your opinion on this might be, you can be guaranteed that, while slow, the times are indeed changing.   I am proud that SPS recognizes this and encourages an image of physics that goes well beyond the stereotypes.  However, recognizing it is not enough.  A problem is never solved unless you whole heartedly set you mind to solve it.  In my opinion one of the first steps is to make physics more approachable and friendly.  No, I'm not saying we should do away with Jackson E & M (although that would be awesome!!). What I'm saying is that physics has always seemed to be a very exclusive club, where only the most brilliant and aloof could be members.  How to fix this? Well, for starters kids should be taught the rudiments of physics at a very early age (and watch Bill Nye the Science Guy!) in order for this image not to stigmatize the field. Outreach is also VERY important.  The more the public sees how cool, friendly,  and adventurous  physicists are...the better the image of the field will be...the more diversified the field will become!    

I've also thought that this theme strikes so close to home in the United States that many people don't use it in a broader scope.  If you're a graduate student (like me) or a jr. or sr. in your undergraduate career, you might have begun to notice how many resources are available to physics students that really aren't available to students in other fields.  When I tell my friends in law school, med school and other grad programs I'm getting full tuition plus a stipend plus travel to conferences ect....they go green with envy and begin to tell me horror stories about student loans.  In the West, we have a lot of opportunities that most people around the world just simply do not have.  Many children can't even go to school to learn to read and write, much less learn about physics.  Even in the richest country in the world, physics is not mandated high school curriculum and is not even taught at many schools.  If this is how America is, imagine the amount of physics education/opportunities in the poorer parts of the world.  Perhaps we should also keep these faces in mind when we think about the future of physics.

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Re: Future Faces of Physi...   (Felix Lin - Aug 11, 2008 at 4:34PM)
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