Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Bundle of Phyz: ATOMIC PHYSICS

This bundle begins with Paul Hewitt's homage to atoms, followed by
The Mechanical Universe episode, "The Atom." Different perspectives, indeed.

"The Photoelectric Effect" Lab Springboard utilizes a few videoclips and PhET's The Photoelectric Effect sim to introduce this surprising topic.

"Fantasia on the Photoelectric Effect" provides a mechanical model to help understand the phenomena.

For a more quantitative look into the photoelectric effect, "Shine a Light" uses PhET's Photoelectric Effect sim. Students collect data, calculate key quantities, and plot results.

Thursday, February 24, 2022

A Bundle of Phyz: STARS + THE BIG BANG

This might seem like a bit of a detour from the more traditional physics topics covered in the previous bundles. But "Stars and the Origin of the Universe" is Segment 6 of Physics of the Universe in the NGSS Three-Course Model. And there are no Conceptual Physics Alive or Mechanical Universe episodes in this realm.

This bundle opens with NOVA's "Secrets of the Sun," and The Universe's "Life and Death of a Star." We close our stories of stars with NOVA's "Universe Revealed: Age of Stars".

Wednesday, February 23, 2022

A Bundle of Phyz: LIGHT AND COLOR

As fortune would have it, there are many Phyz things involving light and color.

The bundle opens with an encyclopedic "Tour of the Electromagnetic Spectrum," produced by NASA. Next up is a look at a 2008 viral ad campaign, "Cell Phone Popcorn". Popping corn with phones was an urban legend in the early days of smartphones. 

Next up is a colorful sequence. "Pixel Peeping" and "Fun With Colors" were originally written for in-person instruction, but modified into Virtual Labs for remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL). Conceptual Physics Alive's "Light and Color" follows nicely. Then a pair of color mixing YouTube Physics lessons explore cephalopod camouflage and the mystery of magenta. How much do you know about chromatophores?

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

A Bundle of Phyz: WAVES AND SOUND

Waves: it's difficult to communicate without them. I consider them to be fundamental to the study of physics. 

This collection opens with two PhET-fueled experience-builders, "Water Waves in an Electric Sink" and "High Quiet Low Loud". It continues with video lessons from Conceptual Physics Alive "Vibrations and Sound I" and "Vibrations and Sound II," with The Mechanical Universe episode, "Waves" in between. It ends with the BBC's somewhat metaphysical examination of waves and their intrinsic ephemeral nature, "The Secret Life of Waves".

Monday, February 21, 2022


Upon posting the RT;DL Virtual Lab Experiments related to electromagnetism, I realized I had a bunch of resources on that topic. So I created a bundle to gather and discount them.

The bundle includes the Virtuals: "Seeing Magnetic Fields," "├śrsted's Discovery," "Electric Magnetism," and "Magnetic Electricity," YouTube Skepticism: "Magnet Boys," The Mechanical Universe: "Magnetism," "Magnetic Fields," and "Electromagnetic Induction," Conceptual Physics Alive: "Magnetism and Electromagnetic Induction," NOVA's "Magnetic Storm," and BBC's Shock and Awe: Part 2. "The Age of Invention." All the resources in the bundle are available separately. And they're all print-friendly Google Docs files to accommodate whatever kind of teaching you're doing at the moment.

There's also a link to the activity I wrote for PhET's Faraday's Electromagnetic Lab. It's free on PhET's activities list for the sim as a PDF file.

This is a big bundle. As was the case in the electrostatics bundle, there were some resources that struck me as related to, but not central to introductory electromagnetism. I listed them in the product description for anyone keen to even dive deeper into this topic. 

Fun With Colors [PhET]

Once I saw how much students enjoyed exploring colors with Pixel Peeping, I thought I'd take that curiosity a step further with an add-on activity that didn't require any materials beyond the means of running PhET's Color Vision simulation.

Running this in-person required my first distribution of color copies. I printed the student documents in quantity on my color laser printer at home until I was able to secure a color laser printer for my classroom. Unfortunately, there came a time when the school's principal decided to wage war on the cost of printing done by teachers and rejected all in-room printing supply requests. So I had the printer, but no more toner. And no more printed pages. I trust the savings were worth it.

In any case, "Fun With Colors" is quirky and brief, so I posted it as a freebie.

Sunday, February 20, 2022

Pixel Peeping [PhET+Virtual Lab]

Students have been looking at screens too much for about two years. Some would say it's been longer than that. But have they really looked at those screens? Up close? "Pixel Peeping" asks them to do just that.

For the in-person version, we used pocket magnifiers to examine the pixel structure on our classroom laptop LCD screens. We protected the screens from the magnifiers with sheets of transparency film. (You remember transparencies, right? And carbon paper, film canisters, telephone cords, ...)

PhET's Color Vision sim is activated. The activity begins innocently enough with microscopic inspections of red, green, and blue. Things take a turn when white is examined, and go off the rails with yellow. 

Brainiac Electric Fence [Virtual Demonstration]

This was a video demo to begin with. So it was half-way virtual already. To maximize its utility, I needed to chop this Brainiac: Science Abuse segment up and intersperse questions. The physics is nice in that it ranges from fundamental up to “beyond the scope of this introductory course”. From conductors and insulators, through series circuits, to R-2R resistor ladders. This is a nice lesson to put near the end of a circuits unit. 

Since I remixed the segment (really just chopped it up), I'm posting this as a Fair Use freebie. 

Student document (print-friendly Google Docs file)
Observation Presentation (HTML link embedded in and URL printed in student document)
Answer key (Google docs file)

Saturday, February 19, 2022


The bundle begins with The Mechanical Universe's "The Battery," since batteries often power the simple DC circuits we like in Physics.

Next it's the PhET-fueled "Batteries and Bulbs". Originally written as a hands-on lab activity, this version was redesigned for use in remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL).

Conceptual Physics Alive's "Electric Circuits" is Paul Hewitt's take on the matter; The Mechanical Universe's "Electric Circuits" is David Goodstein's. Both are excellent.

Britain's Brainiac: Science Abuse serves up an engaging and offbeat take on electric circuits with humans acting as the resistors in "Electric Fence". Some will recognize host Richard Hammond from Top Gear, etc.

We return to the battery and update its story with David Pogue's PBS/NOVA episode, "Search for the Super Battery".

Then we have "Logic Gates," in which Boolean algebra is played out in circuit form as students design simple circuits with switches that will turn a bulb on under specific conditions. To prepare students for Boole and truth tables, a gentle pre-lab worksheet has them drawing up gate configurations that allow a cow access to a pasture under specific conditions.

Once students master the single pole single throw (STSP) switches of "Logic Gates," they might want to have a go at designing a three-way switch, which involves SPDT (single pole double throw) switches.

All resources are available separately. All are print-friendly Google Docs files on Google Drive. All include answer keys.

If the shorter High School Adaptations of The Mechanical Universe are more your style, then check out Set 6: Circuits and Magnetism.

If you didn't work Shock and Awe - Part 1: Spark into your electrostatics lessons, that episode still works well with electric circuits.

Friday, February 18, 2022

High Quiet Low Loud [PhET]

Distinguishing between amplitude and frequency with mechanical waves is a lesson that lends itself to a computer activity that allows students to modify wave forms. When students can see a visual representation of a sound wave while listening to the wave, and then manipulate the amplitude and/or frequency of the source, the distinctions tend to stick.

PASCO's Waveport plugin for DataStudio provided a great vehicle for such an exploration. But times change and PASCO has moved on to the powerful Capstone and flexible SPARKvue applications.

Thursday, February 17, 2022

Water Waves in an Electric Sink [PhET]

A unit on mechanical waves and sound can include many delightful demonstrations and labs. Computer simulations can also be a part of that healthy diet.

Here's one I developed to give students immediate visual feedback and control of representations of mechanical waves. And a sense of why there's a "volume" control on devices that produce sound. Isn't volume a geometry idea?

It's a print-friendly Google Docs file and includes an answer key, as is customary at The Lessons of Phyz on Teachers Pay Teachers.

Wednesday, February 16, 2022


Once the Virtual Lab Experiments for electrostatics were posted to TpT, I thought it might be useful to collect all my various and sundry electrostatics resources across all platforms.

After gathering such a "Bundle of Phyz," I realized there were even more. But I wanted to hold the bundle to what I considered the most important to a first-year experience. Maybe someday I'll group the others into a sequel bundle.

For now, here's ...

It includes Virtuals: A Pithy Matter, Electroscopia, and Charging Ahead, Mechanical Universe: Static Electricity, PhET: Laws of Repulsion, Conceptual Physics Alive: Electrostatics, NOVA: Lightning, and Shock and Awe: Spark. Everything in the bundle can be purchased separately. The advantage of bundling is a discount.

A whole nother bundle's worth of resources are linked to in the product description. They drill down a bit deeper into the realm of the electric field, voltage, equipotentials, and capacitance.

The Mechanical Universe of Phyz

I updated this Mechanical Universe index page to repair all the Teachers Pay Teachers links. When I upgraded all the question sets from PDFs to Google Docs on Google Drive, the logistics of TpT required that they be posted as new products. New products meant all new URLs.

In any case, the links are now repaired. The page continues to provide inks to every episode of The Mechanical Universe ever made, college and high school.

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

The Magnetism Suite [Virtual Lab Experiments and PhET]

There were several electromagnetism lab activities that I transformed into remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL), Zoom/breakout-roomable activities. I have upgraded those Google Docs (and added answer keys) and posted them to The Lessons of Phyz at Teachers Pay Teachers.

For the most part, the student instructions remain much as what they would have been for the in-person classroom lab activity. But the observations have been filmed and the videoclips sequenced for remote instruction logistics.


This is a series of observations involving different configurations of permanent bar magnets. A Magnetic Field Projectual (designed to be used on the stage of an overhead projector). For in-person instruction, each group is given a projectual and two soft-iron bar magnets (freshly remagnetized in our “trusty” magnetizer).

In this sequence of observations, the magnetic field around a current-carrying wire is investigated. Using batteries, wires, and compasses, we eventually develop the mnemonic of "The Right Hand Rule" for the direction of that magnetic field.

To keep things a bit more engaging in the engagement-limiting realm of a virtual lab conducted over Zoom, the configurations in some parts of the activity were randomized. That randomization is announced in the observations presentation.

Thursday, February 10, 2022

The Laws of Repulsion [PhET]

Coulomb's Law always threw my classroom game off a bit. I didn't have the apparatus, time, temperament, or desire to attempt to do a real hands-on deep dive lab. But I bristled at just delivering it under the hand-waving practice know as ICBS (It Can Be Shown ... and also ... I see BS).

I settled on a dry lab that would reveal Coulomb's Law through numerical patterns in an essentially empirical process. A paper, pencil, and preso PhyzSpringboard that was ... good enough.

In the meantime, PhET's Gravity Force Lab sim drew me into its lair of pattern-finding for universal gravitation, which compelled me to write an activity I called The Laws of Attraction (not to be confused with the 2004 Pierce Brosnan/Julianne Moore romcom of the same name).

When PhET's Coulomb's Law sim popped up on my radar, it seemed fitting to reboot The Laws of Attraction for electrostatic forces between point charges. The title of the activity reflects this heritage while incorporating something electrostatic force does that gravitational force does not. In all, a more deeply engaging activity that still avoids the practical pitfalls of delicate torsion pendulums, etc.. 

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

Charging Ahead - Virtual Demonstration

The RT;DL Virtuals continue with a demonstration.

Charging Ahead (among my favorite activity titles) is my deep dive into the joys of the Van de Graaff generator. There was no way I was going to let the challenges imposed by remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL) stop me from presenting this demo to my students.

At this point in pandemic instruction, I had turned my empty classroom into a flexible live vlogging studio. You probably had, too. But I put in extra effort to get viable videoclips for this classic.

I embedding the harvest of clips in the presentation I normally ran in parallel to the in-class demo. The product was the hybrid preso at the core of this resource.

Unlike the Virtual Lab Experiments described in a separate post, you guide the whole class through this one. No Zoom breakout rooms. Preview the included answer key. Students will need your help with the elements of these demos that involve polarization. The electrostatic attraction of a polarized neutral object makes more sense in students know about Coulomb's law.

My Blog of Phyz post, "RT;DL Charging Ahead" post provides more background. But if you find yourself in need of demonstrating the grooviness of the Van de Graaff generator remotely, this is your ride.

Tuesday, February 8, 2022

Introducing RT;DL Virtuals: A Pithy Matter and Electroscopia

In the throes of my panicked pandemic preparation for my Physics and AP Physics courses, I tried to preserve as much of the flavor of the in-person courses as I could. But with students online at home rather than in class with hands on apparatus, what to do? This was just one of the ongoing challenges of remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL).

I opted to record observations for students to watch as they worked through lab activities. Students worked together in lab group Zoom breakout rooms. There are obvious downsides, and there were no doubt creative and innovative ways to leverage benefits (?) of the Zoom medium. But I'm just not that clever. Keeping head above water was challenge enough.

The upside to this approach was that the lab activity instructions needed only moderate modification. And that matched my goal. So the eventual post-lab quizzes required very little adjustment (if any).

Here are two of the products of that redesign process, now polished for distribution in my Lessons of Phyz store at Teachers Pay Teachers. These are devoted to electrostatics. Details are in the product descriptions.

The activities are written much as they would be for in-class, hands-on experiences. But students access the videoclips of procedures to make their observations. And there are special Instructors' Only videoclips to be shone to student groups when they've reached the point in the activity that calls for those observations. I did my best to provide group-specific observations so that inappropriate inter-group collaborations (i.e., cheating) is minimized. 

I'm happy with how they turned out. They may not be as good as Pivot Interactives, but why would you judge me against such a high standard?

Each of these includes:
Student print-friendly Google Docs file
Answer Key (Google Docs)
Access to video observations (link embedded in student file)
Instructor access to special observations (link embedded in the answer key)

Monday, February 7, 2022

Batteries and Bulbs - PhET

When I was frantically redesigning lab activities for remote teaching/distance learning (RT;DL) in 2021, a practical goal was to do so in such a way that my existing post-lab quizzes would require as little modification as possible. No mods would be ideal! 

For this one, I knew I could lean on PhET's Circuit Construction Kit: DC fairly hard, even though I had never previously used it in class. I had always been quite content to do this activity hands-on in class. The opening section had students sketching and labeling the anatomy of miniature incandescent light bulbs, which is very helpful in getting one to light using a battery and some wires.

I maintained that section, using a photo of said bulb. From there, we went into the PhET sim (with a better understanding of why PhET shows the bulb's contact points the way it does). The explorations I previously had students do with real batteries, bulbs, and wires were easy enough to replicate in the sim. I do prefer the in-class, hands-on version of this lab, but that version was not on the menu in Spring 2021.

A favorite moment in this activity is the question of how bright the bulb will light if two batteries are used instead of one. The correct answer is not the intuitive one. Students get a second crack at answering that one after they explore the possibilities. 

In any case, my old post-lab quiz needed very little modification. Now it makes a perfect solution for students who miss the in-class activity. Or however you might envision using it.