April 2006




                                                                       . . . is at Northwestern University


                                                                                    May 8

                                                                                    6:30 pm

A map and directions are enclosed



. . . Can you guess what it will be?



June 6 (Tuesday)                 Museum of Science and Industry                        Ruth Goehmann


Mike Kash (Lake Forest College) called the meeting to order. Gerry Lietz (DePaul University) announced our next meeting at Northwestern University. Gerry got a letter from Charles Mattes who retired and moved to Colorado and says hello. Roy Coleman (Morgan Park High School) related that he had received a latter from Ian McGuiness in Scotland. Gerry asked if there were any new attendees and recognized Ed Shaughnessy from Lake Forest Academy and Arie Van Ek from Illiana Christian High Debbie Lojkutz (Joliet West High School) handed our new teacher bag to our new teacher Rob Lang who came with John Baier from Glenbard South. Debbie mentioned that Joliet Township High School was looking for teachers for the fall She gave the web site where one could download a job application.


Mike Kash (Lake Forest College) showed us the arrangement of electrical components he uses in class to demonstrate the exponential rise of the voltage across an inductor in an LR circuit. He noted that when using toggle switches to initiate transient currents, the switch bounces as it is closed leading to unwanted spurious signals. Mike suggested a strategy to arrange the circuit so that the transient is initiated with the opening of a switch. He drew an RL circuit on the board to illustrate his point. When the switch is closed the R3, R2 and L components are shorted out. Only when the switch is opened do these components see the power supply and react. Mike passed out a handout describing the circuit and details of the measurement. It also contained a plot of the data obtained by a computer interface with data capturing software. We could see the exponentially increasing voltage as the coil was powered up. Mike used a computer program to fit the curve of the voltage vs. time and obtained a time constant from which he calculated the inductance. The results agreed with the labeled values within 2%. Mike attributed the good fit to the fact that the coil had an air core and no iron. He had measured the inductance to be on the order of 25 mH with a 10 Ω D.C resistance. The inductor (part # RL-1239-33000) was purchased from Renco Electronics 595 International Place, Rockledge FL 32955 (tel: 312-627-1000. They have a 25 piece minimum order. Then Mike revealed that he had purchased a number of coils so that each of us could have one as our free give-away for the meeting. He also passed out a handout describing all of the circuits he had shown us. Thanks, Mike.


Then Mike rearranged the circuit to show the exponential decrease in voltage across the coil as the power was removed. Mike explained that the circuit was assembled on a unique plug in board that was designed by people in the Department here at Lake Forest College. Lastly, Mike replaced R1 in the second circuit with a capacitor to show the ringing of the RCL circuit with the characteristic exponentially decreasing oscillating voltage. Neat!


Bailey Donnally (Lake Forest College) mentioned that the method of data taking was so precise that it could actually tell the difference between a good capacitor and a bad capacitor. A cheap paper capacitor will not give a good exponential decay. Interesting?


Art Schmidt (Northwestern University) mentioned how miniaturization was affecting electronics these days. As an example he showed us a new radio controlled airplane called an “Air Hog” that he bought at Toys R US for $40. The plane is made of Styrofoam and has a wingspan of a mere 20 cm. At that size one could fly the plane in a typical lecture hall. He tried to fly it in the room but bounced off the rear wall with no apparent damage. Art explained that the controls offer some opportunities to discuss physics. It has two electric motors with props. The props rotate in opposite directions. Turning is accomplished by varying the speeds of the motors. Gerry Lietz (DePaul University) wondered if the different rotational speeds and resulting reaction torque also affected the roll of the plane, banking it in the right direction for the turn. The plane does not have ailerons that provide this control on a real airplane. It would be interesting to work out the dynamics to see if it did. Changing the speeds of both motors together controls the pitch. Higher motor speed make the plane climb etc.


Art brought out an oldie. He had a flat ceramic magnet and a ball bearing which was attracted to the magnet. He stuck the bearing to the magnet and then allowed a paperclip to be magnetically attached to the ball. He asked to which would the ball bearing remain attached when he pulled on the paper clip. Would the ball remain attached to the magnet or go with the paperclip. It would seem that the ceramic magnet would win because it was the stronger magnet. In fact, the paper clip was only magnetic because of the induced magnetism due to contact with the ceramic magnet through the ball bearing. What do you think? When he applied a force, pulling on the paperclip the ball bearing parted from the ceramic magnet and hung attached to the paperclip. Interestingly, the ball remained magnetically attached to the paperclip even after the ceramic magnet that induced the magnetism in the paperclip and ball was removed. Also, when the ball bearing finally was detached from the paperclip it could not be reattached. Was it that the point of attachment was too hard to relocate or did some of the magnetic dipoles on the paperclip and bearing simply unalign snapping back to a previous random orientation? Art tried to repeat the experiment with a strong rare earth magnet. In this case the ball remained attached to the rare earth magnet and not with the paperclip. We tried using a larger steel ball with the same results. The ball stayed with the rare earth magnet.


Art asked if anyone had ever used Kinetic Books Physics texts on CD for computers. They have both a calculus based and non-calculus based Physics text each for around $30, which is quite a savings over traditional hard cover texts. The CD book also makes good use of the graphics capability of the computer with animated examples. Art had polled some students about how they would feel about using a text on CD. One objection was that a student liked to highlight important details in her text. Art had discovered that there was a highlighting capability with the CD text as well.


John Milton (DePaul University) told us that Janet Landato is retiring from Harper College and is clearing out some of her leftover giveaways. She had sent John a box of syringes of different sizes with Tygon tubing connectors. By mating two different sized syringes together with the Tygon tubing one could demonstrate Pascal’s Principle and force amplification. As one would push on the smaller syringe one could feel the larger force that was transmitted through the pressure of the air to the larger syringe. John passed out three different size syringes. Thanks Jan.


John had come upon a sale of plastic Easter eggs at Walgreen’s (a bag for $2) that reminded him of an exercise to help students understand the method used in the Millikan Oil Drop Experiment to determined that charge is quantized and what the charge on an electron was. Millikan noted that the net charge induced on oil droplets occurred in integer multiples of a single value of the electron charge which is now accepted as 1.6 x 10 –19 Coulombs. The simulated experiment involved filling the various plastic eggs with one, two and three washers. By making measurements of the masses of many eggs the students could deduce the basic unit of mass for one washer as well as determine the number of washers in each egg. John thought of another experiment using coffee filters. One could sandwich multiple coffee filters together in combinations of two, three and four filters. Then by dropping each combination of filters and measuring the terminal velocity of each a student could deduce the mass of a single filter as well as number of filters making up each sandwich.


John pulled out a small disc and a cylinder each having identical diameters and set them on a ramp and asked which one would reach the bottom of the ramp first. We asked if they had the same mass and John responded with another question, ”Does it matter?” The solid cylinder won. John mentioned that often texts would point out that an object sliding down without friction would beat all others rolling down. It is difficult to find an object that slides without friction. A piece of dry ice would work if you had a ready supply. John discovered a more convenient object, a Kick Disc which he had gotten from Pasco for around $40. It is a battery powered indoor hockey puck that we have seen at previous meetings. He set the Kick Disc and the solid disk next to each other on the ramp and released them. The Kick Disc won handily.

John had bought two Kick Discs to show elastic collisions. Roy Coleman (Morgan Park High School) mentioned that he wraps a strip of Velcro around each of a pair of discs to demonstrate inelastic collisions.


John introduced his next item by relating how John Thompson in his acoustics class at DePaul posed the question of what really happened when two people talk to each other through cups connected by a string. What kind of wave is transmitted, transverse or longitudinal? Does there have to be tension in the string for it to work?


John knew a retired violin player and asked him if the squeak made by an inexperienced player was due to stroking the strings with a component along the length of the string instead of at right angles to the string. Thus generating a longitudinal wave instead of a transverse wave. He did not get a satisfactory answer. Larry Alofs recalled Ed McNeal saying exactly that.


Mike Kash set up a microphone to see if he could detect the sound in one cup generated by John talking into the other cup. They got it to work.


Gerry recalled seeing a cartoon where the string from one cup dropped off and lay on the ground between the two cups. Gerry assured us that it wouldn’t work that way. We discussed ways in which it could be determined which of the types of waves were present on the string.


Eileen Wild (retired) demonstrated projectile motion using some toys she got from Happy Meals. A frog launched small discs with considerable speed. A catapult presented an interesting dilemma. One usually associates a maximum projectile range for a launch angle of 45o. However because of the arrangement of the spring launching mechanism the catapult lever had to be pulled back further than 45o to get the devise to impart any appreciable velocity to the launched projectile. Eileen also had a snail which could be launched from it shell and traveled a few centimeters. Eileen thought that the toys were a good way to stimulate discussions of motion.


Rich Goberville (Joliet Central) held up a clear plastic box to which he had attached several A.C. light sockets and two switches. The simple wiring showed that all four components were wired in series, an unusual arrangement for an A.C. circuit where lights are typically wired in parallel. In each socket was a colored light one red and one blue. Each switch also had a color tag, one red and one blue. With a gleeful twinkle in his eye Rich closed the red switch nearest the red light and the red light lit. It should be noted that the blue switch which normally would need to be closed to complete the circuit, remained open. How was the circuit being completed? He showed that the operation was symmetric by opening the red switch and closing the blue switch. The red light went out and the blue light lit. He opened the switch. Now he was ready to give us the real shocker. Some of us had seen this demonstration before but we were not prepared for what was to follow. He switched the lights in their sockets so the red light was now nearest the blue switch. When he closed the red switch the red light lit even though it was in the other socket. You might have guessed there were some hidden diodes in the circuit. Rich drew a circuit diagram showing how the circuit worked. Normally one hides the diodes in the switches and in the light sockets. Rich went through considerable work to take apart the bulb base and solder a diode into the light bulb base. It took him several light bulbs before he succeeded in sawing off the tip of the base without severing the electrical connection. He then slipped a diode into the base that he then glued back into position. Really sneaky, Rich! We really were bamboozled! Thanks for the great variation on an old demo. We all agreed you have exceeded your mentors.

John Baier (Glenbard South High School) recalled once having a light bulb with a magnet mounted in the gas envelope such that the filament looped around it. When used normally with A.C. power the filament would oscillate back and forth in response to the cycling current in the filament. John would apply D.C. current and show that the filament would just deflect off to one side. Unfortunately, the bulb broke and he has not been able to find a replacement. He asked if anyone knew of a source. We’ll be looking. It sounds like a neat thing to have in one’s demo toolbox.


Larry Alofs (Kenwood Academy (retired)) used one of Janet’s syringes to point out some curious phenomena. He extended the plunger of the syringe out as far as it would go without pulling it free and then put his finger over the end of the syringe. He then pushed on the plunger and noted how the force needed to move the plunger increased as he pushed it in compressing the gas in the syringe. He drew a rough sketch of the force as a linear function of the piston motion noting that the force could get to be considerable quickly as the pressure built up.


Then he took his finger off the end and pressed the plunger all the way in. Now he replaced his finger over the end and tried to pull on the plunger drawing a vacuum against his finger. He recommended that we try it and feel how the force seems to plateau out at some peak value as the plunger is pulled beyond a point, in this case about half way out. He asked if we could explain this. The situation was not exactly the reverse of the case of compression. Some of us guessed that the force was not due to a suction of the gas inside the syringe chamber as much as it was the pressure of the atmosphere pushing on the piston from outside. Once the air inside had expanded to the point of not exerting any pressure from within the force of the air on the outside took over. This force depended on the atmospheric pressure and the area of the piston, both of which are constants. Neat. Larry outlined an experiment where he mounted a sealed syringe vertically with the plunger down. He attached a weight hanger to the syringe handle and added masses until the plunger moved at a constant speed pulling the plunger out. By measuring the area of the syringe plunger and the weight of the masses he could determine the pressure of the atmosphere.


With that, Mike Kash adjourned the meeting. Submitted by Art Schmidt

Remember that
at the Northwestern meeting we will be asking for nominations for the John Rush Award that is given out at the June meeting. The John Rush award is given to one of our members for exciting ideas and 'phun' contributions to the group. John taught for many years at Eisenhower High School in Blue Island, and coined the word 'pneumenon', a new phenomena that you haven't experienced.  On the first day of class John would show his students a strange contraption and challenged them to discover what it was. Please bring suggestions. Thanks.

For any information regarding ISPP contact Gerry Lietz at DePaul University, Physics Department, 2219 N. Kenmore Chi. IL 60614 phone: 773-325-7333 e-mail ISPP home page:


Local Job Openings:

*Bolingbrook High School

honors/AP physics opening for 2006-07 school year

*Evanston High School

looking to fill a full-time physics/chem/bio position

*Glenbard West High School

Full Time Physics Position starting 2006-2007 Year

*Jacobs High School

hiring 3 physics teachers for the 2006-07 year!


*Libertyville High School

looking to fill a part-time (3/5) physics position for 2006-07

*Part Time Physics Position at Chicagoland Jewish High School

*Physics Teacher Opening at Walter Payton College Prep

Full time physics teacher/ AP physics teacher

*York High School

full-time position to teach honors & regular level physics


BRING FRIENDS                               BRING IDEAS ! !                      SEE YOU THERE ! ! !

Art Schmidt (847) 491-7477                      Mike Kash                                 Earl Zwicker

Pete Insley                                             Earl Swallow                              Paul Dolan/Joe Hemanek

Tom Senior                                            Ann Brandon                               Roy Coleman

Debbie Lojkutz/Erik Jergns                       Van Bistrow/ Dennis Gordon         Kevin McCarron

Gerry Lietz/John Milton                           Gordon Ramsey                           Ruth Goehmann 

During 2005 - 06

Coordinators:                  Paul Dolan

                                    Gerry Lietz

                                    Earl Zwicker


ISPP Authors:                  Art Schmidt                    Data Base Managers:             Roy Coleman

                                     John Milton                                                            Earl Zwicker

                                     Pete Insley                    


Photographers:                   Paul Dolan                   Treasurers:           Ann Brandon

                                       Art Schmidt                                            Peter Insley

                                       Gerry Lietz                                                  

                                       John Milton

                                       Earl Zwicker

Special Events Committee:

            Physics Day - Ann Bradon, Roy Coleman, (Co-Chairs)

            John Rush Award - Debbie Lojkutz (chair), Eileen Wild, Nate Unterman, Bill Blunk (ex-officio)

Harald Jensen Award - Keith Bellof (chair), Martha Lietz, Ann Brandon

            Annual Tri - Physics Meeting - Evan Richards, Matt Lowry, Gerry Lietz

New Member Committee - Kevin McCarron (coordinator), Ann Brandon, Pete Insley, John Milton

            National Bridge Building Committee - Carlo Segre