Browsing All Posts filed under »Education«

Why is ‘science’ valuable?

February 9, 2012


[This is a short speech I presented to a group of around 300 students aged between 11 and 15 to mark ‘National Science Week’ (sometime in March 2011, I forget exactly when).] Hello. If you haven’t met me yet, my name is James Sheils and I teach in the physics department. I have been informed… [Read more…]

An Inbetween Universe

January 22, 2012


What the Universe Is Like My first full-time physics teaching job was at a Church of England School in Wigan. The arrangement was mutually appealing for employer and employee: I had just taken some time off to work my second job as a piano player, after having completed a training year in some very (as… [Read more…]

Research & Antiresearch – Physics Errors in Dan Brown’s “Angels & Demons”

January 6, 2012


‘FACT’ must be one of the least expected titles for the forward to a novel. Nevertheless, this is how Dan Brown chose to start his mystery-thriller: with a series of knowledge claims about the physics of anti-matter. The motivation for this strange opening becomes more transparent the further one reads ‘Angels and Demons’. Brown clearly intends for the… [Read more…]

The Electric Vocabulary

January 4, 2012


This article has now been published in Physics Education, and is available to read (for free) here: James Sheils 2012 Phys Educ 47 78 Below are extracts from a selection of the sources quoted in the article. Appendix – Original Sources Extract from Chaper 2 Book 2 of William Gilbert’s “De Magnete” (On Loadstone) (1600)… [Read more…]

Double Twit Experiment – What Brian Cox Gets Wrong

December 23, 2011


If you missed Brian Cox’s ‘A Night With The Star’ on Sunday’s BBC2 at 9pm, here it is: ————————- When I used to teach secondary school physics, I was very disturbed by the reverence in which Cox was held (so to speak) by teachers and students alike. I think the appreciation he receives is indicative of most what is… [Read more…]

Arks and Bows

December 7, 2011


In a previous article, I wrote about the sloppy representation of rainbows in art. Artists who usually demonstrate extraordinary observational skills for landscapes, animals, and human interactions, seems to have a terrible blind spot for the relatively simple rainbow. Considering that there is such a widespread misperception of this atmospheric phenenomon – certainly not restricted to artists - perhaps there… [Read more…]

4 Obviously Wrong Ideas – That Took Centuries to Debunk

November 4, 2011


Introduction Modern scientific inquiry assumes, as a base assertion, that knowledge about the physical world cannot be usefully attained with thought alone. You would think that this would go without saying.  However, for many centuries it was the contrary assumption that predominated.  This view of knowledge was so persuasive that it took centuries to discover some… [Read more…]

An Introduction to Theoretical Physics (Part 5 of 5)

October 20, 2011


Introduction to Part 5 At this point, let’s reflect upon the topics we have included in our little exploration.  I have tried to place the topics into two groups: Physics  Mathematics Resistor Addition (Series and Parallel) Combinations Ohm’s Law Factorials Kirchoff’s Laws of Electrical Circuits Pascal’s Triangle Electrical Potential Difference Summation Notation You’ll notice that a great… [Read more…]

An Introduction to Theoretical Physics (Part 4 of 5)

October 20, 2011


Introduction to Part 4 Now we have a solution for the tesseract, we could ask about still higher dimensions.  Rather than a case by case study, we might now aim at a general equation that tells you the resistance of a cube of identical resistors of any dimension.  We have a little experience with this when defining… [Read more…]

An Introduction to Theoretical Physics (Part 3 of 5)

October 19, 2011


Introduction to Part 3 Having solved the initial problem, calculating the resistance of a cube of identical resistors, what can be done to make the equation more general?  The first abstraction was to move from 2 dimensional circuit diagrams to trying to solve 3 dimensional circuit problems. Could we investigate higher dimensions?  What about a 4 dimensional… [Read more…]


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