Can you imagine living with a ton of air sitting
on you,
in spacetime so curvy it's tough to jump higher than one meter? *You do.*

*How Things Work* might be thought
of as an ``executive update'' on physics (with no pre-requisites) in the context
of everyday phenomena. It reverses the traditional format of physics courses
by starting with whole objects and looking inside them to see what makes
them work. Because it emphasizes familiar objects rather than
abstract constructs, and concepts rather than math as an end in itself,
*How Things Work* can offer insight into the modern
world for students with many different backgrounds and learning styles.
The course touches
on physical principles that underlie natural processes in many sciences,
and at the same time attempts to address their relevance to the latest
developments (where possible with examples of phenomena, devices, or results
obtained by groups at the cutting edge). Lastly, peer instruction quizzes
inspired partly by the
Mazur group
make it possible for students to regularly contribute some of
what they know to the classroom experience for all. Features like this,
designed to evolve both the participants and the course contents, make
it a course some might enjoy taking every few years...

This course has been inspired by the crucial importance, to all walks of
life in a rapidly-evolving technological society, of *sound physical
intuition*. It is organized around a book
called How Things Work by
Louis Bloomfield. Our extended syllabus below may be compared with an
electronic version of the
book's table of contents, which includes many book sections that are
available electronically.

Each individual's awareness of the world around us
is gaining importance. We're already flooded with "technical
information" about opportunities and risks, for example associated with
*this new technology* or *that magnetic field*.
Beyond the excitement in the voices
of the presenters, however, a grounded context for approaching such technical
developments is seldom found. Evolving marketing strategies,
coupled with the ease of spending money over the web, will further increase the
importance of informed
skepticism in days ahead. Moreover, the rising
cost of non-renewable energy will increase the importance (to all) of the
awareness with which each of us "manages our own place in the sun".
This course offers such awareness, based on many centuries of careful reporting about
(and analysis of) simple and complex phenomena in the world around.

Two unifying physical threads which run throughout this complexity are
energy and information. It turns out, for example, that the challenge of
energy conservation, so crucial to sustainable development, is intimately
connected to the concept of information in codes. In fact, the
processes noted by arrows in the figure on the right may be measured
in either watts (a measure of the flow of energy per unit time) or in bits
per second. **Bottom line:** *Start early if you want to stay ahead of your
kids on issues like this!*

Thus nature has worked hard at elaborating creatively on a small number of
colorful themes. Topics lending themselves to this kind of physical
perspective cover a wide range: from time & motion to GPS satellites
pinpointing lost hikers on a mountaintop; from singing wineglasses to homeruns
in humid weather; from medical LASERs to dangers lurking in the night sky; from eyes to wings; from
photosynthesis to fossil fuel; from lightning strikes to magnetic memories;
from gravity to curved space-time; from vortex cannons to evolving codes;
from energy available for work to the struggle to get organized; from atomic force microscopes to detective work
with molecular machines;
from osmotic membranes to meme-pool boundaries; from the history of inventions to
the invention of history. You get the drift. If you want
to become an expert on something, specialize. If, however, you *also* want to understand as
much as possible about your world with a small number of powerful ideas, this
course may be a good place to start.

Where feasible, first person experiences with the
phenomena at hand will be arranged. Also, there are no math
prerequisites for the course. Nonetheless we share what we can
of the *quantitative tools* for using and testing the insights covered
by the course, but how much you go beyond plugging in values
(e.g. toward the algebraic manipulation of expressions, or into their
derivations and/or extensions) will be up to you.

We have also been experimenting with a variety of web-based empirical observation exercises. These will prove useful should we decide to field an on-line version of the course, with first hand experiences both on the web as well as during a few class visits per semester.

These observation platforms include, for instance, the following links:

- relative motion data streams
- the fastrak spacetime explorer
- our coin-tossing risk sampler
- this interactive electron microscope specimen
- and what else?

Date | Topic/Chapter | Activity; Mnemonics
(x is position, t is time, v is velocity, m is mass, g is grav_accel~10m/s^{2},
Delta or Δ means "change in" or "final minus initial", T is absolute temperature,
S is uncertainty, # means "number of") |

W 18 Aug | Orientation - Dimensions and Inventions (1) | floppy disk deconstruction, 3 extended space dimensions plus one direction in time, and the non-repeating drama of available work and mutual information |

MW Aug23+25 | Ch01: Laws of Motion I - Skating, Falling, and Ramps (2) | pucks, falling bananas and eggs, hills and switchbacks;
tools: sum_forces=m×accel, weight=m×g,
Δv=accel×t, Δx=v×t+(1/2)accel×t^{2},
Work=force×Δx, grav_energy=m×g×height |

MW Aug30 + Sep 1 | Ch02: Laws of Motion II - Seesaws, Wheels, and Bumps (2) | tops, loops, ball rockets, super vs. street hockey balls,
and wheeled crowbars; tools: torque=lever_arm×force,
sum_torques=I×ang_accel, momentum=m×v, ang_momentum=I×ang_v,
kinetic_energy=(1/2)m×v^{2}+(1/2)I×ang_v^{2} |

W 8 Sep | Ch03: Mechanical Objects - Scales, Bounces, RollerCoasters, and Bikes (2) | springs, rubberbands, speed bumps, wet towels, and
torque-free platforms; tools: spring_force=-k_spring×Δx,
spring_energy=(1/2)k_spring×(Δx)^{2},
circular_accel=v^{2}/radius |

M 13 Sep | (1st half-period assessment) | |

W 15 Sep | Ch04: Fluids - Balloons and Water (1) | dry ice and CO2, liquid nitrogen's Leidenfrost effect, cartesian divers, candle carousels; tools: buoyant_force=weight_displaced, ideal gas pressure=kBoltz*(#ptcles/volume)*T, Bernoulli's flow eqn {speed up means pressure down} |

M 20 Sep | Ch05: Fluids and Motion - Irrigation, Frisbees, and Jets (1) | smoke, vortex cannons, faucets, flows ala Foucault, match rockets; tools: Poiseuille's Flow Law {dia^4}, turbulence if Reynolds#>2300, grav_force=G*m1*m2/dist^2 |

W+W Sep22+29 | Ch06: Heat and Thermodynamics - Woodstoves, LightBulbs, AirConditioners, and Cars (2) | pot holders, bimetallic strips, thermal resizing, 1-atom gas applet, evaporative engines; tools: #choices=2^#bits=2^(1.4*S/kBoltz) so thermal energy exchange leads to a common T=Heat_in/delta[S], delta[energy]=Heat_in-Work_out, StefBoltz Radiation Law {T^4}, and rarely thermal_energy=(#degreesfreedom/2)*kBoltz*T |

M 27 Sep | Automobile Technology: Past, Present and Future | Encore presentation by Bernard Feldman of UM-StL Physics and Astronomy |

M 04 Oct | Ch07: Resonance and Mechanical Waves - Clocks, Music, and Surf (2) | wastebasket and teafilter moires, pendula, string harmonics, and beats; tools: pendulum_period=2*pi*Sqrt[length/g], spring_period=2*pi*Sqrt[m/k_spring], wave_speed=wavelength*frequency |

W 06 Oct | (2nd half-period assessment) | |

MW Oct11+13 | Ch08: Electric and Magnetic Forces - AirCleaners, Xeroxes, and Magnetic Levitation (2) | van de Graff generators, flying pie pans, the cotton charge ferry, field lines and the Meissner effect; tools: electric_force=kCoul*charge1*charge2/dist^2, electrons obey Pauli exclusion, Lenz's Law {magnetism causes currents to resist change} |

MW Oct18+20 | Ch09: Electrodynamics - FlashLights, HiVoltageLines, and TapeRecorders (2) | Helium-colored electron loops, resistance, electromagnetic nails, series/parallel circuits, transformers, hi-voltage lines, magnetic motoring and induction, metal detecting (TC/TC); tools: Ohm's voltage_drop=current*resistance, power=voltage_drop*current |

MW Oct25+27 | Ch10: Electronics - AudioAmplifiers and Computers (2) | capacitors, diodes/amplifiers (tube/solid-state), and digital NOT, AND, OR and XOR logic(WG/TC); tools: #choices = 2^#bits so 1 bit means 2 choices, one byte = 8 bits means 256 choices, etc. |

MW Nov1+3 | Ch11: Electromagnetic Waves - Radio, Television, and Microwaves (2) | radio modulation, sidebands, and lasers(TC/WG); tools: light_speed=wavelength*frequency {c=lamda*nu} |

M 8 Nov | Ch12: Light - SunLight, FluorescentLamps, and Lasers (2) | rainbows, bubbles, polarizers, pocket spectrometers, plasmas, population inversions; tools: photon_energy = Planck's_constant*frequency {E=h*nu}, angle_in=angle_refl |

W 10 Nov | Physics and Harmonic Analysis of Music (1) | Encore performance by the Arianna String Quartet, and Wayne's real-time power spectrum analyzer! |

M 15 Nov | (3rd half-period assessment) | |

W 17 Nov | Ch13: Optics - Cameras, CD's, Fiber Optics, Telescopes/Microscopes (2) | CD guts, LASER bench, and harmonic analysis of sound, circuits, gratings/crystals, SEM, TEM; tools: (1/focal_length)=(1/obj_dist)+(1/image_dist), d_spacing=wavelength*cam_length/g_scatt |

M 22 Nov | Ch14: Modern Physics - medical imaging and nuclear energy, GPS relativity and gravity-curved spacetime (1) | FTIR, geiger counter and smoke detector, X-rays, PET, CAT, ultrasound, time dilation exercise, tunneling and particle microscopes, STM, AFM, NMR, MRI; tools: fraction_undecayed=2^(-t/half_life), lightspeed is a foot per nanosecond, trav_time=map_time*Sqrt[1-(trav_speed/lightspeed)^2] |

M 29 Nov | Natural history of invention - Life's access to available work: photosynthesis, molecular motors, backbones, money; Mutual information in mimicry and codes: chemical, neural, and electronic networks (1) | heat engines, prokaryotes, contact forces, autotrophs, pepper cells, metabolism, legs, wings, webs, food production, ritualized available work, fossil fuel and electrical power, sustainable development; tools: Carnot limit on Work_out/Heat_in=(1-T_out/T_in); information engines, eukaryotes, heterotrophs, amino and nucleic acids, water bears, code-pool boundaries, behavior redirection, intra-species aggression, reproductive bargains, language, print, living words, and the digital web; tools: Mutual information limit #bits=1.4*Work_in/(kBoltz*T_out) |

W 01 Dec | Ch16: Material Science: Knives, Windows, Polymers, and Molecular NanoTech (2) | hardening nails, bologna bottles, aerogel, silly putty, plexiglass, epoxy, gigascale integrated circuits and qubit coprocessors, nanotubes; tools: elastic strain is proportional to stress, and the final days of Moore's prediction that transistors per unit area will double each year? |

M 06 Dec | (4th half-period assessment) | |

M 13 Dec | Final 10am-noon |

Date | Topic/Chapter | Activity; Mnemonics (x=position, t=time, v=velocity, m=mass, g=grav_accel~10m/s^2, delta means "change in" or "final minus initial", T=absolute temperature, S=uncertainty, #=number) |

W 20 Aug | Orientation - Dimensions and Inventions (1) | floppy disk deconstruction, 3 extended space dimensions plus one direction in time, and the non-repeating drama of available work and mutual information |

MW Aug25+27 | Ch01: Laws of Motion I - Skating, Falling, and Ramps (2) | pucks, falling bananas and eggs, hills and switchbacks; tools: sum_forces=m*accel, weight=m*g, delta[v]=accel*t, delta[x]=v*t+(1/2)accel*t^2, Work=force*delta[x], grav_energy=m*g*height |

WM Sep3+8 | Ch02: Laws of Motion II - Seesaws, Wheels, and Bumps (2) | tops, loops, ball rockets, super vs. street hockey balls, and wheeled crowbars; tools: torque=lever_arm*force, sum_torques=I*ang_accel, momentum=m*v, ang_momentum=I*ang_v, kinetic_energy=(1/2)m*v^2+(1/2)I*ang_v^2 |

W 10 Sep | Ch03: Mechanical Objects - Scales, Bounces, RollerCoasters, and Bikes (2) | springs, rubberbands, speed bumps, wet towels, and torque-free platforms; tools: spring_force=-k_spring*delta[x], spring_energy=(1/2)k_spring*delta[x]^2, circular_accel=v^2/radius |

M 15 Sep | (1st half-period assessment) | |

W 17 Sep | Ch04: Fluids - Balloons and Water (1) | dry ice and CO2, liquid nitrogen's Leidenfrost effect, cartesian divers, candle carousels; tools: buoyant_force=weight_displaced, ideal gas pressure=kBoltz*(#ptcles/volume)*T, Bernoulli's flow eqn {speed up means pressure down} |

M 22 Sep | Ch05: Fluids and Motion - Irrigation, Frisbees, and Jets (1) | smoke, vortex cannons, faucets, flows ala Foucault, match rockets; tools: Poiseuille's Flow Law {dia^4}, turbulence if Reynolds#>2300, grav_force=G*m1*m2/dist^2 |

WM Sep24+29 | Ch06: Heat and Thermodynamics - Woodstoves, LightBulbs, AirConditioners, and Cars (2) | pot holders, bimetallic strips, thermal resizing, 1-atom gas applet, evaporative engines; tools: #choices=2^#bits=2^(1.4*S/kBoltz) so thermal energy exchange leads to a common T=Heat_in/delta[S], delta[energy]=Heat_in-Work_out, StefBoltz Radiation Law {T^4}, and rarely thermal_energy=(#degreesfreedom/2)*kBoltz*T |

W 01 Oct | Physics and Harmonic Analysis of Music (1) | Encore performance by the Arianna String Quartet, and Wayne's real-time power spectrum analyzer! |

M 06 Oct | Ch07: Resonance and Mechanical Waves - Clocks, Music, and Surf (2) | wastebasket and teafilter moires, pendula, string harmonics, and beats; tools: pendulum_period=2*pi*Sqrt[length/g], spring_period=2*pi*Sqrt[m/k_spring], wave_speed=wavelength*frequency |

W 08 Oct | (2nd half-period assessment) | |

MW Oct13+15 | Ch08: Electric and Magnetic Forces - AirCleaners, Xeroxes, and Magnetic Levitation (2) | van de Graff generators, flying pie pans, the cotton charge ferry, field lines and the Meissner effect; tools: electric_force=kCoul*charge1*charge2/dist^2, electrons obey Pauli exclusion, Lenz's Law {magnetism causes currents to resist change} |

MW Oct20+22 | Ch09: Electrodynamics - FlashLights, HiVoltageLines, and TapeRecorders (2) | Helium-colored electron loops, resistance, electromagnetic nails, series/parallel circuits, transformers, hi-voltage lines, magnetic motoring and induction, metal detecting (TC/TC); tools: Ohm's voltage_drop=current*resistance, power=voltage_drop*current |

MW Oct27+29 | Ch10: Electronics - AudioAmplifiers and Computers (2) | capacitors, diodes/amplifiers (tube/solid-state), and digital NOT, AND, OR and XOR logic(WG/TC); tools: #choices = 2^#bits so 1 bit means 2 choices, one byte = 8 bits means 256 choices, etc. |

MW Nov3+5 | Ch11: Electromagnetic Waves - Radio, Television, and Microwaves (2) | radio modulation, sidebands, and lasers(TC/WG); tools: light_speed=wavelength*frequency {c=lamda*nu} |

M 10 Nov | Ch12: Light - SunLight, FluorescentLamps, and Lasers (2) | rainbows, bubbles, polarizers, pocket spectrometers, plasmas, population inversions; tools: photon_energy = Planck's_constant*frequency {E=h*nu}, angle_in=angle_refl |

W 12 Nov | (3rd half-period assessment) | |

M 17 Nov | Ch13: Optics - Cameras, CD's, Fiber Optics, Telescopes/Microscopes (2) | CD guts, LASER bench, and harmonic analysis of sound, circuits, gratings/crystals, SEM, TEM; tools: (1/focal_length)=(1/obj_dist)+(1/image_dist), d_spacing=wavelength*cam_length/g_scatt |

W 19 Nov | Ch14: Modern Physics - medical imaging and nuclear energy, GPS relativity and gravity-curved spacetime (1) | FTIR, geiger counter and smoke detector, X-rays, PET, CAT, ultrasound, time dilation exercise, tunneling and particle microscopes, STM, AFM, NMR, MRI; tools: fraction_undecayed=2^(-t/half_life), lightspeed is a foot per nanosecond, trav_time=map_time*Sqrt[1-(trav_speed/lightspeed)^2] |

M 24 Nov | Natural history of invention 1 - Life's access to available work: photosynthesis, molecular motors, backbones, money (1) | heat engines, prokaryotes, contact forces, autotrophs, pepper cells, metabolism, legs, wings, webs, food production, ritualized available work, fossil fuel and electrical power, sustainable development; tools: Carnot limit on Work_out/Heat_in=(1-T_out/T_in) |

M 01 Dec | Natural history of invention 2 - Mutual information in mimicry and codes: chemical, neural, and electronic networks (1) | information engines, eukaryotes, heterotrophs, amino and nucleic acids, water bears, code-pool boundaries, behavior redirection, intra-species aggression, reproductive bargains, language, print, living words, and the digital web; tools: Mutual information limit #bits=1.4*Work_in/(kBoltz*T_out) |

W 03 Dec | Ch16: Material Science: Knives, Windows, Polymers, and Molecular NanoTech (2) | hardening nails, bologna bottles, aerogel, silly putty, plexiglass, epoxy, gigascale integrated circuits and qubit coprocessors, nanotubes; tools: elastic strain is proportional to stress, and the final days of Moore's prediction that transistors per unit area will double each year? |

M 08 Dec | (4th half-period assessment) | |

W 17 Dec | Final 10am-noon |

Slides from a recent STARS talk on "physics and astronomy courses: what's in it for me?"

This page is at

`http://newton.umsl.edu/~philf/htw.html`

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Mindquilts site
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Requests for a "stat-counter linked subset of pages" since 4/7/2005:
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