Otterbein Physics Blog

News And Psuedo-Random Blurts from the Otterbein University Physics Department

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Philip E. Barnhart, 1930-2017

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barnhart

I regret to inform the Otterbein Physics community of the passing of Philip E. Barnhart on June 19, 2017.  Phil was a member of the physics faculty from 1959 until his retirement in 1995.  An astronomer by training, he was an energetic and popular teacher, as well as an outstanding mentor of students and junior faculty members.  He chaired the Physics Department for many years, and was instrumental in the development of its programs and faculty.  In addition, he was a leader in the original creation of the Integrative Studies program, as well as the Science Lecture Series, in collaboration with Prof. Jerry Jenkins of the Chemistry Department.

He was a founding member and Coordinator of the North American Astrophysical Observatory (NAAPO), an organization chartered to save and continue operation of the “Big Ear” Radio Observatory in Delaware, OH.

Phil was intellectually active until the end.  In 2012 he published Creative Science, an historical and philosophical survey of scientific discovery.  His last visit to Otterbein (in April 2013) was a talk about the book, and his ideas on how science should be taught and understood.

Written by David Robertson

July 23rd, 2017 at 10:12 pm

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Model Rocket Club

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Nice article in the Columbus Dispatch about the Central Ohio Rocketry and Space-modeling Alliance, which meets monthly at Otterbein.

Written by David Robertson

January 12th, 2017 at 10:23 am

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Gravity Waves Detected!

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Computer simulation of gravitational waves produced by black holes spiraling together.

Computer simulation of gravitational waves produced by black holes spiraling together.

LIGO (the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory) has just announced the first ever direct detection of gravitational waves.  These are ripples in spacetime itself, propagating at the speed of light, and are a prediction of Einstein’s 1915 General Theory of Relativity.  They should be produced copiously in many astrophysical processes, but they are so difficult to detect that only waves produced in extremely energetic processes are detectable.  The signal seen by LIGO, for example, is from the collision of two black holes, of mass 29 and 36 times the mass of our sun, and resulting in about 3 solar masses being converted into gravity wave energy in a fraction of a second.  The peak power was about 50 times that of the entire visible universe!

This is a major discovery, not only for the confirmation of a long-standing prediction of general relativity, but because it opens a new window on the structure of the universe.  The era of gravity wave astronomy has dawned!

Written by David Robertson

February 11th, 2016 at 12:56 pm

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Nobel Winner Comes to Otterbein

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This year’s Science Lecture Series at Otterbein features William Phillips of NIST, co-recipient of the 1997 Nobel Prize for Physics for his pioneering work on laser trapping and cooling of atoms.  Phillips will give a public lecture entitled Time, Einstein, and the Coolest Stuff in the Universe, at 7pm On February 18, 2016, in Riley Auditorium (BFAC). The talk is free and open to the public.

On Friday, Feb 19, he will also give a more technical talk entitled The Coming Revolution in the Metric System, at 10:50am in Riley.

Written by David Robertson

February 11th, 2016 at 11:05 am

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Operation Physics funded for 2016-17

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The Ohio Department of Education has approved funding for a seventh year of OP2: Operation Physics for Middle Grades Science Teachers. This program brings to Otterbein a group of 30 (mainly) middle school physical science teachers for an intensive course in basic physics principles with lots of hands-on activities.

Static electricity supermodel Philip Kellogg '15 demonstrates the Van de Graaf generator in OP2.

Static electricity supermodel Philip Kellogg ’15 demonstrates the Van de Graaff generator in OP2.

Written by David Robertson

January 27th, 2016 at 11:03 am

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Trippy, man

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Written by David Robertson

December 9th, 2015 at 11:15 pm

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Measuring Planck’s Constant with LEGOs

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An amusing project from NIST for using a LEGO “Watt balance” — the device used in the recently updated definition of the kilogram — to measure Planck’s constant h.  I’ll be firing this one up at home, for sure!

tableTop_LegoWattBalance

Written by David Robertson

November 12th, 2015 at 11:10 am

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Beautiful new experiment verifies (yet again) that quantum mechanics is weird

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A new experiment carried out in the Netherlands has confirmed the “spooky action at a distance” that is a central feature of quantum mechanics.  There have been several such confirmations, going back to the early 1980s, but this is is the first one that simultaneously closes all the loopholes that might arise.  It may therefore be the final blow to the idea — championed by Einstein and Bell, among others — that quantum mechanics is incomplete and there might be local “hidden variables.”

The preprint version of the paper is available here.

Written by David Robertson

September 3rd, 2015 at 8:35 am

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How Physics Will Change—and Change the World—in 100 Years

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Interesting and inspiring article on the (history and) future of physics by Frank Wilczek.

Written by David Robertson

July 8th, 2015 at 3:38 pm

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Operation Physics in full swing for 2015-16

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OP2 teachers study force and acceleration.

OP2 teachers study force and motion.

OP2: Operation Physics, a crash course in physics for middle school science teachers, is underway now at Otterbein. The course features many hands-on activities and the teachers receive loads of gear for teaching science. The program is supported by a grant from the Ohio Board of Regents, and is in its 6th year at Otterbein.

Written by David Robertson

June 27th, 2015 at 11:33 am

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