The suggestion/hypothesis is that lining up prey with magnetic field helps the foxes to judge distance and allows them to pounce more consistently and effectively — capturing prey at a statistically significant higher rate. Interesting!
My oh my! Time flies when having fun. A larger then average group of new DUML Physheads has completed the first exam of physics 53. This is another diligent group of students with a great work ethic and delightful personalities. Most are nearly over the initial shock due to the pace of the course and have settling into productive and efficient learning mode. This summer the music and artistic dance and cheering crowd seems especially prevalent. In honor of the first relatively successful exam I post the following humorous picture, which a Tumbled upon:
I think this formula sheet could have a dual purpose; great for physics formulas and also for experiments about friction– don’t slip now!
Our summer session of Physics 53 begins Monday with the largest class we have hosted in my 5 years at DUML. Thirty eight students will begin their study of mechanics and will progress through fluids, mechanical waves, and thermodynamics in five short weeks of intensive study. This brief article seemed appropriate for a first blog entry of the session. First of all, because it combines forces and oscillations, which are two of our principle areas of study. Of course, there are a few insects in and around the wetlands which are so prevalent around our island paradise. I propose listening to the audio files contained in the Clarkson University study while we try to avoid the local bugs. Here’s to a buzz free summer session!
(PhysOrg.com) — A team of Clarkson University scientists led by Prof. Igor Sokolov are using atomic force microscopy (AFM) to record sounds emanating from inside living insects like flies, mosquitoes and ladybugs.
AFM is one of major scientific tools responsible for the emergence of modern nanotechnology. The unprecedented sensitivity of AFM allowed the Clarkson team to record sub-nano oscillations of very faint amplitude (less than the size of one atom) at high frequencies (up to 1,000 hertz or cycles per second). Previous work in the study of insects was only done at up to 5 hertz. The sounds are recorded by touching the surface of the bugs with an AFM probe. The study of these sounds may allow researchers to discover unknown features and physiology of insects. Sokolov hopes these discoveries may help in finding solutions to the problems caused by insect pests. “Insects are of general interest not only as the most numerous and diverse group of animals on the planet, but also as highly efficient bio-machines varying greatly in size,” says Sokolov. “Some are major agricultural pests and competitors of humans for crops. Mosquitoes and other insects are important vectors of plant, animal, and human diseases. Also, vast lands of the earth are still underdeveloped because they are occupied by blood-sucking insects.” You can listen to audio files of the internal sounds of mosquitoes, flies, and ladybugs: //
// The Sokolov team’s research is published in the top journal of applied physics, Applied Physics Letters, at http://apl.aip.org/applab/v96/i4/p043701_s1 .The team consisted of Sokolov, who has appointments in Physics, and Chemistry and Biomolecular Science; Maxim Dokukin, a physics postdoctoral fellow; and Nataliia Guz, a physics graduate student; and Sergey Vasilyev, instrumental scientist. The other members of Sokolov’s group, physics graduate students Dmytro Volkov, Ravi Gaikwad, and Shyuzhene Li, work on biosensors, self-assembly of particles, and the study of skin aging.
Energy sure is a hot topic, perhaps behind health care and taxes, but still hot. Wired Science has an interesting article about a human-portable generator, weighing about 30 pounds and capable of generating 500 watts of off grid power.
Backpack Hydroelectric Plant Gives You 500 Watts on the Move
A human-portable hydroelectric generator that weighs about 30 pounds and generates 500 watts of power may soon be a new option for off-grid power.
Developed by Bourne Energy of Mailbu, California, the Backpack Power Plant can create clean, quiet power from any stream deeper than 4 feet.
The company showed off its more-rugged, militarized version of the Backpack Power Plant at the Cleantech Forum in San Francisco last week. Bourne Energy CEO Chris Catlin estimates the system will cost $3,000 after it goes into production.
“The BPP-2, which operates silently with no heat or exhaust emissions, is 40 percent less visible during operation and can also be bottom mounted to be totally invisible,” the company maintains.
Off-grid solar cells are also quiet, but they don’t make much power relative to the mini-turbine. For example, one commercially available foldable solar panel measures about 12 square feet and produces 62 watts of peak power. You’d need 60 square feet of panels to get the same peak power as the BPP-2, and the panels would only generate electricity while the sun was shining.
To install the civilian BPP, you would dig two trenches on opposite sides of a river and insert a lightweight anchor into each. Then, you’d run a synthetic rope between the anchors and the BPP. Catlin said his company designed the system to work like the high-tension mooring systems that hold up floating oil rigs.
The military version of the BPP has been designed to work with a variety of flow rates. The civilian version was designed to function best in streams moving at 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) per second.
The civilian market for a $3,000 mini hydro system might not be huge in the industrialized world, but Catlin hopes the plant will find willing customers in developing nations and the military.
“This can bring a cheap, highly portable energy technology to remote areas and remote villages,” Catlin told Wired.com.
Bourne is currently looking for $4 million in venture capital to take the BPP from prototype to production.
DUML spring semester has just begun and unfortunately we have no takers for Physics 54. As disappointing as this is, I plan to take this opportunity to work on revamping some of the labs we do for the Physics 53 and 54 sequence. The guiding principles are:
Keep the “activity-based”, Socratic flavor for the labs
Include more open-ended activities — less “cookbook”
Control circuit designs and robotics — collaboration with Tom Walbert
One of my personal goals ties in nicely to this DUML physics effort, namely pursuing a doctorate in Physics Education Research through NC State. I believe that presenting the Physics 53 and 54 sequence with an enhanced biology/biophysics laboratory component will provide for a more engaging experience for our DUML students. The majority of the physics student population at the Marine Lab consist of pre-med biology majors, and while feedback and student course assessments have been positive, a fall semester pilot test of the crab claw force lab got rave reviews, so I have evidence that the course can only improve with some new physics labs and demos which take advantage of our location. Duke Marine Lab is in a beautiful location and I know I can do a better job I can do of taking advantage of local resources.
Consider the following comment from The Basic Science Medical Education Dilemma blog [linked below]
The proposition that animates my own work is that a more effective curriculum at the earlier stage would prepare entering students significantly better for the challenges of understanding and retention they face in medical school, by which I mean the education they receive at the fundamental level of physics, chemistry, organic chemistry and biology. Medical school would be more vivid if students learned the fundamental physical and biological sciences within a combined curriculum that builds on itself, not within disconnected modular courses. How can a person understand free energy change in chemistry without mechanics, electrodynamics, and thermodynamics from physics? How can you understand oxidative metabolism without oxidation reduction? Being a person who has worked very closely with many small groups of premedical students, taking them through the basic sciences in review more times than I want to admit, I’m burdened with knowing how little conceptual fluency entering medical students actually possess after their undergraduate years that would help them unify the enormous encyclopedia already in their heads, let alone what is coming in medical school.
I hope to make some small contribution to enhancing physics education and in particular to enhancing physics education at DUML for our life science majors and pre-meds. Time for me to get busy. Item number one on the agenda is making a final decision on the X-ray crystallography lab. I’ll post more details about this in the near future.