AAPT.org - American Association of Physics Teachers

Featured Speakers
2006 Summer Meeting — Syracuse, NY
July 22-26, 2006

AAPT’s 2006 Summer Meeting features an exciting line-up of speakers. Information about award lecturers and plenary speakers is provided below. (Click on speaker's name to link to further details.)



Steve Ethen, Burnsville Senior H.S., Burnsville, MN
Steve EthenSteven D. Ethen has taught physics at Burnsville Senior High School since 1976. He organized and has chaired GO4ST8 Physics, a state-wide physics teachers association, since its inception in 1984. In 1987, Ethen was selected to participate in the Physics Teaching Resource Agent program (PTRA). He continues to work with PTRA+, Urban PTRA, and the Rural PTRA programs where he has organized numerous elementary and secondary workshops. Ethen organized and continues to coordinate Valleyfair Physics Day, which in 2005 involved more than 14,000 students from Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, and North- and South Dakota. Steve is a past president of the Minnesota Science Teachers Association and a former Director of National Science Teachers Association, District IX.

Excellence in Pre-College Physics Teaching Award Lecture:
Tuesday, July 25 - 3:15 p.m.

On the Shoulder of Giants
The progress and success of physics education depends upon the advances made in areas such knowledge of learning theory, use of technology, demonstrations, labs, etc. Science education and in particular physics education organizations are crucial in this development. AAPT and PTRA have been vital in the dissemination of research that brings about positive change in physics education. "The mission of the AAPT/PTRA Program is to improve the teaching and learning of physics topics in pre-collegiate education for all teachers and students in the United States." (Handbook for AAPT/PTRA Workshop Leaders (2005–2006 edition)) The excitement of physics and the worth of the individual learner must be made known. Students are more apt to learn when they feel they are valued and what they are learning will make a difference.

Michael Dubson, University of Colorado, Boulder
Michael DubsonMichael Dubson was trained as a condensed matter experimentalist at Cornell University, where he got his Ph.D. under the wise tutelage of Don Holcomb. For 10 years, he did research in superconductivity, metal-insulator transitions, and surface science at Ohio State University and Michigan State University. Since 1995, he has been on the faculty of the physics department at the University of Colorado at Boulder, where he has worked on innovative teaching techniques, curriculum reform, and public outreach. His other recent professional labels include textbook author, software developer, airline crash investigator, optical engineer, and astronomer.

Excellence in Undergraduate Physics Teaching Award Lecture
Tuesday, July 25 - 3:45 p.m.

Three or Four Golden Rules of Lecturing
Over the last 10 years, the way we teach freshmen and sophomore physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder has evolved away from traditional instruction toward a format full of interactive engagment, concept tests and peer instruction, online homework, Washington Tutorials, interactive computer simulations, and exams which emphasize qualitative reasoning. Student morale has improved and we have seen dramatic learning gains as measured by standard exams. Our main strategy is the "Zeroth" Golden Rule of Lecture: Reinvent Nothing. We let our esteemed colleagues of other institutions do the hard work, and then we import their successful techniques. The key to sustainable course reform is to provide over-worked faculty with well-developed tools and then wait. The remaining Golden Rules of Lecture will be revealed. As with any good lecture, there will be lots of audience participation and demonstrations. An electronic "clicker" system will be used to collect audience feedback.

Lisa Randall, Harvard University
Lisa RandallLisa Randall studies particle physics and cosmology at Harvard University, where she is Professor of Theoretical Physics. Her research concerns the fundamental nature of particles and forces and the relationships among matter’s most basic elements. Prof. Randall has worked on a wide variety of models and theories, the most recent of which involve extra dimensions of space. She has also worked on supersymmetry, Standard Model observables, cosmological inflation, baryogenesis, grand unified theories, and aspects of string theory. She has made seminal contributions in all these areas and, as of last autumn, was the most cited theoretical physicist of the past five years. Prof. Randall has recently completed a book entitled Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe’s Hidden Dimensions, which was included in the New York Times’ list of 100 notable books of 2005

Klopsteg Memorial Award Lecture
Wednesday, July 26 - 2:15 p.m.

Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions
Do we inhabit a three-dimensional universe floating in a four dimensional space? What if the extra dimensions required by string theory were not curled up and unobservably small, but unfurled and vast, extending forever? Could an invisible universe only a tiny fraction of an inch apart in another dimension explain phenomena that we see today in our world?These are among the questions that we will consider in this lecture about extra dimensions of space.

Art Hobson, University of Arkansas
Art HobsonArt Hobson had originally hoped to be a professional jazz musician. He received a Bachelor of Music degree in 1955 from the University of North Texas, Denton, where he played trombone with the renowned One O’Clock Lab Band. After a two-year stint with Army bands, he went to New York City looking for steady employment as a musician and quickly decided he’d be better off switching to a different field. He received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from Kansas State University in 1964 and joined the faculty at the University of Arkansas where he taught for 35 years and retired in 1999. He still rides his bicycle to his "ivory tower" on the campus every day.

He won his college’s Master Teacher Award in 1989. He served for nine years as editor of the quarterly newsletter Physics and Society and was elected a Fellow of the American Physical Society in 1992 "for numerous contributions in the area of physics and society." He is a co-organizer of AAPT’s physics and society education group. His publications include more than 130 scholarly articles and letters, plus four books. During 1975 to 1999, Art developed and taught a new kind of physics course for nonscientists, one that connects physics to its cultural and social context. Most of his career since 1975 has been related to that development.

Robert A. Millikan Award Lecture
Wednesday, July 26, 1:15 p.m.

Thoughts on Physics Education for the 21st Century
We physics teachers must broaden our focus from physics for physicists and other scientists to physics for all. The reason, as the American Association for the Advancement of Science puts it, is that "Without a scientifically literate population, the outlook for a better world is not promising." Physics for all (including the first course for scientists) should be conceptual, not technical. It should describe the universe as we understand it today, including general relativity, modern cosmology, and quantum fields; many science writers have shown that this is possible. It should emphasize the scientific process and include such societal topics as global warming, nuclear weapons, and pseudoscience, because citizens need to vote intelligently on such issues.


Plenary Sessions & Speakers


Plenary I

Hans Bethe (1906 - 2005)
Hans BetheNuclear Physics in the 21st Century: The Legacy of Hans Bethe
Co-Sponsors: Apparatus and APS Forum on Education
Monday, July 24, 10:15 a.m. – 11:45 a.m.
Grant Auditorium



Hendrik Schatz — 10:15 a.m.

Frontiers in Nuclear Astrophysics
Nuclear Astrophysics is an active, rapidly advancing field of current research. While the question of the nuclear energy source of the sun has been essentially solved by Hans Bethe in the '30s, key questions today concern, for example, the origin of the heavy elements in nature and the nuclear reactions that trigger or power stellar explosions. Both questions are related, as one believes today that nuclear reactions occuring in the explosions of stars are responsible for the existence of heavy elements such as gold or uranium in the universe and on earth. But nothing is certain at this point, and just how and where nature creates the extreme conditions needed to forge the heavy elements, and what the actual sequence of reactions is, are open questions.

Nevertheless, rapid progress is being made. Astronomical observations are making new discoveries at a rapid pace. At the same time, nuclear physics laboratories such as the NSCL at Michigan State University are now able to create some of the extremely unstable nuclei that most likely participate in the reactions creating heavy elements. While these nuclei decay within fractions of seconds, they are the progenitors of the stable nuclei found today and studying their properties in the laboratory opens the door to testing our theories of the synthesis of the elements. I will discuss some of the current open questions of the field and recent progress in astronomy and nuclear physics and relate this to the historical development of this field, in particular Hans Bethe’s breakthrough contributions.

Timothy J. Hallman — 10:45 a.m.

Making Quark-Gluon Soup at the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider
Since the time of the ancient Greek philosophers our understanding of nature has depended on the ability to study objects at smaller and smaller scales. One of the newest, high power microscopes available is the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider (RHIC) at Brookhaven National Laboratory. By colliding nuclei of gold atoms in opposite directions at nearly the speed of light, RHIC provides access to the smallest building blocks known thus far—quarks and gluons. The results of head-on collisions at RHIC indicate that in its infancy, the early universe was very different than today, with the quarks and gluons coexisting in a hot, primordial soup. The discovery of that soup at RHIC, and its implications for our understanding will be discussed.

Elizabeth Beise — 11:15 a.m.

News and Views of the Proton
It has been over 60 years since the Nobel Prize was awarded to Otto Stern for the discovery that the proton has an anomalously large magnetic moment, nearly three times what one expects from a spin-1/2 point particle. This was one of the first hints of the underlying structure of the protons and neutrons that make up the bulk of the visible mass of our universe. The now well-established theory of Quantum Chromodynamics describes the strong interaction between quarks and the gluons that bind them, and accounts for many of the observed bound states that are seen in nature. But there are still many unanswered questions. I’ll present a current-day snapshot of what we know today and what the upcoming research directions are, with a focus on experiments involving electron scattering.

Plenary II

Jocelyn Bell Burnell, University of Oxford
Jocelyn Burnell

Pulsars and Extreme Physics
Monday, July 24
3:30 p.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Grant Auditorium, Law Building

Pulsars were discovered almost 40 years ago. What do we know about them now and what have they taught us about the extremes of physics? With an average density comparable to that of the nucleus, magnetic fields around 108 Tesla and speeds close to c, these objects have stretched our understanding of the behaviour of matter. They serve as extremely accurate clocks with which to carry out precision experiments in relativity. Created in cataclysmic explosions, pulsars are a (stellar) form of life after death. After half a billion revolutions most pulsars finally die, but amazingly some are born again to yet another, even weirder, afterlife. Pulsar research continues lively, delivering exciting, startling and almost unbelievable results.

Plenary III

Daniel Kleppner, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Daniel Kleppner

A Curiosity Cabinet of Gedanken Experiments
Tuesday, July 25
10:15 a.m. – 11:15 a.m.
Grant Auditorium, Law Building

Gedanken experiments are intended to help reveal new physical principles but are not seriously proposed to be executed. Einstein’s elevator and Schroedinger’s cat are two famous examples. I will discuss some experiments in the gedanken tradition that actually have been carried out, and the new physics that followed.