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2011 AAPT Summer Meeting
July 30-August 3, 2011
Omaha, Nebraska

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Percolating the Classroom: Using Mathematica to Introduce Percolation Concepts
  Location: HC 3040
  Date: Tuesday, Aug.2
  Time: 8:30 AM -8:40 AM
  Author: Timothy Hooper, Penn State Altoona
  Co-Author(s): Gary J. Weisel , Darin T Zimmerman
  Abstract: More than 12,000 articles have been published on the physics of percolation, yet only a handful have attempted to teach the concept to undergraduate students. However, with increases in computing power and widely available software packages, getting started on the study of percolation is a much simpler task today than it was 30 years ago. In this presentation, we show how undergraduate science and engineering students can use a standard desktop computer running Mathematica to perform sophisticated investigations of two-dimensional lattices. In a special topics research course, second-year students learned how to simulate percolation in various lattice geometries, calculate cluster statistics, and extract critical exponents from the simulation data. These students made fundamental connections between the mathematics and physics of percolating systems and reached an understanding of a fundamental physical process that unfortunately, is not often part of a typical undergraduate curriculum.
  Footnotes: None
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