TPT 50th Anniversity book - page 10

As a longtime reader of
The Physics
, I have a deep appreciation of its
many readable, highly relevant articles for
teachers. Congratulations to Editor Karl
Mamola and AAPT on the occasion of
50th anniversary. We are fortunate to have
this great resource, with its full online archive
accessible to all AAPT members.
Because a main interest of mine is energy
thermodynamics, I have been particularly
interested in articles in these areas over the
years. I take the opportunity to highlight
articles on energy and thermodynamics in
that I have found particularly useful. My
selection is not exhaustive, and I apologize for
the many good articles I could not include.
Energy is elusive, and does not even have a
solid definition. Energy transformations lead
to confusion beginning with the definition
of work, and especially at the interface of
mechanics and thermodynamics.ArnoldArons
carefully addressed logical and conceptual
problems associated with the work-kinetic
energy theorem (1989). John Jewett’s excellent
series on subtle aspects of energy clarify many
points of common confusion, and emphasize
important difference between stored energies,
e.g., internal energy, and energy transfers, e.g.,
work and heat (2008).
One of my favorite thermodynamics
articles in
is a 1970 contribution by Mark
Zemansky, “The Use and Misuse of the Word
‘Heat’ in Physics Teaching.” I commiserate
with his woeful feeling that many teachers
lack understanding of thermodynamics and
that this relates in part to difficulties with its
terminology—e.g., confusion between the
internal energy
, and
thermal energy
(for which no definition exists).
Zemansky expressed this succinctly:
Teaching thermal physics
Is as easy as a song:
You think you make it simpler
When you make it slightly wrong!
Zemansky’s article could help anyone with
an uneasy feeling about thermodynamics.
Francisco Glover (1969) published a
comprehensive article on specific heats of
materials and how some elementary quantum
concepts can deepen understanding. He
illuminates the concept of temperature and its
measurement, the kinetic theory of gases, and
the basic concepts of the quantum theory.
In 1974, Albert Bartlett began a thoughtful
discussion of home heating. He addressed
winter fuel savings from shutting off heat to an
unused room. He used an equivalent electric
circuit model in which thermal resistances are
represented by electrical resistances and the
Harvey Leff
Harvey Leff is a retired physics teacher (emeritus professor of physics at
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, visiting scholar at Reed
College) with continuing interests and activities in classical and statistical
thermodynamics. He is a former officer and section representative of the
Southern California Section of AAPT and was 2007 President of AAPT. He
enjoys living in Portland, OR, at Willamette View, a retirement community
with a half dozen physics people, along with many other retired teachers.
… is fun, is highly educational,
and is likely to help teachers
improve their teaching.
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