TPT 50th Anniversity book - page 7

There’s not enough space to say how much
of my life, both professionally and socially, has
revolved around AAPT. But I can say what it’s
meant to me in one sentence. My closest friends
over the past 50 years are those I met at AAPT
meetings. In the early ’80s, Don Kirwin, editor
The Physics Teacher
), asked me to do a
monthly cartoon featuring intriguing physics
ideas. Since cartooning and physics are like good
wine and fine cheese to me, I readily agreed and
submitted a cartoon of a sailor asking a question
regarding the relative buoyancies of a ship loaded
with iron ore and another with an equal weight
of Styrofoam. When the issue came out, I was
shocked to see that Don called it “View-It with
Hewitt!” It reminded me of an earlier experience
at the exhibit hall of an AAPT meeting when my
Conceptual Physics
was first published. At
the Little-Brown booth was a huge portrait of
me, reminiscent, I thought, of Chairman Mao
or L. Ron Hubbard. This was not for me! To
circumvent embarrassment I had the portrait
removed immediately, and I similarly asked Don
to remove the “View-it with Hewitt!” border
accompanying my art. I suggested “Figuring
Physics,” and Don complied. I’ve been submitting
these physics cartoons ever since. Don placed
them monthly, a page for the question with the
answer on the back of the page. As I do now, I
supplied batches of them, giving Don latitude in
complementing the themes of particular issues.
When Cliff Swartz returned as editor, he had
mixed feelings about their value and published
them only occasionally. This changed a few years
later at a summer meeting at Brookhaven Labs
when Cliff gave a keynote talk. I followed his
presentation with a 10-minute talk — Cliff still
in attendance. Near the end of my presentation
I asked for an audience show of hands for how
many read “Figuring Physics” in
. Nearly all
hands rose, and Cliff took notice. After that he
published them every month. And I’m happy to
say that Karl Mamola has done the same. Karl has
them appear at the front of the magazine and has
made what I deem a good move. He has placed
the answers to each “Figuring Physics” question
on the AAPT website. I applaud this, mainly
because I’ve always felt that a significant “wait
time” was important before a reader sees the
answer. This is vital for students, and also readers
. So in posting solutions on the website,
Karl produced a “wait time” for
readers. As
in a classroom, there’s little value to a question
asked if the answer is provided before one thinks
about it. My hope for “Figuring Physics” has
always been that teachers post it, then wait for a
half week or so before posting the solution. With
“wait time,” students often change their answers
upon further thought, and hone their thinking in
classmate discussions. Learning is taking place!
AAPT has been central tomy striving to inspire
students to see the value of learning physics.
What I first accomplished in my classrooms, then
later via videos taken in my classrooms, has been
extended monthly with “Figuring Physics.” Now
inmy 80s, I’mas energized and passionate as ever,
not only in keeping
supplied with batches of
It” screencasts that appear on YouTube, reaching
a greater number of students contemplating a
life in science and adults looking for enrichment.
My wife, Lillian (whom I didn’t meet at an AAPT
meeting, but who attends meetings with me),
converts my drawings and narrations into five- to
eight-minute elementary physics lessons, which
at this writing are approaching 100 in number. So
my life has been one of teaching physics, the core
of which has been AAPT. As stated at the outset,
I suggest my belief to all—AAPT is where your
future friends are.
Paul G. Hewitt
Paul G. Hewitt had an active life—boxing champion, cartoonist, Army
veteran, uranium prospector, and sign painter—before finding his love of
science at the age of 25. After education from prep school through graduate
school, his mission has been inspiring others to share his love of physics.
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