AAS Meeting #193 - Austin, Texas, January 1999
Session 91. Computers in Education
Education, Oral, Friday, January 8, 1999, 2:00-3:30pm, Room 9 (C)

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[91.08] Simulations and Experiments in Astronomy and Physics

F. P. Maloney, P. A. Maurone, L. E. DeWarf (Villanova)

There are new approaches to teaching astronomy and physics in the laboratory setting, involving the use of computers as tools to simulate events and concepts which can be illuminated in no other reasonable way. With the computer, it is possible to travel back in time to replicate the sky as Galileo saw it. Astronomical phenomena which reveal themselves only after centuries of real time may be compressed in the computer to a simulation of several minutes. Observations simulated on the computer do not suffer from the vagaries of weather, fixed time or geographic position, or non-repeatability. In physics, the computer allows us to secure data for experiments which, by their nature, may not be amenable to human interaction. These could include experiments with very fast or very slow timescales, large number of data samples, complex or tedious manipulation of the data which hides the fundamental nature of the experiment, or data sampling which would need a specialized probe, such as for acid rain. This innovation has become possible only recently, due to the availability and affordability of sophisticated computer hardware and software. We have developed a laboratory experience for non-scientists who need an introductory course in astronomy or physics. Our approach makes extensive use of computers in this laboratory. Using commercially available software, the students use the computer as a time machine and a space craft to explore and rediscover fundamental science. The physics experiments are classical in nature, and the computer acts as a data collector and presenter, freeing the student from the tedium of repetitive data gathering and replotting. In this way, the student is encouraged to explore, to try new things, to refine the measurements, and to discover the principles underlying the observed phenomena.

If you would like more information about this abstract, please follow the link to http://astro4.ast.vill.edu/index.htm. This link was provided by the author. When you follow it, you will leave the Web site for this meeting; to return, you should use the Back comand on your browser.

The author(s) of this abstract have provided an email address for comments about the abstract: fmaloney@email.vill.edu

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