About physics and teaching

Archive for July 2011

Google+ and Gender

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I just signed up for Google+. Why? Because I can. That’s the best I can do for justification, beside thinking it might be something I find worthwhile later on. That and the fact my students have roundly ignored the HammondPhysics fan page I created on Facebook (but, then again, they warned me they would).

But the weird thing is, the only information Google+ ¬†insists that I present to the public in terms of “profile” is my gender. Why? I have no idea… I can’t fathom this single request for information about me. Oh wait… advertising? At any rate, I don’t think it’s the first thing I would tell a new acquaintance (“Hi, I’m Mark! I’m male!”).

Some take particular issue with gender being a required and public bit of information.

So I am suggesting that if you, like me, don’t particularly care for Google requiring you to enter your sex or gender (whatever they mean), then enter “Other.” If everyone who is unhappy about being required to indicate gender selects “Other,” someone will get the message. Yes, I know that in certain cases (such as picking personal pronouns in languages other than English) Google interprets “Other” as “Male.” This is weird, really. But the point is, if everyone selects the same classification, attempts to gender target advertising will be confused and pretty much worthless. So there.

Oh, in the meantime, you should also file feedback to Google (by clicking on the little gear in the upper righthand corner of Google+).






Written by Mark Hammond

2011/07/10 at 08:04

Posted in Uncategorized

Summer Fun for Students

with 4 comments

I was recently asked by a student what kind of fun (but serious) science-y play he could do over the summer. He is bored, stuck at home, his summer camp experience having been unexpectedly canceled. This is a student who repeatedly did that little bit extra in physics class all year (he even completed the first two chapters of “SpaceTime Physics” by Taylor and Wheeler) . He is signed up for second year (calculus-based) physics next year. Thus he is going to be learning VPython over the summer anyway. And he will be doing video analysis as part of his physics class next year. So take a look at what I suggested to him, and let me know if there is more that I could suggest.

  1. Read The Talent Code by Daniel Coyle (ok, I tell everyone this).
  2. Get your parents to use that cash they saved on summer camp to buy a student license for Mathematica and start playing with it (I know his parents can afford this and I know that he already has the math chops and curiosity to make it worthwhile).
  3. Get started early on VPython and then dig a little deeper into lists, loops and conditional statements in Python.
  4. Go to and use Mathematica and/or Python to solve some problems.
  5. Buy an Arduino starter kit and start making your computer control something.
  6. Download Tracker and make it work with the sample files.
  7. Try to create a document using LaTeX.
Now there are things in here which build skills that are not necessary for high school or even college, and there is more than a kid could possibly do. I figure that if he does one or two of these things, he’ll stay out of trouble and be excited for at least part of the day (and play a video game or two fewer each day). Some of these items are things that students in the past have gotten a kick out of doing on their own (well, a certain type of student to be sure).
Further suggestions for the home-bound future scientist?

Written by Mark Hammond

2011/07/05 at 10:01

Posted in deep practice, mindset