computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualising the Gradient
Static Fields 2022 (6 years)

Gradient Sequence

Students use prepared Sage code to predict the gradient from contour graphs of 2D scalar fields.

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Using Technology to Visualize Potentials
Static Fields 2022 (6 years)

electrostatic potential visualization

Begin by prompting the students to brainstorm different ways to represent a three dimensional scalar field on a 2-D surface (like their paper or a whiteboard). The students use a pre-made Sage code or a Mathematica worksheet to visualize the electrostatic potential of several distributions of charges. The computer algebra systems demonstrates several different ways of plotting the potential.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Electrostatic potential of four point charges
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

electrostatic potential python

Students write python programs to compute and visualize the potential due to four point charges. For students with minimal programming ability and no python experience, this activity can be a good introduction to writing code in python using numpy and matplotlib.

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualization of Quantum Probabilities for the Hydrogen Atom
Central Forces 2023 (3 years) Students use Mathematica to visualize the probability density distribution for the hydrogen atom orbitals with the option to vary the values of \(n\), \(\ell\), and \(m\).

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Electrostatic potential of spherical shell
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

electrostatic potential spherical coordinates

Students solve numerically for the potential due to a spherical shell of charge. Although this potential is straightforward to compute using Gauss's Law, it serves as a nice example for numerically integrating in spherical coordinates because the correct answer is easy to recognize.

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualization of Quantum Probabilities for a Particle Confined to a Ring
Central Forces 2023 (3 years)

central forces quantum mechanics angular momentum probability density eigenstates time evolution superposition mathematica

Quantum Ring Sequence

Students see probability density for eigenstates and linear combinations of eigenstates for a particle on a ring. The three visual representations: standard position vs probability density plot, a ring with colormapping, and cylindrical plot with height and colormapping, are also animated to visualize time-evolution.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Kinetic energy
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

finite difference hamiltonian quantum mechanics particle in a box eigenfunctions

Students implement a finite-difference approximation for the kinetic energy operator as a matrix, and then use numpy to solve for eigenvalues and eigenstates, which they visualize.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Electrostatic potential of a square of charge
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

integration electrostatic potential surface charge density

Students write python programs to compute the potential due to a square of surface charge, and then to visualize the result. This activity can be used to introduce students to the process of integrating numerically.

face Lecture

30 min.

A coarse-grained model for transportation
Contemporary Challenges 2022 (4 years)

energy flow diagram energy car

A short lecture introducing the idea that most of the energy loss when driving is going into the kinetic energy of the air.

group Small Group Activity

120 min.

Equipotential Surfaces

E&M Quadrupole Scalar Fields

Students are prompted to consider the scalar superposition of the electric potential due to multiple point charges. First a single point charge is discussed, then four positive charges, then an electric quadrupole. Students draw the equipotential curves in the plane of the charges, while also considering the 3D nature of equipotentials.

accessibility_new Kinesthetic

30 min.

Using Arms to Visualize Transformations of Complex Two-Component Vectors (MathBits)
Quantum Fundamentals 2022

arms complex numbers phase rotation reflection math

Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States

Students, working in pairs, represent two component complex vectors with their left arms. Through a short series of instructor led prompts, students move their left arms to show how various linear transformations affect each complex component.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Electric Field Due to a Ring of Charge
Static Fields 2022 (8 years)

coulomb's law electric field charge ring symmetry integral power series superposition

Power Series Sequence (E&M)

Ring Cycle Sequence

Students work in groups of three to use Coulomb's Law \[\vec{E}(\vec{r}) =\frac{1}{4\pi\epsilon_0}\int\frac{\rho(\vec{r}^{\,\prime})\left(\vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\right)}{\vert \vec{r}-\vec{r}^{\,\prime}\vert^3} \, d\tau^{\prime}\] to find an integral expression for the electric field, \(\vec{E}(\vec{r})\), everywhere in space, due to a ring of charge.

In an optional extension, students find a series expansion for \(\vec{E}(\vec{r})\) either on the axis or in the plane of the ring, for either small or large values of the relevant geometric variable. Add an extra half hour or more to the time estimate for the optional extension.

computer Mathematica Activity

30 min.

Visualizing Combinations of Spherical Harmonics
Central Forces 2023 (3 years) Students observe three different plots of linear combinations of spherical combinations with probability density represented by color on the sphere, distance from the origin (polar plot), and distance from the surface of the sphere.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Electric field for a waffle cone of charge
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

electric field cone

Students integrate numerically to find the electric field due to a cone of surface charge, and then visualize the result. This integral can be done in either spherical or cylindrical coordinates, giving students a chance to reason about which coordinate system would be more convenient.

accessibility_new Kinesthetic

10 min.

Using Arms to Visualize Complex Numbers (MathBits)
Quantum Fundamentals 2022 (2 years)

arms complex numbers Argand diagram complex plane rectangular form exponential form complex conjugate math

Arms Sequence for Complex Numbers and Quantum States

Students move their left arm in a circle to trace out the complex plane (Argand diagram). They then explore the rectangular and exponential representations of complex numbers by using their left arm to show given complex numbers on the complex plane. Finally they enact multiplication of complex numbers in exponential form and complex conjugation.

keyboard Computational Activity

120 min.

Mean position
Computational Physics Lab II 2022

probability density particle in a box wave function quantum mechanics

Students compute probabilities and averages given a probability density in one dimension. This activity serves as a soft introduction to the particle in a box, introducing all the concepts that are needed.

assignment Homework

Visualization of Wave Functions on a Ring
Central Forces 2023 (3 years) Using either this Geogebra applet or this Mathematica notebook, explore the wave functions on a ring. (Note: The Geogebra applet may be a little easier to use and understand and is accessible if you don't have access to Mathematica, but it is more limited in the wave functions that you can represent. Also, the animation is pretty jumpy in some browsers, especially Firefox. Imagine that the motion is smooth.)
  1. Look at graphs of the following states \begin{align} \Phi_1(\phi)&=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}(\left|{2}\right\rangle +\left|{-2}\right\rangle )\\ \Phi_2(\phi)&=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}(\left|{2}\right\rangle -\left|{-2}\right\rangle )\\ \Phi_3(\phi)&=\frac{1}{\sqrt{2}}(\left|{2}\right\rangle +i\left|{-2}\right\rangle ) \end{align} Write a short description of how these states differ from each other.
  2. Find a state for which the probability density does not depend on time. Write the state in both ket and wave function notation. These are called stationary states. Generalize your result to give a characterization of the set of all possible states that are stationary states.
  3. Find a state that is right-moving. Write the state in both ket and wave function notation. Generalize your result to give a characterization of the set of all possible states that are right-moving.
  4. Find a state that is a standing wave. Write the state in both ket and wave function notation. Generalize your result to give a characterization of the set of all possible states that are standing waves.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

Charged Sphere

E&M Introductory Physics Electric Potential Electric Field

Students use a plastic surface representing the potential due to a charged sphere to explore the electrostatic potential, equipotential lines, and the relationship between potential and electric field.

assignment Homework

Flux through a Paraboloid
Static Fields 2022 (6 years)

Find the upward pointing flux of the electric field \(\vec E =E_0\, z\, \hat z\) through the part of the surface \(z=-3 s^2 +12\) (cylindrical coordinates) that sits above the \((x, y)\)--plane.

group Small Group Activity

30 min.

DELETE Navigating a Hill
Static Fields 2022 (5 years) In this small group activity, students determine various aspects of local points on an elliptic hill which is a function of two variables. The gradient is emphasized as a local quantity which points in the direction of greatest change at a point in the scalar field.