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Computers in Physics


Computers in Physics
Educational Software Contest


Prizes awarded in January 1998; software described in CIP 11:6, 1997, p. 579.
ENERGY BAND CREATOR  N. Sanjay Rebello, Chandima Cumaranatunge, Lawrence T. Escalada, and Dean A. Zollman 
RADIO ASTRONOMY OF PULSARS  Glenn Snyder, Laurence A. Marshall, Michael Hayden, and P. Richard Cooper 
FUTURELAB Walt Woltosz, Douglas R. Beck, John P. Rose, Pat O'Connor, Roger X. Yi, Jatin Shah, Ying Lee, and Jeff Dahlen 
COOL John A. Cowan (with Robert Cline)

Honorable Mentions


N. Sanjay Rebello, Chandima Cumaranatunge, Lawrence T. Escalada, and Dean A. Zollman (Kansas State University)
This program simulates the formation of electron energy bands in a solid. As students increase the number of atoms in the solid, they see the individual discrete energy levels of the electrons split into multiple values. Our judges remark that this program is "one of a suite of new software applications being developed at Kansas State University to allow beginning students to visualize quantum-mechanical phenomena that, up to now, required a strong mathematical background for comprehension."


Glenn Snyder, Laurence A. Marshall, Michael Hayden, and P. Richard Cooper (Project CLEA, Department of Physics, Gettysburg College)
The latest of what our judges call "colorful and informative simulations of astronomical instruments" from Project CLEA (Contemporary Laboratory Experiences in Astronomy). This program allows students to log on to the control panel of a radio telescope and to scan the "sky" for radio pulsars. According to our judges, the program "allows large classes to gain some hands on appreciation of an important astronomical subject . . . Future telescope operators might even use this as a pre-training device."


Walt Woltosz, Douglas R. Beck, John P. Rose, Pat O'Connor, Roger X. Yi, Jatin Shah, Ying Lee, and Jeff Dahlen (Simulations Plus Inc.)
A suite of three programs, Gravity, Optics, and Circuits, all of which allow the user to select objects and measuring instruments, place them on the desktop, adjust their values, and observe the resulting simulation. The package includes several suggested experiments, such as testing atmospheric friction, finding the proper parameters for a geosynchronous orbit, and finding the proper-sized resistor to dim a light bulb. Our judges say that "the activities were colorful and well chosen for [the junior-high to high-school] grade level."
  COOL  student winner


John A. Cowan (Johns Hopkins School of Medicine) with Robert Cline (Davidson College)
Written as part of a senior honors thesis at Davidson College, this program simulates laser cooling and trapping of atoms and allows the user to monitor and record the progress of single or multiple neutral cesium atoms in a magneto-optical trap formed by crossed laser beams and a spherical magnetic quadrupole field. Interesting simulations can be recorded and played back as movies, and several short instructional movies on atomic cooling are included with the program.


Dean E. Dauger (University of California, Los Angeles)
This program exploits the floating-point capabilities of the PowerPC to simulate Fresnel diffraction by opaque obstacles, utilizing a new algorithm developed by the author (CIP 10:6, 1996, p. 591). Users may choose from among built-in apertures or specify an aperture of their own design, and may display the intensity and phase of the light in the diffraction pattern as an image or in a phasor plot. The ability to compare Fresnel and Fraunhofer diffraction patterns is a feature of "particular pedagogical interest" in a program "that will be very useful in courses on wave optics," according to our judges.




Wolfgang Christian (Davidson College)
A set of Java applets for use in Web-based physics instruction, which teachers may download and include in their own Web pages. The applets include Regression, PlotFunction, Animator, Superposition, Ripple, Doppler, Lorentz, Retard, Minkowski, QTime, and Pendulum.


N. Sanjay Rebello (Kansas State University)
A suite of programs (Wave Function Sketcher, Quantum Tunneling, and Bound States) that allows students to explore the fundamental concepts of an electron inside a potential well using a hands-on approach.


N. Sanjay Rebello, Konstantin Sushenko, and Dean Zollman (Kansas State University)
This program helps students learn how a scanning tunneling microscope (STM) works. It allows cross-sectional profiles of real STM images to be taken, and demonstrates potential-energy diagrams, wavefunctions, and tunneling probability as they apply to the STM


Richard R. Silbar (Whistle Soft Inc.), William C. Mead (ANSR Inc.), and Robert A. Williams (RAW Bits Consulting)
A learn-at-your-own-pace multimedia tutorial that lets students explore the essential concepts of forces by means of animations and multiple-choice questions. Topics included are Fundamental Quantities, History and Fundamental Forces, Forces and Motion, Electrostatics, and Electromagnetism.


Mark Sutherland (University of Toronto)
A multimedia interactive physics textbook on dynamics that presents lessons in Adobe Acrobat Reader format, utilizing Java applets, QuickTime movies, and tutorial questions. The course is taught at an advanced level and makes free use of calculus.


John Lindner, Josh Bozeday, and Bryan Prusha (The College of Wooster)
This program allow the user to explore interactively four well known paradigms of nonlinear dynamics, the differential equations of Rossler, Lorenz, Chua, and Duffing. It uses a fourth-order Runge-Kutta algorithm to solve the equations numerically and displays trajectories graphically on the screen.


Miky Ronen, Matzi Eliahu, and Igal Yastrubinczky (Center for Technological Education, Holon, Israel)
An environment for constructing DC Circuits that allows students to create any combination of the available elements and immediately see the circuit solutions. Components included are voltage sources, resistors, variable resistors, ohmic bulbs, diodes, fuses, switches, ammeters, and voltmeters.


Arch D. Robison (Kuck & Associates Inc.)
This program uses a game-like approach to teaching students about seismic exploration for oil that involves firing an air gun at the ground, observing and interpreting a resulting wave pattern, and moving a drilling platform to the proper location to drill for oil.

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