Note to teachers
The overall goal in this exhibit is to give students and teachers a glimpse into a moment of discovery. The discovery of optical pulsars may be the only example of a significant discovery documented by a tape recorder left running for other purposes. The listener is privileged to hear an event as it happened, not the staging of an event.
This exhibit allows students and teachers to recognize scientists as people. The thrill of discovery provides a human element to which everyone can relate. As Cocke and Disney check their results and share their excitement, they are people engrossed in science, not humorless, unfeeling machines recording data.
This exhibit also provides a compact view of the scientific process in operation. Experimental science is presented in a true context. The astrophysicists are constantly observing, manipulating equipment, and then repeating the observation in order to be certain of their results. Mathematics, data and instruments are all checked. Only after they have tried every way they can think of to make their discovery "go away," and still find it staring at them, are the scientists satisfied.
This exhibit can also be an opportunity for professional development. Science teachers can strengthen their background in pulsars and neutron stars -- one of the most fascinating new fields of astronomy -- through self-study of the module and linked Web sites. Teachers can better understand the struggle of scientists to understand the nature of this interaction as they listen to the scientists themselves describe their involvement.
- In an astronomy course: The unit can be used during a discussion of stellar evolution or at any other point where the topic of pulsars is specifically addressed.
- In a physics course: The unit can be used in connection with discussions of gravity, density of matter, conservation of angular momentum, or especially when discussing the different forms of electromagnetic radiation. It may also be used as a brief excursion into scientific discovery or scientific method.
- In a history or philosophy of science course: This unit can be used as a true account of one type of discovery in science.
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