Cosmic-Ray Showers Reveal Muon Mystery

The Pierre Auger Observatory has detected more muons from cosmic-ray showers than predicted by the most up-to-date particle-physics models. This finding suggests that the best models of hadronic interactions are missing something. Read more about Pierre Auger Observatory and proposed missing links here on the APS Physics website.


This Month in Astronomical History

Teresa Wilson’s monthly series “This Month in Astronomical History” has released its November publication “Launch of Sputnik 2”. Each month, as part of this new series from the Historical Astronomy Division of the AAS, an important discovery or memorable event in the history of astronomy will be highlighted. This month, we look as the Soviet Union’s launch of Sputnik 2. You can read the compete article here or on aas.org.


Jaszczak Leads Discovery of New Mineral

image144299-persA team led by a physicist from Michigan Tech has discovered a new mineral, named for the region in Tanzania where it comes from.

John Jaszczak knew that something was very unusual about the mineral specimen he was examining under the microscope of a Raman spectrometer in the basement of Fisher Hall.

On a hunch, Jaszczak decided to look into it further. The diagnostic studies with Raman spectrometry and scanning electron microscopy showed a layered structure rich in molybdenum, lead and sulfur that may be a new mineral. Now, Jaszczak and the team he pulled together can confirm that gut feeling. The tiny, silvery, cylindrical whiskers are indeed a new mineral—merelaniite. The journal Minerals published the team’s findings last week.

Detailed chemical and physical analyses of merelaniite—a member of the cylindrite group—revealed a neatly stacked layered structure with sheets rolled in scrolls like tobacco in a cigar. These tiny whiskers, which to the naked eye look like very fine hairs on other larger crystals, have probably been regularly cleaned off their host rocks containing other more recognizable minerals that occur at the famous gem mines near Merelani, Tanzania.

Screen Shot 2016-11-01 at 8.39.44 AM“Minerals have a natural wow factor, and while we use many of them daily without thinking twice, some specimens are truly art,” Jaszczak says, adding that minerals like the gems tanzanite (a blue/purple variety of zoisite) and tsavorite (a green variety of grossular garnet), which come from the same mines as merelaniite, can be more eye-catching. But it doesn’t negate the value of less showy minerals.

Read the full story.

Jaszczak On the Road

image144299-persJohn Jaszczak (Physics/A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum) recently gave two lectures while on sabbatical travel.

At Miami University (Oxford, Ohio) on Oct. 7, he spoke about “Mineralogical Miracles at Merelani, Tanzania.”

For the Cincinnati Mineral Society on Oct. 14 he spoke on “A Virtual Tour of the A. E. Seaman Mineral Museum.”



Outstanding Teaching and Scholarship Awards For Fall 2016

Bishnu_Tiwari          Gaoxue_Wang          Fan_Yang

 

 

 

 

In order from left to right: Bishnu Tiwari (Advisors: Dr. Yap and Dr. Zhang), Gaoxue Wang (Advisor: Dr. Pandey), and Fan Yang (Advisor: Dr. Shaw).

Congratulations to Bishnu Tiwari, Gaoxue Wang, and Fan Yang for receiving the Fall 2016 Outstanding Teaching and Outstanding Scholarship Award. They have demonstrated their exceptional ability as a teacher and commitment to their research.


A Metacognitive Moment

We’re beyond the halfway point in most classes, and it may be a good time to take just a (metacognitive) moment to review progress and map the road ahead.

In my physics class, I ask students each day as part of their class preparation to attempt an explanation of a real or simulated physics result. The question is based on material to which they’ve just had their first exposure, by reading or video lecture. It’s challenging, and initially not well liked. But it’s definitely something at which students improve with practice. They become not only more willing to “guess,” but they begin to support their answers with evidence, independent research and/or mathematical analysis far more often.

When I recently told my students that I had begun seeing that progress, a number of them spontaneously reflected and then shared agreement that this was getting more comfortable. It’s easy to lose track, in mid-semester, of how far you’ve come already. And it can be highly motivating to students when they see progress. In a similar way, looking backward momentarily can sometimes help put what remains in perspective.

As a physics student, when I first learned about rotational motion, I missed the idea that every rotational quantity had a linear analog. I struggled mightily as I tried to learn rotational kinematics in about a week, and the pace seemed completely unreasonable to me given that we’d spent about seven weeks learning the same concepts for linear motion.

This week, as I teach the same material, I explicitly connect each new rotational quantity back to the linear one. This seems to help students not only absorb the new material but reinforces the old and makes the pace more reasonable. A look backward could be an open-ended reflection on progress, or an explicit challenge to make comparisons to, connections with, or predictions about what’s coming. It could be done as a formal assignment, an in-class exercise, as a “minute paper” reflection near the end of a class or through a Canvas survey or quiz.

If you’re looking for other instructional strategies (and don’t want to wait for next week), stop into or contact the Jackson Center for Teaching and Learning.

by Mike Meyer, CTL Director



New Funding

Raymond Shaw

Raymond Shaw (Physics/EPSSI) is the principal investigator on a research and development project that has received a $150,931 grant from the U.S. Department of Defense, Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL).

 

 


Will Cantrellimage64675-pers

Will Cantrell (Physics) and Claudio Mazzoleni (Physics) are Co-PIs on the project, “An Investigation of the Suitability of a Laboratory Cloud Chamber for Optical Radiative Transfer Measurements.”

 

This is the first year of a two-year project potentially totaling $316,374.