Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Teaching with Science Fiction: Physics Lessons and More

Image courtesy of NASA
Andy, Michael, and Dave, three members of the rff Yahoo! Group, which is called Talking RFF, have contributed links to lessons this month.

From Andrew E. Love, Jr.

RFFer Andy Love, a fan of Larry Niven's Ringworld, has posted lessons on the net in several places. His main topics of interest is physics.

On Larry Niven's website, Andy has these 2 lessons posted:
  • The Physics in Science Fiction, which is described as "A 'slides and notes' version of a talk, written and presented to the Johns Hopkins University Society of Physics Students by Andrew E. Love Jr, a long-standing subscriber, and frequent contributor, to the Larry Niven mail list."
  • Teaching Physics with Niven, which is described as "... a 'slides and notes' version of a talk, written by Andrew E. Love Jr, a long-standing subscriber, and frequent contributor, to the Larry Niven mail list, and presented by him as part of the 2007 Balticon science program."
  • Also look for Lessons by Andy Love on the AboutSF original site or its new Univ. of Kansas site.

From Michael Kingsley

RFFer Michael Kingsley told us about "Rogue Planets and 'the Steppenwolf: A Proposal for a habitable planet in interstellar space."

A rogue planet is one that has escaped the gravitational pull of its host star and is moving freely through interstellar space (such as the ones featured in WHEN WORLDS COLLIDE by Philip Wylie & Edwin Balmer). Evidence is mounting that such unattached worlds are common.

Rogue planets are a common theme in science fiction. A recent paper from scientists at the University of Chicago investigates the possibility that a rogue planet could maintain a liquid ocean under layers of thermally-insulating water ice and frozen atmosphere as a result of geothermal heat flux. The German name Steppenwolf comes from the lonesome wolf of the steppes, and the name is applied to this hypothetical planet.

The short 4-page paper is available at http://arxiv.org/pdf/1102.1108v1.

From Dave Anderson

Dave, who is a Trustee for RFF, Inc., suggested that "The science fiction magazines are good for science classes."

Ever wonder which questions are best not to use with books? Dave provided this anecdote:
"Motheread, an adult literacy program developed in a woman's prison where mom reads with kids and involves them in the process, uses Where the Wild Things Are with the first lesson. One facilitator asked a tenth grade alternative high school class of young mother What was the wildest thing you ever did? She no longer asks that question."

More Lesson Resources

In the Resources page of this blog, there are links to sites with lessons, booklists, and more. Look for additional pages with more specific information in the future.

Finally, the rff Yahoo! Group site frequently maintains sets of lessons in its Files. These sets are often associated with current workshops that members of RFF are presenting somewhere. And there is often ideas for lessons on the Reading For the Future page on Facebook and the main Reading for the Future website. (See links in left panel.)


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