Participant Observation; Math 113, Algebra for Calculus. 2/13/2015.

On Thursday, February 12, Professor William Mangrum asked that our Composition 250 class act as participant observers in another class. He specifically asked that we try and be participant observers in a class related to our major. Unfortunately, my schedule does not contain any Physics courses, so instead I choose to complete this task in my Math 113 course. The goal of my observation period was to distinguish and make a connection between student and teacher interaction. I wanted to see if there was a correlation between certain teaching action and student participation.

As I walked through the door, I noticed that the two scholars who usually arrive to class first were indeed the only two there when I walked into the room. Unlike Composition 250, I am not required to learn the names for all the scholars in my class. However, I did know the names of the two scholars I sit with on a regular basis, Zoe and Jamie Laurent. Class started shortly after 11 am, and like usual, Professor Kathy Eagen wasted no time delving into the content. I noticed that there was a reoccurring theme in the room, confusion. The concept presented to us that class period was on slope, and different equations regarding lines. I felt very comfortable in this class, I knew that much. I had learned these concepts my sophomore of high school, so naturally I feel that this class is simply a review. Regardless, this class required effort. I felt that nearly everyone in the room was focused on Eagen’s lecture, almost fearful of missing the concepts she described. I noticed that as usual, a certain few fellows walked in about ten minutes late to class, all of them carrying long boards. Class began to settle 20 minutes after the start, and the volume level became nearly extinct.

Scholar Jamie Laurent hard at work, trying to grasp the concepts presented. The scholar ahead of him however, is having no part of it.
Scholar Jamie Laurent hard at work, focusing on advanced slope problems.

The Professor had us split into groups and complete a worksheet, which was designed to be a review for a quiz we take at the end of class every Friday. My group usually hosts the same scholars, and oddly enough I only know two of their names. I’m not proud of that, but math is usually a class where people come to learn and focus on math. It is very hard to engage with people in math class, mainly due to the upbeat teaching style. I very much felt a sense of disconnectedness in there, and I noticed that rarely anyone talks to each other. However I did notice a reoccurring pattern, the connection between the professor and older scholars. I feel that they better understand her teaching methods, seeing as they are usually the ones answering the questions. I feel that the scholars who sit on the right side of the room tend to ask less questions and participate less, even though the podium where the professor lectures leans towards the right side of the room.

As class neared its end I noticed that almost every scholar looked anxious, tired, done, and hungry; it was nearly lunch time. Even the professor was ready to leave, so she handed out quizzes a bit early. I finished my quiz a bit earlier than most, and as I walked out I knew that the dynamic I just participated in was one that resembled a pattern. I came to conclude that after actually noting and paying attention to interactions in that class, I saw a pattern of repetitive interactions. I felt that I had truly come away with a better understanding of my class environment, and for that I was grateful.

A panoramic shot better displays how scholars react and gauge the information Eagen lectures on.
A panoramic shot better displays how scholars react and gauge the information Eagen lectures on.


Physics Today; Supernovas

My declared major is physics; party due to the fact that I am a very curious person, and also party due to the fact I seek to make the world a better, smarter, and happier place. I believe that science is a form of art, and that science affects the lives of everyone and helps us grow as a species. Physics is a very exciting filed, and in this year alone physicists have overcome extreme obstacles in order to achieve feats of greatness. I’ll be discussing one of the most amazing discoveries in physics this year, the recreation of a supernova.

A team of physicists lead by Gialunca Gregori were successfully able to recreate a smaller version of a supernova at the Vulcan Laser Facility this year. Gregori and his team were less intrigued about the actual supernova component, but rather the properties and reactions that formed from the massive explosion.  Specifically, “in a supernova the explosion expels most of the star’s material, which in turn sends out a shock wave that expands over long distances in interstellar space. The shock wave binds most of the ejected stellar material and other dust in its path, creating what is known as a supernova remnant (SNR). While most SNRs have regular, shell-like features, some, such as Cassiopeia A, have irregular and unexplained shapes.” The fact that some of these explosions exhibited certain odd properties was enough for a team of international physicists to research the matter and conduct an experiment. In all, the scientists found that as the shock wave moved through the grid, turbulence and irregular features began to appear.  It had been previously known that higher magnetic fields implied a more efficient generation of X-ray and radio photons, however the team’s results were enough to question the currently accepted idea that supernova explosions expand into uniformly distributed interstellar material. Gregori emphasizes that the research conducted has an immense impact on more than just SNRs, “because the amplification of magnetic field via turbulence applies to many astrophysical systems.” This experiment was extremely beneficial to the science community, and through a very amazing exercise of knowledge, teamwork, and dedication, the team was successful.