An -ometer for everything?
    By Robert H Olley | January 9th 2009 01:14 PM | 1 comment | Print | E-mail | Track Comments
    About Robert H

    Until recently, I worked in the Polymer Physics Group of the Physics Department at the University of Reading.

    I would describe myself


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    Here at the University of Reading, the good folks of the Association for Science Education have been holding their annual conference, and RU staff members like myself are invited to participate.

    The event manifests itself by an exhibition marquee taking up the larger part of our central lawn, and various traders and institutions are plying their wares.  One which caught my eye was
    a Mobile Science Lab – Data logging & computing in a single product
    with 65 varieties of probes: humidity, temperature, oxygen for starters.  The brochure describes it as a

    • Student computer with built-in data logger, removing logger/PC communication problems (I like that aspect!!)

    I remember the older generation saying things like “when I was a student, we wound our own coils and blew our own glassware”.  Not being adept at workshop practice, I found that rather daunting, but until recently there was always “a man” to do that sort of thing, though these days the funding bodies seem to regard skilled technicians as unnecessary.  But with wonderful gadgets like this, are we going too far in the opposite direction?

    One further thought.  This might horrify the stereotypical physics professor who expects his students to think in the applied-mathematical way, but if science education is for all, won't the nearest that most of your secondary / high-school students will get to science in their job be using one sort of -ometer or other?


    People adapt, really.   We may criticize the children of today for not thinking in a way we understand but there was an effort to foist off 'New Math' and forced bussing to other communities when I was a kid.    So that wasn't all that great either.   

    Kids today may not grow up with the same sort of reasoning, thanks to things like Google, but they will be able to find information and use it in a much different way and probably a lot more efficiently.

    In 1996 or so I realized I had never actually really built a motor or wound coil to put in a transformer, things that used to be fairly common.    So I set out to do it.   What I ended up doing instead was writing a little graphical computer tool that would let users input the frequency, cross-section, voltage, etc. to come up with the number of turns.