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SCI/TECH: Weird Fields: The Art of Physics

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posted on Apr, 10 2005 @ 08:43 AM
The "Weird Fields" contest is part of "Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism," an undergraduate physics course at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Students use a Java applet to create visual representations of electro-magnetic and other vector fields. The results are "art" - pictures - and the student's contest entries. Part of MIT's Technology-Enabled Active Learning Project, the Weird Fields competition is interactive and leads to "...a better learning outcome," according to course teacher and competition manager John Belcher and assistant physics professor Carolann Koleci of Worcester Polytechnic Institute. The Java applet is available online.
A physics class competition at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., has students making art out of invisible forces. ...The Weird Fields contest, part of the undergraduate course "Introduction to Electricity and Magnetism," - encourages students to use a special computer program that converts mathematical formulas into visual representations of electromagnetic fields. ...The resulting swirls, loops, circles and squares, while not necessarily corresponding exactly to those occurring in nature, offer a creative way to understand some of the most abstract concepts in physics.

Understanding the invisible forces present in vectors fields is important to comprehending almost everything in nature - from storm systems to sitting in a chair. The jet stream, for example, is a vector field and the many arrows often used to characterize motion within it are the vectors. ...But there are other, less obvious, vector fields, such as those that interact when you sit in a chair. You may think your rear-end is contacting the seat, but in reality it's the vector electric fields created by atoms in both your butt and the chair that are interacting. ..."The matter in your body literally never touches any other matter; it is only the fields that interact," said Belcher.

The contest is restricted to students, but anyone can download the Java applet and create their own weird fields.

Please visit the link provided for the complete story.

The best science today involves multi-disciplinary teams - and physics plays a star role that reaches well beyond the traditional fields of engineering or astronomy. Some of the most interesting new physics applications are in biology, medicine, ecology, proteomics and genetics.

For example, electromagnetic fields can influence how the body builds proteins and cells - and glitches can lead to disease and genetic changes. Physicists work with life scientists to understand the processes and sort out how the different "systems" interact and work together.

Other team efforts involve marrying nanotechnology to cell biology. Still others seek to understand the mysteries of climatology and ecology.

Today's physicists are active and interactive team members working to understand the complexities of our world - from the micro to the macro and the inanimate to the living.

Thanks to Open Source, Open Access, the Freedom of Information Act and the Internet, the military and private industry are losing their iron grip on the research and information. Ordinary people now have access to information previously held in trust for the privileged and powerful.

Download the Weird Fields Java Applet Here

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