[Cymraeg]

Physics projects for Y3 and Y4 students


Project description

Visualisation of Physical and Mathematical Concepts for Education and Outreach

(supervisor: Tom Knight)

Nature of project: software, experimental

Available to students on full-time physics degree schemes or joint students.

Project description and methodology

There are any number of nuanced and, potentially, counter-intuitive concepts that compose modern physics and mathematics. A vast majority of these, in fact, rely on prerequisite knowledge of other concepts that are themselves quite complex. Naturally, these can be difficult to describe and/or explain to a student of physics or mathematics, or to the public.

This project proposes to create a suite of visualisations and/or animations (interactive or otherwise) to assist those trying to impart these concepts to others (e.g. teachers, lecturers, outreach volunteers, etc.).

In the first instance, project students would be expected to familiarise themselves with python libraries that extend the typical plotting routines to handle additional user input events (such as buttons, sliders, mouse button clicks, etc.) and create interactive plots that some hypothetical future user might use to gain a better understanding of some concept.

For example, a student could construct an interactive plot of a quadratic function where the coefficients that define said function are bound to sliders adjacent to the plotting axes.

Subsequently, the project student would create deeper, more involved visualisations.

As part of the project, the student(s) must evaluate the efficacy of the visualisations they produce. This could be as simple as surveying users, or by comparison with alternate methods.

Topics could include (and are definitely not limited to);

- Trigonometry though the Unit Circle,

- Geometry of Trigonometric Identities,

- Explaining the SUVAT (or TUVAX) Equations,

- Differentiation/Integration

- Lorentz Transformations

- Minkowski diagrams

- Etc.

The student would be expected to tackle a number of topics, or a single topic in considerable depth (though the former is recommended).

A successful project will develop beyond the above in one/some of the following directions:
Students may wish to explore what concepts are particularly difficult for teachers, lecturers and/or outreach personnel to deliver.

The visualisations created may continue to be interactive plots, as previously described, or they may wish to diversify into alternate methods, such as variant python libraries like pygame, if a student wanted to move away from the restrictions of plotting functions. Or interactive in-browser visualisations, should a student wish to make the delivery insensitive to the capabilities of the end users machine. Or even some form of phone app or animated video.

The choice would be dependent on the particular students previous experience and discussion with the supervisor.

When considering where to take your project, please bear in mind the time available. It is preferable to do fewer things well than to try many and not get conclusive results on any of them. However, sometimes it is useful to have a couple of strands of investigation in parallel to work on in case delays occur.

This project is only available as a Y3 project.

Please speak to Tom Knight if you consider doing this project.

Initial literature for students:

  1. Chipangura, A. & Aldridge, J. Learning Environ Res (2017) 20: 121. [https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10984-016-9224-7]
  2. Matplotlib (and Widgets) [https://matplotlib.org/examples/widgets/index.html]
  3. PyGame [https://www.pygame.org]
  4. But what is the Fourier Transform? A visual introduction. [https://youtu.be/spUNpyF58BY]

Novelty, degree of difficulty and amount of assistance required

The novelty and difficulty of the project is linked, inexorably, to the difficulty of the concepts tackled, and the creativity in the approach developed. Assistance will be delivered appropriate to the student's needs, but a student comfortable with some amount of programming would be best placed to tackle this project.

Project milestones and deliverables (including timescale)

milestoneto be completed by
Familiarity with python and external librariesend of October
Finished first, simple interactive plotend of November
Have, in draft form, a number of visualisationsend of February
Have deployed a suite of visualisations and assessed their efficacyEaster