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February 24, 2016  

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In today's episode we continue digging into examples concerning our linear equation y = mx+b, where m is the slope, and b is the y-intercept. Our second example involves finding the equation of a line which goes through the point (2,22) and has a y-intercept of 10. Below are my coffee-stained show notes which walk you through all the calculations. Enjoy!
February 8, 2016  

In today's episode we start digging into examples concerning our linear equation y = mx+b, where m is the slope, and b is the y-intercept. Our first example is find the equation of a line with the points (1,8) and (7,26). Head on over to for my show notes for this example. 

January 28, 2016  

So, last episode I had mentioned a really great article which mentioned how it's currently possible to see 5 planets in the morning sky. Well, this weekend, I had a chance to check it out and managed to see Venus, Saturn, Mars, and Jupiter in the sky! Check out the pics below. 

On to the line. 

In this episode we dig deep into the three major "anatomy points" of a line: the slope, y-intercept and x-intercept. 

The slope: The "angle" of the line. From 0-45, the slope of the line is less than 1. From 45-90 we go from 1 to infinite slope. From 90-135 degrees, we go from the infinite back to -1, all negative. From 135 to 180, we go from -1 down to 0 again. 

Next we introduce three critical linear equations. First the classic: y = mx + b, where m is the slope and b is the y-intercept. Example, y = 3x + 2, the slope is 3, and the line will intersect the y-axis at +2. Just think about what happens if you plug in x = 0, y = 3*0+2 = 2. Second we have the equation for slope: m = (y2-y1)/(x2-x1) using any two points on the line (x1,y1) and (x2,y2). We can then morph this into the "point-slope" form: y-y1 = m(x-x1) using any one point on the line.

Lastly, there are three combinations of two required pieces of information to define a line. Ideally, we would be given two points on a line, from this we could easily calculate m and then plug in for b. We could also be given a point and the y-intercept, and be able to make similar calculations. Lastly, we can be given one point and the slope, and do calculations to get everything we need. 

January 21, 2016  

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Moon Phase: Waxing Gibbous, Full Moon in 2 days.

There's a great New York Times article about how every morning for the next month, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Saturn, and Jupiter will be visible in the morning sky.

FAQs that are answered on this podcast:

What is a line?

Why are lines important?

What is a linear relationship?

What is a parabola?

Why are parabolas important??

What is a quadratic equation? Why is it called quadratic and not parabolic??

What are roots?

January 14, 2016  

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1: The Vector- The arrow in magenta is the vector in question. Everything else in the image serves to describe this vector. It's represented as an arrow and can be slid anywhere in the coordinate system and still retain its properties: the magnitude and direction.

2: Y-Axis- The black vertical arrow represents the y-axis in our coordinate system. This gives a reference point for all of the vectors in our system.

3: Origin- Most physical systems only make sense when there is a point of reference. The intersection of the two axes, is referred to as the origin.

4: Vector Magnitude- In pink arrow is the vector in question. The length of this arrow is referred to as the magnitude.

5: Angle- The angle is a critical part of what makes a vector a vector. Usually denoted by the Greek letter Theta, this provides the direction. Theta is usually given with respect to the positive horizontal axis, but any reference point will provide sufficient direction, making this a vector with both magnitude and direction.

6: Coordinate Representation- Typically, vectors are represented with brackets, e.g. [x,y], so that they are not confused with the same coordinate point represented with parenthesees, (x,y). This point describes the location of the head of the vector, with the tail assumed to be at the origin, (0,0).

7: x-component- The red dashed horizontal arrow is referred to as the x-component of the vector v. This describes 'how much' of the vector is pointed in the x-direction. This makes one leg of a right triangle which describes the vector v, the vector itself being the hypotenuse.

8: X-Axis- The black horizontal arrow represents the x-axis in our coordinate system. This gives a reference point for all of the vectors in our system.

9: y-component- The red dashed vertical arrow is referred to as the y-component of the vector v. This describes 'how much' of the vector is pointed in the y-direction. This makes one leg of a right triangle which describes the vector v, the vector itself being the hypotenuse.

January 14, 2016  

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How To Overcome Getting Stuck In Physics

Recently I've been working on an app. Which one doesn't really matter. It's about a topic that I really enjoy and I'm excited about it. In working on it, it has easily been the hardest app I've ever developed, although absolutely nothing about it is different. In general, my apps follow a formula, because they are modular; they deal with different sections of physics and offer a very similar solution. First, understand the topic. Next, break that topic into easy, doable, step by step solutions. Next, go through sample problems to see the steps in action. Lastly, review what you've learned in a flash-card style review. It's a great system. For me, the app just wasn't taking off in my head. I could not visualize what to do or where to go. This reminded me a great deal about when I was in college and I'd be working on a problem and halfway through I'd get totally stuck. I just couldn't see it. No matter what the deadline, I always do the same thing. Drop it. Usually I don't work on something else. I take a walk. I take a shower. I let it go, and let my brain continue to work on it, but not in the forefront. Sometimes you're so concerned about due dates, or scheduling, or how many other problems you need to do that it all gets lost in the shuffle and you get totally, totally stuck. For me the exit is to drop everything and come back fresh 30 minutes later. For my app, it was more like 30 days. But now revisiting it, I'm enthused, and it's going very smoothly. I don't want to hate my work, and coming back fresh makes me not hate it. It doesn't seem like work any more.

When you're stuck on a physics problem, many times you don't have the luxury of stepping back that far, it's due in the morning, or you're in the middle of a test. For homeworks, start early. Then when you get stuck you can drop everything for a day and you're not really in trouble. In tests, I would spend 2-3 minutes just staring at the ceiling, letting my mind wander, thinking about music, looking out the window. Sometimes you just have to clean out the pipes to let the creative juices flow again. It's not easy, and most of the times the problem to overcome is getting out of your own way. As a human, you are a pattern seeking creature. You are good at solving problems. If you've studied for the test, you're equipped to solve the problem. Get out of your own way and let your brain do what it does best, solve problems! For me, the best way to do this was to distract myself with something else, and let my brain continue to process.

Don't misunderstand me. Please, don't play video games all night and tell me that you were just getting out of your own way. You have to use it with responsibility. But if you know yourself, and you can be disciplined about it, many times clearing out your head is the best way to get unstuck. Proceed with caution. 

January 8, 2016  

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This second part of Episode 085 is going through a subtraction and cross product example, to just get the gears moving again after the New Year. Check it out!
January 5, 2016  
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I went back to Wardenclyffe Tower! Not much has changed since last I went (check out episodes 029 and 30 for the original Wardenclyffe pilrimage), except all of the conifers were decorated for the season. I also noticed a plaque with many Tesla pictures under plastic, including the classic photo of him  with the light bulb, as well as several pictures of the original tower. I can't wait until this place opens for real. I hope I'll be able to go decorate one of the Christmas trees there next year.
So, during the "On this day in physics" section of PWN Physics 365, I wish a happy birthday to Issac Newton, born 04 January 1643. I post the episode, and then during my internet travels, came across a tweet from Neil Degrasse Tyson from Christmas which very cleverly alludes to the birthday of a very special man who will change the future of humanity, only at the end of the tweet to reveal that it's not the expected Jesus H. Christ, but rather Issac Newton. Very funny!
Wait...what?? I thought his birthday was January Fourth. Did I get it wrong?? So, I continue to research online and came across this very interesting article.</a> It turns out that that both of those dates are right. When Issac Newton was born, he was indeed born on 25 December 1942, on what was known as the "Old Style" calendar. This was what was called the "Julian" calendar. When the current "Gregorian" calendar was adopted, the new calendar shifted everything by 10 days.
December 29, 2015  
The one where your host tells you about some exciting news for the upcoming year.
At the end of this year, I'd like to share a few things with the readers of this blog. First, thank you so much for tuning in this year. For me it was a lot of fun and I think we've covered a lot of ground, even though we're still on the ground floor. 
Next, we're going to take things to the next level in 2016, starting with PWN Physics 365. It's going to be a 3 segment podcast to tune into every day of the year. The first segment will be a "on this day in physics history" bit. The next will be the word of the day. Lastly, I'll be sending you off with a killer physics resource to check out. The "episode zero" will be debuting right on this very blog on December 31. Stay tuned. I hope to see you every day next year!
December 22, 2015  

The one where your host gets festive and electric at the same time. 

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When I was thinking about what to do for the holiday special, I started thinking about my Christmas lights and thought it would be a great topic of conversation, with quite a bit of physics and electronics to boot. I also found an awesome article from which you can dig into:

You can think of your string of christmas lights as a continuous line, which starts from one prong of the plug, goes straight through all the bulbs and ends at the other prong. Its possible to think of each bulb in the string as having an input and output. The current runs in, and through a very thin piece of metal called a filament. As the electrons pass through this thin piece of metal, it emits photons, allowing the christmas light to glow.

It is possible to wire up the string of lights in two different ways. The plug can run into the input on light #1, the output of #1 connects to the input of #2, and so on. This is referred to "daisy chaining" or a circuit "in series". The problem with this configuration is that if one filament burns out, the entire circuit goes open and none of the lights will light. When the light is replaced, the entire circuit begins functioning again.

It is possible to connect the lights a different way. Imagine the positive terminal and negative terminal of the plug running as the long legs of the ladder. Each light's input and output terminals will connect to the positive and negative as "rungs" in the ladder. The downside of this is that it will take a lot more wire and effort to connect. The upside is that if a single bulb goes out, it is the only light to go out. 

When I was hanging my lights this year, I removed a few lights from the beginning of the strand and when we finally plugged it in, roughly the first quarter of the strand was out. Once I replaced the bulbs, the first quarter came back into commission. The reason that only the first quarter goes out is because modern strands are a hybrid of series and parallel, which makes only portions of the lights fail. 

Anyway, this is a small introduction to series and parallel circuits by way of holiday cheer. For everyone celebrating Christmas, Merry Christmas. For everyone else, Happy Holidays and we'll see you soon!

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