Getting acclimated in ISP220 cyberspace: 0 points

Points: zero (just warm feelings)


due: January 14

1. Join the Facebook Group: QS&BB. – The location is Go directly, or search from your Facebook account for the character string: “QS&BB,” – Request to become a member. Re-read the little note in the syllabus about Facebook following and us.

Post a “hi” to everyone, tell us what you’d like to get out of the course, tell us your few-sentence mathematical biography, tell us your few-sentence science biography, and tell us if you know of a physicist from the past.

I’ll use the Facebook Group to announce things like: “homework due date is changed from Thursday to Tuesday.” Or, “don’t forget that your project is due on Thursday.” Or I might point to something from one of my colleagues or from a laboratory or an experiment and ask you to react. Or, I’ll use it to announce a project…see below.

You might use the Facebook group wall to say things like “how do you work homework question number 2?” which will be followed by helpful suggestions…? Or, “What is the meaning of Life?” Which would be followed by crickets.

MasteringPhysics and MasteringAstronomy

due: January 14

In order to get going on MasteringPhysics, go to the Syllabus and follow the directions. You’ll need it, starting that Saturday.

There is a fake-sort of homework assignment already waiting for you, called Homework #0 in the LECTURES/READING/HOMEWORK page. It’s designed to help you acclimate to MasteringPhysics homework style. Do it. Notice that there’s a due date already assigned. The homework will become unavailable after that.


due: January 9

There are two test questions at the highest level when you log into LON-CAPA:

  • Testing essay questions
  • Testing MC

They’re not serious…but meant to help you acclimate.

Reading questions will come from LON-CAPA and those in Lesson 4 due Thursday, the 10th.

…You’re done.


Projects are due at various times through the semester, although they’re available for starting at any time.

There are two due-dates for collections of projects: * Project Day #1, Friday, COB, February 15. Due: The first book review and the first installment of the Big Questions project. * Project Day #2, Friday, COB, April 12. Due: The second book review, the second installment of the Big Questions project, and the FakeFacebook project.

Reviewabook: 20 points each, 1 mandatory, another optional, two maximum

Due February 15 and April 12

There is a ton of great books for non-specialists about Particle Physics, Cosmology, and both! You’ll pick a book from this list (and a second, if you choose to do two):

Book TItles

and write your review(s) in the LON-CAPA area reserved for this.

Actually, I lied. The average point total for all possible books is 20 points. You’ll notice that each one has stars. Some are simple, some are very challenging. Here are the points available as bonus for the stars.

stars max points
1 10
2 15
3 20
4 30
5 40

Your review should have the following items and be organized as shown. The point totals are based on 20 points.

Part 1. Short paragraphs (5 points):

  1. Why you chose the book.
  2. What did you think were the book’s positive points and its shortcomings?
  3. What did you already know about the subject matter?
  4. What did you come away learning from this book?
  5. Who is the author? Do some web/library research to see if you can find out about him/her.
  6. Would you recommend it? Could it be a textbook for our class? for another class you’ve taken?

Part 2. Comment briefly on each chapter, (15 points)


You must do one book review and you can optionally choose to do a second. The first one must be done by Project Day 1, February 15. If you do a second, do it in the second time period, by Project Day 2, April 12. You can’t do two books in any one period. The period notion is simply to help you to spread things out – you can always work ahead.

Your mandatory book: Period 1:

Any time, but before 5 pm on January 25 enter the book that you’ve chosen into the appropriate LON-CAPA page. (You can do this earlier!)

By 5pm on Project Day 1, February 15, the project is done and no reservations are allowed. 

If you choose a second book, in period 2:

Any time, but before 5 pm on February 15, enter the book that you’ve chosen into the appropriate LON-CAPA page. (You can do this earlier!)

_By midnight on Project Day 2, April 12, the project is done and no reservations are allowed.

Biography Project – aka FakeFacebook: 20 points, optional, maximum one


Due Project Day 2, April 12

The goal of this is to get you engaged with a scientist’s life and his/her work. Rather than just a paper, I’d like you to build the equivalent of a Facebook Profile for your scientist, from their point of view. That is, write in first-person-singular from the point of view of a particular time in their scientific life. For example, if you were to do Einstein and you picked 1911 as the year…then he would not yet have done General Relativity, but of course would have done all of the 1905 work and all that came afterwards. Get it?

You’ll do this in a LON-CAPA page, which is waiting for you. Make it look nice, use the formats for headings, etc. You can insert images.

Here are the parts of the profile that need to be included – just for some uniformity purposes, please use the numbering scheme below:

1. Name and profile pictures

Candidates for your project can be found at: [FakeFacebook_Worthy](

Give the full name of your scientist and the year that you’re snap-shotting. Of course, all good FakeFacebook profiles include a variety of photos (or paintings, if your scientist is before the middle of the 19th century!). Please state where your scientist lives in the year in question, as well as previous locations (just town, country).

2. Basic Information

a. About “you” (him/her!)

b. Relationship Status

c. Experimenter, theorist, both (Facebook would say “sex”)

d. Imagined Networks (built on the Facebook idea of Networks)

e. Screen name …make something up that would fit your person

3. Education and Work

That’s straightforward: where did they go to school? Where have they worked? Where do they work “now”?

Prizes and awards?

4. Philosophy

If you know it, state their

a. Religious views

b. Political views

c. Favorite quotations…by your scientist (from writings or public speeches if that works).

5. Sports and/or hobbies and/or family accomplishments

6. Accomplishments and Discoveries

Real Facebook would call this “Arts and Entertainment.”

a. Books that your scientist has written.

b. Famous papers, famous discoveries, famous theories…

This is the meat of the project, as I want you to show me that you understand what they did that warranted inclusion. Write succinct paragraphs in first-person singular just as if your scientist is explaining to an outsider what they’ve done. Pride should show through, if in character. Uncertainty should show through, if that’s appropriate. Pick at least 3 things that your person has done that are major pieces of work.

7. Your sources of information

Use more than Wikipedia. Use books. Use academic or scientific web sites. Tell me which is which. Don’t make stuff up!

That’s it. Do it all in one wiki page if you can. If that doesn’t work, then let me know and I’ll make another that you can link to. If you want to use an off-site link, go ahead…but it must be an off-site page that you’ve built. Don’t just link me to Wikipedia! Of course, don’t just repeat Wikipedia back to me! Seriously.

8. Add a handful of imaginary and fanciful News Feed entries that fit the time you chose

Work flow

  1. Choose your scientist from the two lists found at scientists.
  2. Both physicists and astronomers are represented. Again, your scientists cannot be alive.
  3. Record your choice in the list on LON-CAPA. If someone has claimed a scientist, he/she is not available for you. So get ’em while they’re hot.
  4. Announce on the course Facebook group page the scientist whom you’re adopting. Maybe say why?
  5. Start working! Ask questions.

Have fun. Make your profile interesting. Teach me something I don’t know about somebody!

Big Question: 20 points, optional, max two

Due February 15 and April 12

We’ve talked about the current Big Questions that face particle physics and cosmology today. But what about Big Questions from the past? In this project you’ll identify and characterize both a Big Question and its Big Solution from the past—which we’ll define to be prior to 2012 (which was the Higgs boson discovery year).


What can stimulate your choice of a Big Question? * ISP220 lectures and class readings * one of your chosen book reviews * some outside event or article, which you’ll identify

I’m not expecting an essay, but rather a series of short points – even bullets – that tell me that you learned something and correctly characterized the history. Okay?

Your Big Questions are different from “my” Big Questions as your set of Big Questions will have Big Solutions. (Mine are still searching for solutions, even Little Solutions!)

Note, we’ll see times in which history played out this way:

  1. There could be some Received Wisdom – an accepted Big Solution0 from the past that led to a subsequent:
  2. Big Question1, which led to:
  3. Big Solution1.
  4. Oops. After a while it became apparent that Big Solution1 wasn’t right because there’s a
  5. Big Question2 that followed and modified or even negated Big Solution1

Your particular Big Question and its Big Solution could indeed be an example of #1, #2, and #3 above. It would be nice if you realize that your chosen Big Solution didn’t last forever, if that’s the case.

Your Deliverable

Here are the enumerated responses that your Big Question report must include:

  1. One sentence statement of the Big Question you’ve identified. Give that Big Question a name that would fit on a bumper sticker. Or an old-time-sized tweet.
  2. Who, When
    1. What was the status quo before the Big Question became an issue?
    2. Who were the defenders of that status quo and what years had that solution been acceptable?
    3. Who were the proud proponents of an emergent Big Question (your chosen Big Question)?
    4. What are the key years in which that new Big Question was accepted as such?
  3. What, How
    1. What caused people to ask that Big Question?
    2. How did people attempt to answer it? Be specific about the science.
  4. A few sentences that explain the Big Solution.
    1. Who were the heroes of the Big Solution resolution?
    2. What are the key years in which the Big Solution became a settled issue?
  5. Then
    1. Was your Big Solution subsequently overturned? Don’t follow the whole chain, just acknowledge that you are aware of its demise if it didn’t survive.


Pretty straightforward: write your entry in the LON-CAPA pages already prepared for this project.

Poster: 20 points

Due: Day of Final Exam

Every scientific conference – and in many other disciplines as well – there are Plenary invited speakers, Regular invited speakers, Parallel session speakers, and Poster Sessions. In a poster session, the Poster Presenter stands next to his/her poster and the audience walks around and either reads or more commonly, engages the poster presenter in discussion about the topic.

In this project, you and a partner will make and print out a 3’x4′ poster describing an experiment that you can choose from this list

Then on Final Exam day, we’ll set up the posters around the lecture room and spend 20 minutes doing a poster session. The “audience” participants (the rest of you) will get 3 points towards their grade for each question asked of the presenters. There will be cards to fill out to determine this. Depending on how many of you choose this project, I’ll get easels and we’ll display them in the BPS Atrium during Finals week.

Wikipedia is a great place to explore the topics and is acceptable as a reference, but you must have at least 3 other references.


By 5pm April 12, enter into the LON-CAPA page in the appropriate place, you and your partner’s names and the experiment you’re reviewing. Each must be different, and so get there early before the good ones are gone. (They’re all good.) (You can do it earlier!)

By 5pm April 23, complete your outline of the project. Post its top level items in a Facebook post to the QS&BB Group. (You can do it earlier!)

By 5pm May 4, project is done, mounted, and ready to present. I’ll provide storage if you would like prior to Final Exam day.

There are many guides to making professional posters and I’ve listed a couple below. The primary tools you’ll need are Powerpoint (or Keynote) and a USB thumb drive. You can print out the poster in the Library, where there are a couple of plotters for this purpose. The cost for full-color is $6 per linear foot, so $24 per poster (the paper is 3′ wide). I’ll split the cost with you, so twelve bucks to you. There will be a need for a poster-backing, which I presume you can get at the library or bookstore.

(21 April) Here is the Library’s info page for printing:

Poster Resources:

Here is a link to a page from the Engineering College at Penn State. It has links to other poster sites, examples, and even PowerPoint templates you can download:

This link from a Psychology prof at the University of Washington has more tips and examples:

I’ll grade your posters according to the following rubric (each author will receive equal credit):

  • 5pts Does the poster state clearly the experiment’s goals and tell the story flow in a way that’s straightforward to follow?

  • 10pts Are all of the steps of the experiment clearly presented and is the science correct?

  • 5pts Is it professionally and neatly presented and organized and is it properly sourced?



p>Due March 22, April 26, and May 3

The Honors Project provides you with real data from our ATLAS experiment at the LHC which you will analyze with tools very similar to what are used by humans when we look at real events in our detector.

The project is in three parts –

  1. a tutorial part. The tutorial will familiarize you with the tool, called Minerva, which you’ll have to download and install on your computer. It is JAVA based.
  2. the analysis part.
  3. the write-up part.

I’ll start this ball rolling in mid-February with detailed written instructions.

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