Getting acclimated in ISP220 cyberspace: 0 points

Points: zero (just warm feelings)

Part 1: Facebook

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 silence.

Part 2: MasteringPhysics

due: January 12

In order to get going on MasteringPhysics, go to the Syllabus and follow the directions.

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.

Part 3: The Wiki

due: January 14

If you’re going to do many of the projects, you’ll need an account on the ISP220 Wiki. Go to

and go to the “Join” tab at the upper right hand corner. Fill it out, but where it asks if you want to make a Wiki…YOU SAY NO! You’re going to join my Wiki. I get an email and approve you and then you get an email congratulating you for becoming Wiki-ized…or something.

When you start to create pages, you should use Wiki links. This is old-school now, but Wiki links are recognized by all brands of Wikis as links to new pages of that name. If it exists and you click on it, you go there. If the page doesn’t exist and you click for the first time, you’re presented with a new page of that name. What’s a “Wiki link”? It’s two words, first letters capitalized, smashed together, like “WikiLinks” or “NewtonBook”. Get it?

The particular Wiki product that I use is wikispaces, . It’s free. You can make one for yourself as wiki’s are prevalent in all kinds of different projects in education, industry, government, and yes, science. You’re welcome.

In order to edit a wiki page in wikispaces, you log in and you’ll then see a ribbon at the top right of the window:


The little box that I’ve circled in the screenshot will be present, but it will be all gray. You click it and it becomes the blue and gray image that is above…and now you’re in editing mode. Click it again, it goes all gray and you’re out of editing mode.

Each page will have an “Edit” button and at that point, it’s like any word processor. Mess around and you’ll find a number of formatting tools.

…You’re done.


Biography Project – aka FakeFacebook: 20 points


Due April 1 tee hee 🙂

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 to 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 wiki page, which you can create. Make it look nice, use the formats for headings, etc. You can insert images with the “File” button above by locating it on your disk. You can rummage around in the “Widget” button and find other things that can be inserted into the wiki. For example, a Table of Contents can be created that will respect the Format headings.

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

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 fake News Feed entries that fit the time you chose

Work flow

1. Choose your scientist from the two lists in the pull-down under “Homework/Projects” above. Both physicists and astronomers are represented. Again, your scientists cannot be alive. 2. Go to the Wiki and request that an account be made for you if you’ve not yet done so: 3. Announce on the course Facebook group page the scientist whom you’re adopting. 5. Start working! Ask questions…mess around with the wiki. You can’t break it. 6. If someone has claimed a scientist, he/she is not available for you. So get ’em while they’re hot.

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

Reviewabook: 20 points each, maximum 2

Due March 18 and April 15

There is a ton of great books for non-specialists about Particle Physics, Cosmology, and both! If you choose this project, you’ll pick a book from this list

and write your review in the course Wiki.

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. Please then comment briefly on each chapter, which means that you’ll probably want to take some notes while you read. (15 points)

Here’s the workflow:

**Go to the Wiki and request that an account be made for you:**

You can do up to 2 book reviews. If you do two of them, you may do one book in each roughly equal period. You can’t do two books in any one period. If you’re doing one book, you can do it in either period. The period notion is simply to help you to spread things out – you can always work ahead.

If you choose Period 1:

Any time, but before 5 pm on January 22, (changed on January 26:) February 3 enter the book that you’ve chosen into the appropriate Wiki page. Make a page in the Wiki for your review as per the instructions. (You can do this earlier!)

By 5pm on March 18, the project is done and I’ll freeze the page. 

If you choose Period 2:

Any time, but before 5 pm on February 19, enter the book that you’ve chosen into the appropriate Wiki page. Make a page in the Wiki for your review as per the instructions. (You can do this earlier!)

*By 5pm on April 8 *, the project is done and I’ll freeze the page. 

Science blogs: 15 points for each article, maximum 2 per person

Randomly, through the semester

There are many great bloggers and short articles on many scientific topics. This project asks you to bid to read up to 3 articles and report on them in a manner described below.

Here’s the workflow:

Periodically I’ll announce on Facebook that a particular article is up for grabs.

  • If you want to read it and report on it, you must comment to my post within 24 hours. Up to three of you may report on each article…so it’s first-come, first-served (or second and third-come and served I guess).
  • When the 24 hours have passed, I’ll have produced an entry on the front page of the blog
  • You write your report as a comment to that blog post and do so within 120 hours (5 days).
  • I’ll hold it until that 5 days have passed and then I’ll allow it to appear publicly.
  • When it’s public, I’ll note that on Facebook and now it’s available for 2 days for questions from anyone in the class. You answer the question correctly, I’ll give you 2 points extra credit, up to 6 more points (three correct responses).

Your report you must include:

  • a short summary of what the article was about.
  • what you knew beforehand about the subject
  • what you learned from the article that you found interesting
  • which of the Big Questions does this article address.

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.

Here’s the workflow:

By 5pm April 13, enter into the Wiki 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 20, 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 1, 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?


Due March 18, April 15, and May 4

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 due dates for all three parts at that time.