TPT WebSights column draft for April 2005: Introductory Optics.

WebSights offers a selection of sites appropriate for teaching a standard topic, year-long introductory physics survey course.  Next month's column will feature sites for teaching introductory modern physics.  All sites are copyright by the authors.  This column is also available as a web page at <http://PhysicsEd.BuffaloState.Edu/pubs/WebSights/>.

If you have successfully used a site to teach physics that you feel is outstanding and appropriate for WebSights, please email me the site and how you use it for possible inclusion in WebSights.  The best site monthly will receive a T-shirt. <>

Web resources for teaching introductory optics:

The Mechanical Universe: 52 half-hour university physics lessons streamed as video-on-demand free of charge.  Program 40: Optics addresses wave properties of light such as reflection, refraction and diffraction, and program 39: Maxwell's Equations builds the electromagnetic field theory of light.  <>.

Optics simulations are particularly powerful examples of technology supporting learning; my personal favorite JAVA Applet is Thin Lens <>, which allows the direct manipulation of a simple thin lens or mirror, animating the ray diagram for the standard situations and problems.  I use this applet both for instructional visualization and for student problem checking.  The author has many other applets dedicated to simple optical phenomena (reflection, refraction, transmission, colors, prisms, rainbows, etc.) on his site. 

A more sophisticated geometric optics applet supporting multiple optical components is found at <>.  Suggested: J. Digiacomo, D. Doty, S. Walters.

Some wave optics simulations showing how wavefronts behave during refraction and reflection (Huygen's Principle) include <> and <>.  Suggested: D. Doty, B. Thompson. 

I believe Young's Double Slit Experiment is one of the most important topics in wave optics, and a visualization / simulation applet is found at:  <>.  A useful collection of images of interference patterns on a water surface is at <>.  Wiley has produced a nice single slit simulation (amongst many others) at <>.  Suggested: B. Mauser, N. Stenz, and S. Walters

K-12 and middle school appropriate optics sites include: <> and <>, the latter site includes lesson plans by grade level.  Suggested: N. Golembieski.

An artist's site exploring optics is Bob Miller's Light Walk, <>.

Atmospheric optical phenomena can be seen at: <> with discussion at <>.  More images are found at <>.  Suggested: D. Graf.

Graphs and Tracks: A 1-D motion teaching applet and discussion recently spotted on Modeling-L:

Recently a discussion on the Modeling-l listserv revealed a JAVA applet partially replicating the famous Graphs and Tracks software used for Physics Education Research by Trowbridge and McDermott (published in the American Journal of Physics).  The applet: <> allows students to design track geometry, roll a ball down the track, view graphs of position, velocity or acceleration vs. clock reading, and roughly fit conics to these graphs.  There are curricular materials for this software found on the modeling website (Unit II worksheet 2) at <>.  A more comprehensive (commercial) version of this software with teaching guide is available from Physics Academic Software at <>.  Suggested: Modeling-L posters.

Dan M  <>