Video clips, animations, and computer simulations that bring to life the equations of physics


Robert Dalling


See for a collection of 2,000 links to websites that explain most every topic in the introductory physics course. Thousands of teachers have been conducting the same internet searches for the same topics. This collection might shorten the new teacherÕs search to a few minutes per chapter. The links provide teaching and learning tools and are organized by textbook chapter. In addition, there are links to online textbooks and to topics involving science in history, society, and art, see There are links to examples of everyday physics–for example, the flow of energy in living creatures, human beings, the planet, homes, and factories and such.


By spending a few minutes with a computer simulation, a student may build as much physical intuition as results from solving several numerical problems. The static photographs shown in textbooks can not compare to these simulations. For example, two-d collisions come to life in Drew DolgertÕs applet, see In this simulation of NewtonÕs Cradle, see, push the second sphere rightward to give four of five spheres a sideways toss and then watch the evolution of the momentum exchanges. Follow this example of velocity exchange with David N. BlauchÕs visual development of MaxwellÕs velocity distribution, see, and with Noriyoshi KatoÕs Motion of Ideal Gas Molecules in a Cylinder, see Selman Hershfield brings the lens equation to life at Paul Falstad animates 3D wave interference, see (press the down arrow twice and then click 3D-View).


A teacherÕs verbal description of a phenomenon may have less educational value than does a studentÕs interaction with a simulation or viewing of an animation. Some examples include Rutgers UniversityÕs demonstration of centripetal force, see, E. ManousakisÕ animation of KeplerÕs Equal Area Law, see, and David KirkbyÕs Simulation of Sound Traveling Through Air, see Alex Krizhevsky shows the dynamic superposition of two sine waves, see


Some links involve video of real life physics. For example, inertia is demonstrated in the space shuttle, see, or the student might analyze the trajectory of a leaping dolphin, see The Phet simulation compares trajectories with and without air resistance, see 


Not every school can afford the equipment needed for classroom demonstrations, so the collection includes links to video clips of demonstrations conducted at various universities. Wake Forest University has a video of a Van DeGraaff generator at and a Telsa Coil at If we had time, each of us teachers would build and demonstrate a bed of nails. We can instead show Mahanakorn's video, see


The listed simulations also encourage the student to pursue further study. A simulation of an advanced topic illustrates that the professional scientist or engineer uses nothing besides the equations contained in the introductory textbook. The only difference is that a computer is used to do more calculations than a person can do, see and 



The links have been incorporated into some online lectures, see, in which the links serve to illustrate the point of many individual sentences.


Robert Dalling,