December 2008 e-Wave

Alabama Section of AAPT


In this issue:

·       Announcement of the Annual Meeting and Silent Auction

·       Proposal form for a session at the meeting

·       Interesting Websites

·       Seasonal goodies

·       2009 Calendar from the AAPT High School Photo Contest


Mark your calendars for February 28, 2009 at the University of Montevallo, 9am – 4pm in Harman Hall. The meeting will have morning and afternoon sessions with a break for lunch, the Silent Auction and a short business meeting.  We are asking for your expertise and sharing with fellow physics teachers.  A proposal form is attached to this email.  Please submit your session/paper ASAP to Chuck Hanke via email and make this meeting a success.   Everyone has something wonderful they can share with others: a favorite demo, a way to grade homework, a source for great physics graphics, a lab that is always fool-proof, research opportunities, new classroom techniques etc.  This will make the meeting GREAT!

So fill out the form today and send it to Chuck today. 


So what is a Silent Auction??  It is a way to share some wonderful physics “stuff” you have with teachers that will appreciate it and it is a way to raise money for the Alabama Section of AAPT.  If you contribute even one item you will get your auction number free.  If you can’t find anything to bring, your number will cost $2.  You can’t enter the auction room without a number.  What fun to see what old store rooms, drawers and book shelves can hide.  Come join the fun!



Websites to check out:



At Arbor Scientific they have a great newsletter packed with demonstration ideas, lesson plans, and teaching tips!



A great explanation of sailing.





Some Seasonal Physics Humor


Quantum Mechanics Saves Santa


The analysis about the impossibility of Santa Claus, based on classical physics, is seriously flawed owing to its neglect of quantum phenomena that become significant in his particular case.

As it happens, the terminal velocity of a reindeer in dry December air over the Northern Hemisphere (for example) is known with tremendous precision.  The mass of Santa and his sleigh (since the number of children and their gifts is also known precisely, ahead of time, and the reindeer must weigh in minutes before the flight) is also known with tremendous precision.  His direction of flight is, as you say, essentially east to west.


All of that, when taken together, means that the momentum vector of Mr. Claus and his cargo is known with incredible precision.  An elementary application of Heisenberg's uncertainty principle yields the result that Santa's location, at any given moment on Christmas Eve, is highly imprecise.  In other words, he is "smeared out" over the surface of the earth, analogous to the manner in which an electron is "smeared out" within a certain distance from the nucleus in an atom.  Thus he can, quite literally, be everywhere at any given moment.


In addition, the relativistic velocities which his reindeer can attain for brief moments make it possible for him, in certain cases, to arrive at some locations shortly before he left the North Pole.  Santa, in other words, assumes for brief periods the characteristics of tachyons.

I will admit that tachyons remain hypothetical, but then so do black holes, and who really doubts their existence anymore?


Subject: Christmas--A Business Perspective (Not sure how it relates to the current economy)


The recent announcement that Donner and Blitzen have elected to take the early Reindeer Retirement package has triggered a good deal of concern about whether they will be replaced. Streamlining is due to the North Pole's loss of dominance over the season's gift-distribution business.


Home shopping channels and mail-order catalogues have diminished Santa's market share.  He could not sit idly by and permit further erosion of the profit picture.


Reindeer downsizing was made possible through the purchase of a late-model Japanese sled for the CEO's annual trip.  Improved productivity from Dasher and Dancer, who summered at the Harvard Business School, is anticipated.  Reduction in reindeer will also lessen airborne environmental emissions for which the North Pole has received unfavorable press.  I am pleased to inform you that Rudolph's role will not be disturbed.


Tradition still counts for something at the North Pole. Today's global challenges require the North Pole to continue to look for better, more competitive steps.  Therefore, effective immediately, the following economy measures are to take place in the "Twelve Days of Christmas" subsidiary.


 * The partridge will be retained, but the pear tree never turned out to be the cash crop forecasted.  It will be replaced by a plastic hanging plant, providing considerable savings in maintenance.


  * The two turtle doves represent a redundancy that is simply not cost effective.  In addition, their romance during working hours could not be condoned.  The positions are therefore eliminated.


  * The three French hens will remain intact.  After all, everyone loves the French.


 * The four calling birds will be replaced by an automated voicemail system, with a call-waiting option.  Analysis is under way to determine who the birds have been calling, how often, and how long they talked.


  * The five golden rings have been put on hold by the Board of Directors.   Diversification into other precious metals as well as a mix of T-bills and high technology stocks appear to be in order.


  * The six geese-a-laying constitutes a luxury which can no longer be afforded.  It has been felt that the production rate of one egg per goose per day is an example of decline in productivity.  Three geese will be let go, and an upgrading in the selection procedure by personnel will assure management that from now on every goose it gets will be a good one.

  * The seven swans-a-swimming is obviously a number chosen in better times.  The function is primarily decorative.  Mechanical swans are on order.  The current swans will be retrained to learn some new strokes and therefore enhance their outplacement.


  * As you know, the eight maids-a-milking concept has been under heavy scrutiny by the EEOC.  A male/female balance in the workforce is being sought.  The more militant maids consider this a dead-end job with no upward mobility.  Automation of the process may permit the maids to try a-mending, a-mentoring, or a-mulching.


 * Nine ladies dancing has always been an odd number.  This function will be phased out as these individuals grow older and can no longer do the steps.


  * Ten lords-a-leaping is overkill.  The high cost of Lords plus the expense of international air travel prompted the Compensations Committee to suggest replacing this group with 10 out-of-work Congressmen.  While leaping ability may be somewhat sacrificed, the savings are significant because we expect an oversupply of unemployed Congressmen this year.


  * Eleven pipers and 12 drummers drumming is a simple case of the band getting too big.  A substitution with a string quartet, a cutback on new music, and no uniforms will produce savings which will drop right down to the bottom line.


  Lastly, it is not beyond consideration that deeper cuts may be necessary in the future to stay competitive. Should that happen, the Board will request management to scrutinize the Snow White Division to see if seven dwarfs is the right number.