Mr. Mikan's Science


Astrophysics: Course of Study 2019-20

Essential Questions to be addressed this year:

1. What is the composition of the universe?

2. How do stars, galaxies, & universes form & evolve?

3. What is matter & how do we think it came to be?

4. What is the origin of life & the possibility for other sentient beings out there?

5. Why can we call our universe, "Einstein's Universe"?

6. How does the study of astrophysics give a clear picture of how science is done?

7. What information must be learned & skills practiced in order to be called a "Stargazer 1st class"?

9. How has humankind been & still is connected to the stars & other celestial bodies?

10. How do astronomers collect & interpret data which generates our current theories of how the universe works?

11. Why is Sagan's book, Cosmos, still a very appropriate vehicle for studying astrophysics?

12. Who are some of the greats who helped unravel the mysterious cosmos?

13. Which fundamental physics concepts are used in astrophysics?

Topics to be investigated this year:

A. Modern astrophysics:

1. the universe -- its creation & future fate

2. matter -- the standard Model & new revelations from particle physics

3. nucleosynthesis of the elements

4. life -- its origin, evolution, & possible haunts in the galaxy

5. stars & galaxies --- formation, types, evolution

6. major physics concepts used in astrophysics

7. concept of time & time travel possibilities & paradoxes

8. Einstein's theories, experimental evidence & their role in understanding the universe

9. mythological & other ancient connections with the stars(archaeoastronomy)

10. our evolving view of the cosmos throughout history & its effect on us

11. parallel universes, Star Trek, & other far out ideas

B. Observational Astronomy:

1. learning the night sky throughout the seasons

2. prediction of when & where to find celestial objects(Mag5 Atlas)

3. making planetary & lunar observations & learning major lunar features

4. making safe solar observations & tracking the movement of sunspots

5. use of various charts, reference books, atlases in learning the location of facts about celestial objects

6. familiarity with various astronomical terms used in observational astronomy

7. recognition & use of various types of telescopes & other devices

8. construction of a Newtonian reflecting telescope (the Starbeam Project)

Astrophysics: Fall Term Syllabus 2019

Topics to be Investigated:

Introduction to astrophysics: Why Study the Stars?; some opening readings & ideas; Star atlas – a beginning; Sagan & Cosmos-an adventure; Ursa Major & Minor - introduction to the stars; recognizing star patterns (slides)

The Night Sky: summer constellations; star names, myths & the night sky; some basic parameters of the heavens (Greek alphabet, star ID, coordinate system; celestial motions); use of star & planet finder; monthly planet plotting; Skygazer’s almanac use; predicting locations & celestial time; zodiac & astrology; Mag 5 use; star types, stellar magnitude scale; objects of the night sky; reference books that help

Telescope Observations: how to use various telescopes; making observations of sun, moon, planets, star clusters & nebula

Journey to Palomar: types of telescopes; a bit of physics dealing with lenses & mirrors; use of the school's telescopes; George Ellery Hale

Deciphering messages from the stars: a bit of physics; how do we use light to tell us about the stars; nature of light; distances; Wien’s Law & thermocouples; Stephan-Boltzman Expt.; measurement of wavelengths of light; spectroscopy; distance modulus derivation & use; Doppler effect & derivation; Leavitt, Maury & others; a few light & optics experiments

The Sun –the nearest star; solar observations; all about our star & how it affects our world & us; sunspot observations; fusion processes ( PP1 & CNO); fission & fusion; Einstein to the Rescue -- derivation of Special relativity & E=mc^2; Cockroft & Watson's big experiment; Secrets of the Sun; effect on our planet & our evolution both physically & culturally

The wonderful neutrino & a bit of the Standard Model; example of how science is done. The Ghost Particle

Lives of the Stars – stellar evolution; nucleosynthesis; Chandrasekhar: dwarfs & giants; neutron to neutrinos; GRBs & Dale Frail; the well with no bottom; nova & supernova stories & types; black holes & pulsars; escape velocity derivation; General Relativity & gravity; What is Space?

Some Readings:

Cosmos: Chapters 1,8,9 Cosmic Ecology Carl Sagan’s Coming of Age

Peltier’s Lecture Frost’s Star-splitter Labor day Assorted articles on neutrinos Assorted articles on stellar evolution & black holes


Astrophysics: Syllabus Winter Term 2019-20

Topics to be Investigated:

Time: What is time?; time travel ala Einstein in fact and fiction; more Einstein with gravity and time; experimental verification of Einstein effects on time; Minkowski diagrams & travel into past & predestined future; a German image of time; problems with time travel into past with Hollywood; the Illusion of Time; Einstein’s Dreams; parallel universes; Germans running Wild, monkeys everywhere; parallel universes & Star Trek

Einstein’s Universe: tests of special relativity; general relativity; gravity & acceleration connection; tests of general relativity; what is space?; predicted gravity effects- waves, lensing, redshift; Inside Einstein’s Mind

Some constellation work: winter stars-Orion,Taurus, Perseus, Andromeda, Cassiopeia, Canis Major, Cetus – myths, key stars,patterns, neat objects; Skygazer’s Almanac; Mag 5; planet plots

Myths: purpose & reality; Jason & the Argonauts; Star of Bethlehem

Archaeoastronomy: Stonehenge & Chaco Canyon—our connections with the heavens

Some Readings:

Cosmos – Chapters 6 & 7 some short stories from science fiction

Einstein’s Dreams Einstein’s Universe (1-16)

Articles on Einstein articles on special & general relativity readings on Time & Time Travel


Astrophysics: Syllabus Spring Term 2020

Topics to be Investigated:

  • Enistein's Universe: -Chapters 6-16; test of Einstein's theories
  • The Backbone of Night -- how science got started & its goals
  • The Edge of Forever - galaxies-island universes; types, formation & evolution; our Milky Way; Vera Rubin & dark matter
  • The Creation of the Universe -- or at least what we think happened; big bang or inflation or something else altogether; the black hole universe theory
  • Cosmology - history of universe; early theories & evidence; CMB & Big Bang; a few neat old guys -LeMaitre/Gamow/Alpher/Dicke/Penzias & Wilson; Dark Energy & was Einstein right all along?
  • Universe or Multiverse- a step on the wild & crazy side
  • Encyclopedia Galactica - origin of life; evolution review; adaptations for survival; extremophiles; alien life in solar system and beyond;
  • UFOs & alien visitations - CETI &SETI; close encounters of a third & fourth kind; abductions & other nonsense (maybe?)
  • Mars -- a few interesting facts & possibilities; a bit of celestrial mechanics -orbit of Mars from photographs; The Martian- fact & fiction
  • STARBEAM PROJECT - building a 41/2" Newtonian reflector;


Some Readings: Cosmos -7, 10, 12, 13, 2, & 5; extra credit Chapters 3, 4 11, 13 reports;

Accidental Universe Einstein's Universe 17-21 assorted readings on cosmology & UFOs


Geology: Course of Study

Essential Questions to be addressed this year:

1. What are the essential components of the earth?

2. What geologic processes act to create earth materials & the earth's features?

3. What roles do cyclicity and uniformitarianism play in the evolution of the earth?

4. How do geologists unravel earth's history?

5. How has the Theory of Plate Tectonics been developed and how does it explain earth changes & the evolution of life?

6. How closely does human history correspond to geological forces?

7. How has the earth evolved over the last 4.6 billion years?

8. How does the study of geology give one a new perspective on the earth & our relationship with it?

9. Why is it important to include the study of geology in any science curriculum?

Topics to be investigated this year:

A. Physical Geology:

1. earth materials: minerals & rocks

2. volcanism & megavolcanism

3. structure & composition of the earth's interior

4. seismicity, earthquakes, & tsunamis

5. Hutton, Wegener, Umbgrove & Cloos -- early heroes of geology

6. Plate Tectonics -- its origin, manifestations, & supercontinent cycle

7. geologic environments, processes & landforms

8. fundamentals of structural geology

9. basics of aerial photographic, topographic & geologic map interpretation

10. geologic events which changed us & influenced our cultural development

B. Historical Geology:

1. key principles used in deciphering the past from rocks & fossils

2. stratigraphic concepts & use in interpreting earth's history

3. Lyell, Lamarck, Darwin, & Agassiz - more early heroes of earth history

4. introduction to paleontology & review of Darwinian evolution

5. mass extinctions; causes & results for life on planet Earth

6. dinosaurs -- their development, diversity, & demise (?)- an example of evolution

7. evolution of the earth -- North America in general &Texas in detail

8. ice ages, global warming, & Us

Geology: Fall term Syllabus

Topics to be Investigated:

Introduction to the earth; Why Study Geology; the Grand Canyon Region– rocks & lessons; development of rock classification & testing system; some human notes & readings; uniformitarianism & other basic principles of geology; earth processes & patterns; geologic time scale; a geologic section with proper format; notebooks & organization; on becoming a geologist – Hans Cloos; the Grand Stairway through the Mesozoic. rock recognition practical

Introduction to Ortonia County Mapping Project: The rocks -- beginnings of reading earth's history; construction of geologic section & interpretation

Introduction to Mineralogy; Why study minerals?; mineral identification (small set); use of identification key; the Jolly & Hanneman Balance; the silicates, R.L.N. Bowen; other mineral groups; crystals, crystallography & crystal growing – use of a goniometer: Mineral Box #1; Mineral Practical

Gems: identification (gem box), testing & their influence; all about diamonds; diamond issues—jewelry, gem testing & gem business(store visit & questions); Splendid Stones; Blood Diamond; meteorites – gifts from the gods! ; ID and origins. Some lapidary work: polishing stones & jewelry fabrication

Gold & the Rush it caused; role of gold in our world; the gold standard; the Golden Shaft

Minerals, mining & the Bible (King Solomon’s Mines)– mining in ancient times; mining in general today; silver mining; Comstock Lode; conservationists vs miners (a debate); industrial mineral

Introduction to Volcanology: subterranean & surface; volcanism; Kraffts, Vesuvius, Mt. Pele, Krakatoa, Mt. St Helens; Dante's Peak; supervolcanoes -- Toba & Yellowstone; predicting eruptions; Historical possibilities -- Thera & Exodus

Some Readings:

Ship’s wake (Cloos) Prologue(C) Deacons on the Way Out(C) Diamonds in desert Sands(C) Evolution of Minerals Diamond Wars Diamonds in desert Sands(C) Subterranean Landscapes(Cloos)

Down A Mine (Walks & Talks in Geology) Sphinx Erongo (Cloos)

The King of Metals & Solidified Sunlight The Return Soldier in Oil War(C) Volcanoes at Work(C)

Mountains in the Jungle(C) Innocence of Rock (Leveson) Geologic Experience(L) A Chance to Understand(L)

Through Eyes of Man(L) Relatively Absolute(L) Collectors and Collecting(L) Where the Ideal Exists(L)

Weird Stories of Geology (Dawson)

Project: Introduction to the Lapidary Arts(tumbling, cutting & polishing stones)


Geology: Syllabus Winter Term

Topics to be Investigated:

Silicate Minerals- the foundation of the crust; Bowen & his series

Igneous, Metamorphic & Sedimentary Rock - identification & review; key minerals & textures; “reading the rocks” (possible stream table study)

Earth Processes: Hutton & his rock cycle; surface processes - weathering, erosion & deposition;

Interior of the Earth: structure and waves; temperatures, densities, & composition; how we know; magnetic field & our survival; magnetic storm is coming; how it forms – dynamo theory (a little bit of physics); Mars as a model planet for interior changes & its evolution

Earthquakes: Loma Prieta; earthquake basics – types, causes, locations, effects, prediction, & preparation; four classic earthquakes – an analysis; other historical quakes; Japan 2010 & tsunami; Pacific northwest – Seattle and the coming doom; Biblical earthquakes & history

Tectonics: a few examples from around the world; Loch Ness, New York, Hawaii

Maps: topographic & geologic maps; interpretations; a brief mapping project;

Ortonia County Mapping Project: construction of topographic profile; adding rock units to map


Rocks under the Pillow Rhine Journey To A Former Student

Northland & the Knot Return Soldier in Oil War

Volcanoes at Work(Krakatoa) Among Volcanoes (1886)

New York Mountains in the Jungle Assorted articles on volcanoes & earthquakes


Geology: Syllabus Spring Term

Topics to be Investigated:

Plate Tectonics: a history of discovery; a few key fellows; a fantastic revolution in understanding the earth & beyond; examples from around the world

Dinosaurs: geology & life -- evolution due to revolutions: their origins & development; extinctions in general & specifically of dinosaurs -- maybe?

Dating of the Earth: Arthur Holmes; some simple experiments

Birth of the Earth: or how did we get here

Results of geologic processes: deserts (Death Valley); mountain glaciation (Yosemite); continental galciation (the Great Lakes); river systems (Grand Canyon)

Ortonia County Mapping Project: dating of units using fossils; writing a geologic history; presentation of results of year's work

Bolo Tie: lapidary arts galore!


Advanced Physics II

Advanced Physics: Course of Study 2019-20

Essential Questions to be addressed this year:

1. What is the fundamental character of a physical law?

2. What is the role of equations in physics?

3. How are the major concepts of physics derived from experiment?

4. Why is Einstein such a prominent figure in modern physics?

5. What is our modern theory of matter and how did we arrive at it?

6. What are the interrelationships between the major topics of physics?

7. What are some of the historical foundations of modern physics?

8. How is physics a very human endeavor?

Topics to be investigated this year:

A. Classical Physics:

1. kinematics in one & two dimensions

2. dynamics & Newton's Laws

3. circular & rotational motion

4. momentum, work & energy relationships

5. static equilibrium

6. fluid, sound & wave behavior

7. laws of thermodynamics, KMT, & heat

8. statics & current electricity with DC circuits

9. magnetism & electromagnetism

10. nature & behavior of light with some work on optical instruments

B. Modern Physics:

1. special & general relativity theory & experimental evidence

2. quantum theory: development & usefulness

3. nuclear physics & nuclear energy (fission & fusion)

4. elementary particles: development of our theory of matter

(atmos to quark)

5. current research areas in physics

C. Historical Aspects of Physics:

1. Einstein & Bohr

2. Fermi & Meitner

3. Feynman, women , African-Americans & a bunch of other guys who nobody outside of physics knows

Fall Syllabus 2019

Advanced Physics: Fall Term Syllabus 2019

Topics to be Investigated:

The Course of Study; Some Investigations & Some Review; some brief notes & problems; units/significant figures; Fermi Questions & Figuring Out Physics; a bunch of puzzling demonstrations; What is Physics? The Nature & value of Science

Some Interesting Investigations - free-fall; Galileo & Newton; two cans; dart guns; working with equations; deriving relationships & graphing analysis; Greek science; projectiles

Gravity: old and new ideas; circular motion; inertial balance; fictitious forces; Foucault, Coriolis & Canadians

Electrostatics: type & invention of charge concept; electroscopes; types of charging; polarization; snake and ball; Faraday's ice pail; electrophorous; the racing & oscillating ball; Jacob's Ladder; van de Graff & his generator;; Leyden jars & a real shocker; capacitors & a few derivations; Wimhurst's devilish machine; Professor Roger's, his wonderful workshop & a little girl in a cage; Faraday's cage & Coulomb's law; lightning & Ben Franklin's revenge; electric field mapping; Millikan & his charge

Current electricity: Galvani & Volta; salt and battery; electrolysis; Faraday's Big Experiment; Ohm on the range; code breakers; properties of wire; series & parallel compound circuits, Kirchhoff; RC circuits; more on capacitors & a little electronics experiment; decaying relationships - tosses & radioactivity; EPE,EP,EMF

Some Readings: The Pleasure of Finding Things Out Close Reasoning

Sense of the Mysterious -1,2 The Nature of Science The Value of Science

Feynman's Adventures The Moment Gravity by Gamow

Barometer Story Constants

Character of Physical Law - 1,2


Winter Syllabus 2019-20

Advanced Physics: Winter Term 2019-20

Topics to be investigated:

Magnetism: -diamagnetism, ferromagnetism, paramagnetism; elusive monopole; Magnetic Monster; comparison with electric force

Electromagnetism: Oersted &RHR; an all encompassing experiment (no fibln'); Gilley coils; swinging metals (Lenz it be!); more on hand rule; rail gun & parallel wires; Aston & Lawrence; cathode rays & J.J. Thomson; charge to mass ration; reenter Millikan & mass of an electron; motors & generators; the transformer & modern electrical grid; Maxwell's equations & his great deduction; J.J. & his rays; Millikan & Faraday revisted; Chadwick & the neutron; Our Atom is Complete!???

Energy Transfers: particles and waves; ripple tanks and slinkies; types of waves; a few nice derivations

Sound: a short study of sound focusing on its characteristics; frequency, wavelengths, & speed; interference; resonance; ultrasound experiments

Light: Newton, Huygens & Young; some light properties-a series of experiments; the ether & Michelson & Morley -"a boat on a river"; interferometry; Poisson's Spot

Unification: Maxwell & Hertz; microwave experiments; a problem; photoelectric experiment; Einstein to the rescue

Some Readings: Character of Physical Law - 3, 4 Sense of the Mysterious - 3, 4,5


Spring Syllabus 2020

Advanced Physics: Spring Term 2020

Topic to be investigated:

Gases & Thermodynamics: a few experiments; work-energy theorem; laws of Thermodynamics; heat death; entropy; a few statistical games; Boltzmann & Clausius;Carnot & Otto cycles; some heat engines; steam & 2 & 4 stroke engines; rotary engine; the refrigerator; some awesome deductions from thermodynamics; absolute zero & the crazy world that it created; Einstein again!

The Atom: view of matter from Aristotle to today -- no new paradigm; Standard Model; Higgs boson & the neutrino;

Quantum Mechanics: all about the electron; Balmer, Bohr & spectral lines; Heisenberg, Schrodinger & history; a strange tale of a cat & Wigner's friend;where we stand today; chance & uncertainty; EPR paradox & the loss of determinism?; String Theory & the Elegant Universe

Vortex Theory: a different perspective on matter and its interaction; matter, energy and spacetime; Einstein may have the final answer yet?

Some Classical Physics: motion in two directions; Galileo yet again; projectiles & derivations; bombing Hitler; shooting Napoleon; strobe lights & water spouts; vectors; force boards; bridges; least action principle

A little rocket science – principles & applications; deLaval & Bernoulli; Goddard-von Braun; Torricelli’s Tube; Venturi’s discovery; sail boats with & without sails; escape velocity derivation; engine dynamics- a few static tests; construction & launching of rockets; high speed affects—a little Einstein more Einstein!

Some more interesting phenomena: Atwood; ladders; booms & ballistics; loop-de loop adventures; banked roads & friction; inclined planes; angular motion; tether ball, flying pigs & rolling objects; loop-de-loop revisited

Some Readings:

Sense of the Mysterious - rest of the book

Character of Physical Law Chapters 5, 6, 7 String Theory Physics & Philosophy

Higgs Boson Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland - a few selected chapters

Project -- Rockets (maybe moved to fall term)