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Peer Review

Simple Animations of Basic Concepts in Physics and Astronomy

by Michael Gallis


Overall Rating:

4 stars
Content Quality: 4 stars
Effectiveness: 4 stars
Ease of Use: 4 stars
Reviewed: Jul 08, 2009 by Physics
Overview: This is a collection of three dimensional (3D) animations in physics and astronomy. The topics include: Astronomy, Mechanics, Vectors, Electricity and Magnetism, Waves, Optics, Modern Physics, Thermodynamics, and a selection entitled “Miscellaneous”. The topical collections contain many short videos to help show how physical quantities change over time in various physical processes.
Learning Goals: To enhance the user's ability to gain a visual and conceptual understanding of many physical processes.
Target Student Population: Students enrolled in a trigonometry or calculus –based high school or university physics course. A few videos may be appropriate for a physical science class and some can be used in advanced undergraduate or graduate courses.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills: None.
Type of Material: Animations in a browser window.
Recommended Uses: In-–class demonstration or to help clarify or reinforce material discussed in class.
Technical Requirements: The actual videos are avi files, however, links that play them using Quicktime or Windows Media Player are available in most cases.

Evaluation and Observation

Content Quality

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The E & M and Astronomy sections contain many examples that students should find helpful. The same is true of the wave section, although many of these are related to advanced material (e.g. vibrations in two dimensions).
Concerns: The simulations in some sub-categories do not provide as much insight as is needed for instruction; particularly the mechanics and modern physics animations.

Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: There are many videos to choose from, most of which address fundamental topics in general physics, modern physics, and astronomy. There are several sub-categories listed with many animations contained in each one. These animations can help a student visualize ideas that are difficult for an instructor to explain or draw on the chalkboard; particularly the three (3) dimensional aspects. The author provides additional information inside most of the videos to enhance the instruction such as graphs and vector arrows that change over time.
Concerns: There is no audio narration provided. Instructors may prefer this for lectures because they want to make their own comments; however, students viewing these on their own may find them baffling without additional explanation. Some are fairly obvious but many require some prior explanation, so the animations should be used in conjunction with other materials.

Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty

Rating: 4 stars
Strengths: The user simply clicks on the animation they wish to view and it runs fairly quickly in a separate window. The author provides more than one method to view them; one for Internet Explorer and one for FireFox among others. The video files are available for direct download.
Concerns: With no prior instruction, students may find the lack of narration impedes understanding if they view the videos on their own.