This tutorial provides the background and mathematical explanation of Brownian motion, the seemingly random motion of an object being impacted by microscopic liquid or gas molecules in which the object is embedded.
Type of Material:
Tutorial with a movie and java animations.
Tutorial and lecture illustration
Java and Quicktime enabled browser.
Identify Major Learning Goals:
Students can visualize the microscopic mechanism of Brownian motion and study the theory of this physical system.
Target Student Population:
Undergraduate students. The tutorial uses differential equations appropriate for Sophomore, Junior, and Senior students. The general explanation and animations are accessible for introductory students.
Prerequisite Knowledge or Skills:
A general introduction to Brownian motion.
Evaluation and Observation
The animations provide a clear and simple illustration of Brownian motion.
The Tutorial provides a derivation of the kinetic theory of this motion.
No quantitative results can be determined from the animations.
Potential Effectiveness as a Teaching Tool
The java animation makes a clear connection between the microscopic system and the observed macroscopic motion. The comparison to a video of a real experiment is a positive.
The tutorial provides example problems for students to explore the results of the theory.
There are no controls over the properties of the particles in the illustrations, such as the relative masses of particles, densities, and temperature.
Ease of Use for Both Students and Faculty
This tutorial is clearly written and the animations are simple to run.
None problems with the controls were noted, but the functionality of the animations is limited.