Teaching about Radioactivity without Sources

Radioactivity is an exciting, mysterious and scary part of physics for many students, often because their ideas about 'radiation' are closely associated with their ideas about superheroes. Frequently my class discussions with students to gauge their prior knowledge about radiation and radioactivity come round to Stan Lee's Marvel Comics creations - 'Spiderman' and  'The Incredible Hulk'. After explaining...


Do Exams 'Pass' under CfE?

After more than five years of ongoing development in Scottish secondary schools, the Curriculum for Excellence has reached its first round of 'gold standard' Higher examinations. Though the contents of many courses have been significantly revised, and a sizeable portion of the overall marks may come from a piece of coursework conducted in school, the...


Cloud chambers

Thanks to Dr Aidan Robson from Glasgow University I was able to borrow a set of cloud chamber kits which I have used with my Higher physics classes this week. This facility is now available to any physics teachers in the central belt, via an on line booking facility, with kits available from both Glasgow and...


Eclipse 2015

After all the preparation, and an early start this morning, it looked like it might be a wash out given the cloud cover. — Drew Burrett (@drewburrett) March 20, 2015 Unprepared to admit defeat, I got set up early in the hope that the sun might make an appearance through the clouds at some point....


Home-Made Eclipse Viewer

Next Friday, 20th March 2015, the best eclipse in over 50 years will reach between 90-95% of totality in the skies over Scotland. The online physics communities have been awash with chat and links on how to view the event, and what useful physics can be done with classes. Hoping to do something with my...


CERN visit Sept 2013 - Day 3

The final day of our visit began with a visit to SM18 - the magnetic dipole manufacture and test facility. The 27 km long LHC ring at CERN is made up from over 1200 individual dipoles. Every dipole section contains the two proton beams, each of which is surrounded by super-conducting magnets used to change...


#TMSLF13 - Round Table - Opportunities for Learning in 'The Real World'

It was my great pleasure and privilege to lead a round table session at this year's Scottish Learning Festival TeachMeet. The topic for the discussion - Opportunities for Learning in 'The Real World'   - was prompted by my recent experience of having pupils involved in learning experiences outside the school environment. I later used one...


CERN Visit Sept 2013 - Day 2

After a comfortable night in the CERN hostel, our group breakfasted at Restaurant 1 before meeting with Dr Andy Buckley a researcher from the University of Glasgow, working on the ATLAS experiment at the LHC. Andy gave us an overview of how the collisions between the high energy protons in the LHC give rise to other...


CERN Visit Sept 2013 - Day 1

Back in June I was offered an excellent opportunity by Rebecca Crawford who works at Glasgow University with the Science Connects/STEM Ambassadors and Glasgow Science Festival teams. She asked if I'd like to join her with a group of pupils from across the west of Scotland on an all expenses paid visit to CERN in Geneva. The students...


A Modern Inconvenience

I should have seen it coming, I should have been prepared, but it still came as a shock when Google Chrome told me my blog had been blacklisted as a potential source of malware.   Initially I didn't know what to do. Ignore the warning and go to the site, taking the risk that I'd...