total internal reflection

Earlier this week, we used semi-circular perspex blocks to investigate total internal reflection.

I’ve put together a short video showing total internal reflection in a semicircular block and a perspex model of an optical fibre.

There are some nice ray diagrams explaining total internal reflection on BBC Bitesize.

Cyberphysics has some examples of how optical fibers are used and the youtube video below shows how they can be used by doctors to see inside a patient’s body.

using linest to obtain a gradient and uncertainty

The period (T) of a simple pendulum can be calculated using

where l is the pendulum length and g is the gravitational field strength.

Using a single value of length and period, we can determine the acceleration due to gravity.  However, it would be better experimental practise to vary the length of the pendulum and plot a graph of against length, determining g from the gradient of the line of best fit.

You’re going to spend the next few periods analysing your simple pendulum data.  The attached pdf will walk you through the steps.  It would be better if you used your own results but I’ve put some sample data on the first page if you’ve forgotten to bring yours.

If you are using your chromebook, there may be subtle differences from the Excel instructions I have provided.  Let me know if anything doesn’t work and I’ll try to help.

Note that if you are using your own data, there will be no random uncertainty as measurements were not repeated.

Nat5 waves & radiation exam questions

I’ve put together a collection of exam questions from old standard grade and intermediate 2 papers that fit the national 5 curriculum.  Try these before moving on to past papers and check your answers using the solutions that I will post next.  No cheating!

the geiger-muller tube

We’ve examined the operation of a Geiger-Müller counter as part of the radiation topic.

image by Theresa Knott

The Geiger-Müller (GM) counter is used to detect ionising radiation such as alpha and beta particles or gamma rays.  The radiation enters through a very thin window at one end of the tube.  This window is usually made of mica.

Mica flakes.  Photo by Rpervinking

Mica is a mineral that forms in layers called sheets.  These sheets can be split apart into very thin layers, so thin that even an alpha particle can pass through it (remember that alpha particles can be stopped by something as thin as your skin or a sheet of paper).  The mica window prevents the argon inside the tube from escaping and also stops air from getting into the tube.

When radiation enters the tube and collides with an argon atom, an electron may be knocked off the atom – we call this process ionisation.  When ionisation occurs, a positively-charged argon ion and a negatively-charged electron are produced.  The argon ion is attracted to the outside wall of the tube, which is connected to the negative terminal of the power supply, while the electron is attracted to the central electrode, which is kept at a high positive voltage – typically 500V.

A small pulse of current is produced each time an electron reaches the central electrode.  These pulses can be counted by an electronic circuit and a displayed on a 7-segment display.  Sometimes a small speaker is added to the system to produce a click for each pulse.  On its own, the GM tube cannot tell the difference between alpha, beta and gamma radiation.  We need to place different materials (e.g. paper, aluminium, lead) in front of the mica window to discover which type of radiation is responsible for the reading.

Here is a short video demonstrating the use of a Geiger-Müller tube.

referencing guide for AH project report

You should be thinking about getting some of your project report finished so there is less to do when the deadline approaches.  You can start writing up your underlying physics section and sort out the references you will include at the end of the report.  I’ve attached a guide on referencing in the Vancouver style.  Get back to me if you have any questions.

Thanks to Imperial College London for producing this booklet.