RADIOACTIVE! The Amazing World of Nuclear Radiation
Among the natural forces in creation, radioactivity is the most powerful and, perhaps, the least understood. It has been less than a century since the energy of nuclear fission was harnessed. Yet, the existence of a substance with the power to transmute elements was long anticipated (or at least hoped for) by ancient alchemists. In 1939, The New York Times hailed the discovery of Uranium-235 as the long sought, “Philosopher’s Stone,” capable of releasing almost limitless energy.
Our course will remove some of the mystery surrounding this modern Philosopher’s Stone, and others like it. What is radioactivity and is it safe? Students will learn about the physical causes and types of radioactivity, its detection and measurement, its history, its environmental and health effects, its dangers and benefits, and its uses in industry, medicine, consumer products, power generation, and weapons. This course will impart not only a knowledge of nuclear science and radioactive safety, but also the realization that radioactivity is a natural phenomenon which surrounds us, and its ubiquitous presence (including the isotopes that produce it) stretches back to the beginning of creation. It is noteworthy that alchemists equated Plato’s prima materia (first matter) of creation with the Philosopher’s Stone.
As a summer course, this offering is intended to be both educational and entertaining. The strange world of sub-atomic, quantum physics is engaging and awe inspiring. The learning process includes live, laboratory demonstrations of radioactive materials, interactive notes (with plenty of color illustrations), short videos, handouts, and articles. The homework consists of viewing several videos on the history of nuclear science, reading an article, “The Radioactive Boy Scout,” and graphing a Half-Life experiment which uses plain M&M’s or Skittles.
Required Course Materials:
TEXTS: There are no required texts for this course. Students will receive a set of color notes and worksheets which will be completed during class. Students are expected to print these items before each class. Since the information contained in graphs and illustrations is often color coded, color printing is strongly recommended.
EQUIPMENT: Skittles or plain M&M’s, graph paper and ruler. Parents who are interested in purchasing a radiation detector (Geiger counter, etc.) should contact the instructor.
Dr. William DiPuccio has been teaching science since 2002. He served as a science instructor and department head for five years at St. Nicholas Orthodox School, a classical school in Akron, Ohio. More recently, he taught Physical and Earth Science at Heritage Classical Academy, near Akron. Bill has designed and taught online, laboratory courses in meteorology, geology, and astronomy, for the Classical Learning Resource Center. He has also conducted summer and weekend science camps.
Bill has a Ph.D. in historical theology, and a professional background in meteorology, engineering (ultrasonic and electromagnetic polymer joining processes, automation) and graphic design. In addition to teaching science, he enjoys tinkering with scientific equipment and performing experiments at home. He also owns a small business, Sacred Engraving, which specializes in cast and etched metal plaques. firstname.lastname@example.org
Computer: You will need a stable, reliable computer, running with a processor with a speed of 1 GHz or better on one of the following operating systems: Mac OS X with Mac OS 10.7 or later; Windows 8, 7, Vista (with SP1 or later), or XP (with SP3 or later). We do not recommend using an iPad or other tablet for joining classes. An inexpensive laptop or netbook would be much better solutions, as they enable you to plug an Ethernet cable directly into your computer. Please note that Chromebooks are allowed but not preferred, as they do not support certain features of the Zoom video conference software such as breakout sessions and annotation, which may be used by our teachers for class activities.
High-Speed Internet Connection: You will also need access to high-speed Internet, preferably accessible via Ethernet cable right into your computer. Using Wi-Fi may work, but will not guarantee you the optimal use of your bandwidth. The faster your Internet, the better. We recommend using a connection with a download/upload speed of 5/1 Mbps or better. You can test your Internet connection here.
Headset: We recommend using a headset rather than a built-in microphone and speakers. Using a headset reduces the level of background noise heard by the entire class. Headset Recommendations: USB | 3.5mm
Zoom: We use a web conferencing software called Zoom for our classes, which enables students and teachers to gather from around the globe face to face in real time. Zoom is free to download and easy to use. To download Zoom:
- Visit zoom.us/download.
- Click to download the first option listed, Zoom Client for Meetings.
- Open and run the installer on your computer.
- In August, students will be provided with instructions and a link for joining their particular class.
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This registration will be finalized when the student's placement assessment has been returned by the course instructor with placement confirmation.