Hi hello and welcome… I’m Greg Jacobs. I teach at Woodberry Forest School, a boys boarding school in central Virginia. Our campus is beautiful this time of year! Historically I would be spending afternoons umpiring high school baseball games, or broadcasting Woodberry games over internet audio – and I’m sad, so sad, to lose those and other spring rituals. But as two of the Four Horsemen ride, I recognize that baseball simply doesn’t matter right now.
So why are we here, then? I mean, I am grateful to you for listening, for engaging over twitter, for being the community that you and I both need. Let me give a shoutout to Cypress Ranch High School (Go Mustangs!), who are arranging a virtual watch party with their physics teacher for each epidosde! But the question remains… why bother with physics in these apocalyptic times?
I know many of you are here because your teacher or your parents are making you watch. And some of you make yourselves watch – you want to do well on the AP exam, to earn college credit, to demonstrate your knowledge of physics to you and your teacher. I’ve no doubt that some audience members have come to love physics for its own sake – the universe is amazing, and in AP Physics 1 you’re taking the first steps toward understanding how the universe works. And some of you are here for the Edna fan art – thanks, @Aldescery, your drawings have made me smile more than anything else these past weeks.
I’ll tell you an important reason why *I’m* here. Not just here today, but here in this profession. See, science matters. Physics – and chemistry and biology – teach an understanding of the universe based on observable, measureable evidence. AP Physics 1 is a useful gateway to science because the experimental evidence in this course is human scale, can be acquired (except, perhaps, for gravitation) in your classroom. The answers to physics problems aren’t right because your textbook said, or because the President of the American Physical Society gave a press conference. Answers are only correct if they are supported by experimental evidence. Josh and I have been showing you not just answers, but evidence for those answers. That’s science.
Once you understand introductory physics and its human-scale experiments, it’s easier to understand chemistry and biology – the evidence underlying biology generally requires microscopes, PCR machines, DNA elecroferesis, all these more abstract techniques than just a photogate or a spring scale. Nevertheless, biology is just as based on experimental evidence as is physics.
And right now, there are people with media platforms, people in powerful political positions, who straight-up deny evidence. They’ll state publicly that the sky is green – and when you provide them with a spectrograph showing a peak at 470 nm, they choose to ignore science and believe what they want to believe. That’s always been dangerous. It’s downright deadly in a time of global plague.
So I’m here for a lot of reasons, including a love of physics itself, a love of performance, a love of community (even a virtual community whom I can’t see behind this camera), a love for the relationships I’ve built with students and colleagues through decades of teaching physics… including even that I’m getting paid. But underlying everything is the hope that I can light a candle in the darkness that is science denialism… to help the next generations of students understand the meaning and power of scientific evidence.
Now, to the physics… today we are discussing angular momentum and its conservation.