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About Lecture Demonstrations

The Lecture Demonstrations website exists to provide Lecturers in the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Iowa State with a library of options to enhance their lectures.  Each demonstration page provides photographs and instructions on how to do the demonstration.  Videos will be added in the future.  The library consists of demonstrations from the original compilation, updated versions of the originals, and new demonstrations that have been added over time.  As demonstrations are developed, they will be added to the library.  As demonstrations become outdated, they will be removed from the library. 

A secondary focus of the website is in providing instructions to the Teaching Lab Coordinators on how to set-up and maintain the equipment.  For that purpose, each demonstration page links to a tutorial that provides locations of the equipment and instructions.  In addition to this website, a printed copy of the entire library is kept on the Teaching Lab Coordinator desk in the prep room and is not for loan, but may be looked at by anyone at any time. 

Keep reading for a brief history of lecture demonstrations in the Physics and Astronomy Department.  

History of Lecture Demonstrations 

In 1938, McGraw-Hill published a book for the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) titled "Demonstration Experiments in Physics."  This formed the basis for the early years of including demonstrations in Physics and Astronomy Lectures.  In the 1960's, Dan Zaffarano tasked Dr. Percy Carr with creating a manual unique to Iowa State University.  To quote Dr. Carr himself, "The purpose [of this manual] is to catalog the equipment that is available in the Physics Department of Iowa State University for the performing of effective lecture demonstrations in Physics, to give hints as to how to use the equipment effectively in demonstration, to give advice on the care of the equipment, to tell how to avoid abuse of the equipment, to give guidance on the storage of the equipment at times, and to call attention to the possible dangers associated with certain pieces of equipment."  (1970)  In 1994, Dr. Laurent Hodges began a project to update the content of the books and create a series of text files on 3.5" floppy disk that would allow lecturer's to view descriptions of the available demonstrations.  As technology advanced, so did the means with which the demonstrations could be shared.  In the early 2000's, Chris Lowry developed a website in HTML format that allowed lecturers to browse the same content as the original manual from the comfort of their computers.  His website became the inspiration for the current website you see here.  Currently, Percy Carr's original documentation exists in the form of 4 3.5" 3-ring binders that contain descriptions of over 274 demonstrations.  Each page has been created on a typewriter, with the original colored polaroids taped to the pages of the descriptions to which they correspond.