These brief summaries are designed to help readers easily see which articles will be most valuable to them. The online version contains links to the articles.

“ChatGPT-4 with Code Interpreter can be used to solve introductory college-level vector calculus and electromagnetism problems”

Tanuj Kumar and Mikhail A. Kats

91(12), p. 955,

“Comment on ‘Avoid propagation of typos with numerical methods’ [Am. J. Phys. 89(1), 9 (2021)]”

B. Cameron Reed

91(12), p. 956,

Please enjoy these letters and consider writing one yourself. I'd love to hear from you.

Florieke Eggermont, Moniek A. M. Munneke, Vera Adriaens, Cornelia R. M. G. Fluit, Jan G. M. Kooloos, and Esther Tanck

91(12), p. 958,

All of us have experienced disappointment upon realizing we forgot something we once knew well. On the other hand, instructors may be delighted when a former student remembers an essential truth from a course many years ago. Training students in any discipline requires long-term knowledge retention, so studies on such retention are fundamentally important. The authors of this article provide convincing evidence that students who actively participated in optional daily physics quizzes retained significantly more physics knowledge after the course ended. Both students and instructors will find this article to be a stimulating read. Developing teaching techniques (and promoting study habits) that increase knowledge retention could benefit the entire community.

Xiangdong Feng, Changhong Lu, Jurgen Schulte, Zengxu Shan, and Gentong Liu

91(12), p. 964,

Readers may have seen the pendulum wave apparatus, which is a mesmerizing demonstration. The author connects the mathematics of the alignment of these columns of pendulums to Thomae's function, aiding instructors who want to show students the deep connections between physics and mathematics. A video abstract accompanies the online version of this paper.

Steuard Jensen and Jack Poling

91(12), p. 970,

The vector nature of rotation is notoriously difficult for introductory physics students. Cross products and right-hand rules are among the many challenges students face in the traditional instructional approach. Educators who desire a novel approach will find this article interesting, as it explores rotation using the language of bivectors. Instead of using abstract arrows (vectors), rotational quantities are represented with oriented tiles. This fresh perspective may help students overcome conceptual barriers, while also preparing them for more advanced discussions of rotation in relativity or in more than three spatial-dimensions.

Peter F. Hinrichsen

91(12), p. 979,

Although physics instructors tend to emphasize simple harmonic motion, most real-world oscillating systems are nonlinear. Here, a new, simple system is introduced that allows students and instructors to easily tune the nonlinearity of air track glider oscillations using only linear components. This setup could be used in a mechanics laboratory activity or in a lecture demonstration of the sensitivity of oscillator motion to initial conditions and would pair well with an introduction to Fourier analysis.

J. D. D. Martin

91(12), p. 988,

The equipartition theorem is such an important theorem in thermal physics that students may be led to think that it is always valid. However, this is not the case. Instead of deriving the equipartition theorem and then examining experimental data that corroborate it, this paper proposes to start from online available experimental data to examine the range of applicability of the theorem. Exploring deviations to the theorem may actually help students get a deeper understanding of it. Appropriate for undergraduate thermal physics classes as well as for introductory statistical mechanics.

John Eric Goff and Donald C. Colladay

91(12), p. 993,

Metastable states, that is, excited states that have a particularly long lifetime compared to other excited states, can be found in a simple 1D piecewise-constant potential problem. From the numerical solution to this problem, metastable states are compared to bound states, and some of their characteristics derived. The problem is also discussed using the scattering matrix technique. Appropriate for advanced quantum mechanics classes.

Anna Horváth, Balázs Bámer, and Gergely Gábor Barnaföldi

91(12), p. 999,

Who hasn't been fascinated by a mirage? This paper guides you through an understanding of mirages and shares scripts that students can use to model mirages that they have photographed. Suitable for projects in an optics or computational physics course. A video abstract accompanies the online version of this paper.

David Faux, Thesha Thavaraja, and Alana Croucher

91(12), p. 1008,

Computational models have been useful for recommending policies in the recent COVID-19 pandemic and are likely to be even more important in the future. The authors discuss how a qubit version of the Game of Life cellular automata can be used to model pandemics.

Md Shakil Bin Kashem, Morgan Davies, Lok Pant, and S. Burcin Bayram

91(12), p. 1015,

While atomic spectroscopy is commonly part of an upper-level physics or chemistry laboratory course, molecular spectroscopy is rarer. However, this does not mean it cannot be included! This paper shows how to perform and interpret experiments measuring the spectrum of diatomic sodium molecules, allowing students to gain valuable experience that will help them understand research using light to probe quantum systems.

Riley E. Alexander, Maya M. DiFrischia, Margaret J. Doubman, Stefany Fabian Dubon, Lily Goltz, Yuqian Li, Rebecca A. Long, Genevieve Love, Nina Martinez Diers, Matangi Melpakkam, Catie Robinson, Elizabeth M. Tompkins, Avalon L. B. Vanis, Xinrui Wang, Mallory Yu, Sarah E. Spielman, and Michael W. Noel

91(12), p. 1023,

This article presents an instructional laboratory project in which students design and build an optical barcode scanner. A phase-sensitive detection system composed of low-cost discrete electronic and optical components is constructed and then used to acquire and decode the optical signal produced by scanning a UPC-A barcode. Through this work, students develop their understanding of lock-in detection, electronics, computer interfacing, and Python coding for data acquisition and analysis. This project will be of interest to instructors teaching electronics courses, upper-division instructional laboratories, or classes that incorporate experimental design at the beyond-introductory level.

Christian Carimalo

91(12), p. 1031,

This Comment shares an alternate proof of the shell-point equivalency theorem, showing that equivalency occurs if and only if the potential is proportional to r-2 or r and relating this equivalency to the transmutation law of central forces.

The following paper appeared in the November 2023 issue but its online publication was delayed. Its description is re-printed here.

Leo de Wit

91(11), p. 903,

Feynman diagrams are both attractive visualizations of physical processes and powerful calculational tools used in quantum field theory, a subject traditionally taught at the graduate level.  Because they are employed at the forefront of research, Feynman diagrams tend to inspire intense curiosity among undergraduate students.  Undergraduates can easily learn recipes to use these diagrams, but a deeper understanding arises by learning where the diagrams come from and understanding their inner workings.  In this paper, a few toy models are introduced that illustrate essential features of field theory and the construction of Feynman diagrams.  We hope students and instructors will enjoy this pedagogical introduction to field theory scattering in a simplified context.

The following books have been received by our book review editor and are listed here for your holiday reading. Watch for book reviews coming soon and contact Sathya Guruswamy, if you are interested in becoming a book reviewer.

The Einsteinian Revolution: The Historical Roots of his Breakthroughs. Jürgen Renn and Hanoch Gutfreund. 272 pp. Princeton University Press., 2023. Price: $32 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0691168760

Grace in All Simplicity: Beauty, Truth, and Wonders on the Path to the Higgs Boson and New Laws of Nature. Robert N. Cahn and Chris Quigg. 400 pp. Pegasus Books, 2023. Price: $32 (hardcover). ISBN 978-1639364817.

A relatively painless guide to Special Relativity. Dave Goldberg. 189 pp. University of Chicago Press, 2023. Price: $24 (paperback). ISBN 978-0226821856.

Beautiful Experiments: An Illustrated History of Experimental Science. Philip Ball. 240 pp. University of Chicago Press, 2023. Price: $35 (hardcover). ISBN 978-0226825823.