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.

M. A. Antonacci and M. A. Maize, 91(8) p. 575,

Ramandeep S. Johal, 91(8), p. 576

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

Sergio A. Hojman

91(8), p. 579

An algebraic approach employing new constants of the motion for dealing with coupled small oscillations is presented here. It offers new insight into undergraduate mechanics and can be most profitably applied in higher dimensional interacting systems using algebraic manipulation software.

Chenyang Lu, Bentley Turner, Yongsheng Gui, Jacob Burgess, Jiang Xiao, and Can-Ming Hu

91(8), p. 585

As quantum technologies have developed, it has become more important to teach students about how the effects of dissipation can be understood, controlled, and even used.  When two pendulums with the same natural frequency are spring coupled, the eigenmodes break degeneracy to form an avoided crossing, also called level repulsion.  This creates a beating pattern in the coupled system.  But dissipative coupling, in which energy dissipation is proportional to the relative velocity of the pendulums, causes level attraction.  Pendulums with slightly different natural frequencies oscillate in tandem when dissipatively coupled.  This paper shows how to build a dissipative coupling apparatus and analyzes the system behavior in comparison to the more commonly used spring coupled system.

Eric M. Edlund

91(8), p. 595

Imagine you're on a spacecraft in a circular orbit around a planet or star. You'd like to catch another object at a different point on the same orbit.  Your engine thrusters can only provide a brief impulse; in which direction should you aim your thrust so as to quickly intercept the target?  Such questions may show up in science fiction as a spacecraft attempts to catch a rival ship, or when a torpedo needs to be fired to quickly neutralize an approaching asteroid.  However, there are real-world aerospace engineering applications as well!  A systematic study of this question was initiated by Edlund and published in AJP in 2021.  In the current paper, the author concludes the analysis by exploring the “fast-intercept solutions” which are mathematically more complicated, but lead to a quicker intercept of the target.  Explorations in this direction would make excellent projects for undergraduate students studying advanced mechanics.

Kyongwan Kim

91(8), p. 603

Anyone who has played with magnets knows that when they are grouped together, their dipole interactions fix their orientations relative to each other. This strong interaction makes it difficult to use permanent magnets to study the dipole-dipole interaction. This paper presents a new way to study this interaction in two dimensions by mounting dipole magnets inside plastic shells and floating them on a water surface to create a compelling demonstration or student laboratory. The paper also reveals and explains an unexpected result: When dipoles are organized into squares, arrays with odd numbers of dipoles can have their orientation direction rotated continuously, while those with even numbers of dipoles have a fixed orientation. A video abstract accompanies the online version of this paper.

Jing Li, Alexandru Maries, and Chandralekha Singh

91(8), p. 613

As we add complications to physics problems, we often find that students have forgotten concepts that had earlier been mastered. This paper demonstrates that students have difficulty applying the superposition problem in problems that also require the use of Gauss's law. It provides a set of tested exercises that will help students overcome this difficulty.

Nolan Samboy

91(8), p. 617

Electromagnetic induction is often demonstrated in classroom and laboratory settings, but quantitative tests of Faraday's law tend to be less frequent. This paper describes an undergraduate-level experiment where the induced voltage created by dropping a disk magnet through a coil wrapped around a plastic pipe is recorded and compared to an analytic model based on treating the magnet as a dipole. Results are in excellent agreement with the theory; measurements are sensitive enough to detect the difference in the peak voltages induced as the magnet enters and exits the coil as a result of its gravitational acceleration. The paper shows how the experiments can be adapted to make them appropriate for students at a variety of levels.

Diego J. Castaño and Teresa M. Castaño

91(8), p. 622

Did you ever get a headache from wondering what integration contour or surface you should use when dealing with an E&M exercise? If yes, this paper is for you. It deals with determining the inductance L = Φ / I of a circuit. In practical situations, determining which I to use (total current? local current?), or what surface to consider to determine the magnetic flux Φ, might take some head-scratching. This paper solves your troubles by proposing a more tractable way of calculating a circuit's self-inductance, using what is known as a weighted flux. You can use this article to prepare your undergraduate E&M classes on induction, or as some reading material for students.

Alexandre P. Costa, Lucas Queiroz, Edson C. M. Nogueira, and Danilo T. Alves

91(8), p. 629

Certain electrostatics problems will be familiar to all students who have studied electromagnetism.  Examples of these classic problems include calculating the electric potential from a point charge near an infinite conducting plane or calculating the resulting electric field when an infinitely long conducting cylinder is placed in a uniform electric field.  Physical situations such as these become both more realistic and more challenging if the conducting surface is not symmetrical, or if it is irregular in some way.  In this article, examples of these more difficult problems are analyzed perturbatively under the assumption that the conducting surfaces possess small corrugations (as any realistic surface would).  Readers will enjoy this stimulating article as they gain exposure to some challenging electrostatics problems as well as the mathematical technique of solving differential equations perturbatively using Green's functions.

F. D. Becchetti

91(8), p. 637

It's delightful when what we've learned in one field of physics gives insight into an entirely different field. This paper points out parallels between optical Mie scattering and the nuclear optical model of scattering and may help those who are familiar with one of these topics to better understand the other.

Michele Re Fiorentin and Stefano Re Fiorentin

91(8), p. 644

To support instructors who wish to teach about cosmological horizons, this paper presents a pedagogical treatment of our understanding of the topic for the case of a flat universe. Suitable for introductory courses in relativity or cosmology.

Ori Hachmo and Ariel Amir

91(8), p. 653

Diffusion is remarkably slow, but nature finds fascinating ways to overcome that speed limit. Transcription factors regulate gene expression in cells, and to find their target, these proteins must traverse the entire DNA molecule, a process that would take thousands of hours if it proceeded purely by diffusion. Instead, a facilitated diffusion process is used, in which the protein regularly falls off the DNA and reattaches in a random location, speeding the search process to the timescale of tens of minutes that is required for cells to live. This paper would form the basis of an interesting lecture or problem set in a course on biophysics or mathematical methods.

J. J. Bissell and A. M. Nagaitis

91(8), p. 659

Although students already have an intuitive understanding of common thermodynamic phases, phase transitions can still be a difficult concept to grasp.  This comment on a previous paper by C. Ong shows how varying a length scale in a simple mechanical mass-spring system causes a transition from one equilibrium point to three equilibria (a pitchfork bifurcation) as the spring forces go from tension to compression.  The authors have also analyzed oscillations, which slow as the system approaches the critical point.  Though the difficulty of finding springs that work in both compression and tension likely precludes a laboratory demonstration in which the full range of behavior can be observed in a single system, a two-system demonstration could be used.