Tuesday, March 21, 2006

The "ph" in physics stands for poetry

Today is World Poetry Day! Therefore, I gave my AP Physics class an extra-credit question on this morning's test asking them to write a poem about electric circuits. (This was in addition to the other extra-credit question that asked for the equivalent resistance of an infinite circuit with parallel resistors of 1 Ω, 4 Ω, 9 Ω, 16 Ω, 25 Ω... The answer is fun!)

Here are some samples. On the one hand, keep in mind that these are high school seniors headed for elite colleges. On the other hand, keep in mind that they were writing these under severe time constraints.

O electricity
What fun you can be
Life would be a fright
If there were no light!

Electrix fields are cool
Electric fields are fun
Electric flux is the integral
Of E·dA, son.

Electric circuits are cool
We learn about them when we go to school
Right now they're on my test
Because electric circuits are the best

Loops are fun,
And so are junctions.
R's, and C's,
And exponential functions.
Don't be scared.
Just remember two things:
ΔV is 0
And i out equals i in.

Electric circuits are cool.
They come in many different forms.
Sometimes with both resistors and capacitors,
which makes them SUPER cool.

Zap! Bang! Flow!
Ohm, Mho & Joules
run around your electric grid like mules
Will a lightning shock kill a cow?
Or will an electric eel cause a Pow!
Only volt ampere and watt
can tell you.

Electric circuit round you go
over resistors, capacitors you row
batteries help you move around
but if you're short you will be bound

Electric circuits are very fun
Just like the currents run
from capacitor A to capacitor B
Just like a bee
that flies from the honey cake
that the electric circuits bake.

Resistors are good,
capacitors - better
But both these components are perfect together
The power that "R"'s, sometimes dissipate,
can lots of commotion in atoms create

Some poems expressed existential angst.

Taking a journey through an R.C. circuit,
I walk pass a resistor and drop some voltage,
I walk pass a capacitor and bring some charge,
I walk pass a emf and repeat,
from now till the end of time.

Trying to satisfy two plates' capacitance
Through resistors with great reluctance,
Electrons move through low conductivity.
Making them have a low drift velocity
Slowly pushing in line
to go nowhere

Some poems expressed pessimism about the test.

(1) The calculator
is made up
electrical circuits

(2) But its
inner workings do
enlighten me

(3) on this test

Circuits, how you plague me so
with constants like epsilon and rho
resistors, capacitors, opposite in series
this circuit test gives me the heebie jeebies
Theres Kirkhoff's rules, junctions, loops
And capacitor cubes, spheres and hoops

Some students expressed their pessimism through haikus.

An AP Haiku

Big RC Circuits
Are probably on AP
5, impossible

Some non-pessimistic students wrote haikus anyway.

Circuits have voltage
sometimes with capacitors
resistors as well

electric circuit
When I lick and I touch it
oh how it shocks me

Oh woe onto me
electromotive force is
now just emf

Have you ev

Shorted a circuit (5)
Circuit shorted it should not (7)
Long live the circuits (5)

One student got confused and thought haikus were supposed to be 3-5-3, rather than 5-7-5.

and capacitance
in circuits

Kirchhoff's Rules
are: the Junction Rule
the Loop Rule

One student claimed that his/her poem was iambic pentameter, but either didn't realize that this means more than just having 10 syllables per line, or has a very odd pronunciation of some words.

Circuits really are amazing gadgets
resistors, capacitors, doodads, gadgets,
The current continually runs galore
making shocks, till people say please, no more

Some poems had a safety theme.

electric currents are cool
but don't experiment in the pool!
Because if you do you are a fool.
And will get a really big booboo!

Roses are red,
my finger is blue
Don't play with circuits,
It'll happen to you.

Safety or not, this was a popular riff.

Roses are red
Violets are blue
C€(1 - e^-t/RC) is
equal to Q

Some students barely tried.

Time Constant Time Constant Time Constant


  1. :)

    In my school they actually teach a course called 'physics for poets'. (It's a non-mathematical approach, though I'm not sure how that's possible.)

  2. It's definitely possible, and it requires deeper understanding than the typical plug-and-chug course.

  3. I thought that there were different types of haiku- while the 5-7-7 is definitely most common, I don't think 3-5-3 is assur. And did everyone who wrote a poem get extra credit?

  4. Hmm, it seems you're right; some say a haiku just has to be 17 or fewer syllables. Maybe I shouldn't be second-guessing my students on Asian poetry when I'm at a majority Asian-American school.

    And yes, everyone got extra credit for trying, but some certainly more than others.

  5. i was once taught that in the "more traditional approach" haikus also include seasonal references. this obviously suffers from the same problems that you have often discussed arising from a given jewish practice being "traditional."

  6. Do your students know that you have a blog? That you posted their poetry?

  7. They've never made it known to me that they're aware of my blog, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they're not aware, given that I've seen their blogs and other online hangouts and not told them about it. My name doesn't appear anywhere on the blog, but there are pages elsewhere on the Internet that contain my name and a link to the blog, so it's possible that they could find it by googling me. Just to be safe, I don't post anything that I really wouldn't want them to read.

  8. I always wonder whether or not professors read my other blog. There's nothing really in there [public, anyways] that I wouldn't want them seeing, and my real name is there. But I would never just show it to them.

    I wish my teachers had given me an extra credit assignment to write poetry. I don't think any of them knew it was national poetry day.