Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Why We Should Teach The Bohr Model And How To Teach It Effectively

I've printed out this paper for weeks now, but due to many distractions (including vacations), I haven't yet read through the whole thing. It also doesn't help that it is 9 pages long. So I thought that since I can't do a thorough review of it, maybe some of you can. I'll put in my comments once I've had digested the whole paper (not literally, of course).

The paper by McKagan et al. (Phys. Rev. Sp. Topics - Phys. Ed. Res., v.4, p.10103 (2008)) argues on why the Bohr model should be taught in intro modern physics courses, but it must be done "effectively". It is no secret that I am not a fan of this, because in my experience, the Bohr model given to students, especially those who are NOT physics majors, or do not intend to take higher level courses, are left holding on to a rather faulty view of what an atom is, at least from the way physics describes it via the Schrodinger formalism. So one is left with students having a mental picture of the planetary model. I have no issues with it being presented as a "historical" item, and then making sure the students understand why such picture is no longer used. However, teaching it formally?

So that's why I was interested in reading this paper. What useful ideas in understanding the atom and QM in general can be gathered out of making an effort to teach the Bohr model, and teach it effectively? Obviously, it can't be done the way it has been, especially with disinterested teachers that won't put any effort to do it the way the authors are suggesting.

I really should make an effort to read it.

BTW, the paper should be available for free from the APS journal page, or you can get the ArXiv version here.


1 comment:

fred bitt said...

Hello, Zapperz.

I´m a physics teacher myself, and I happen to just had a class on the Bohr model today. The students were quite amused and interested, specially because the length of the orbit of the electron has to be a multiple of the wavelength.

I found your blog while searching for documentaries on the physics of the 20th century, specially relativity and nuclear physics.

Hope we can help each other! :-)