An instructor in Hamline University in Minnesota is making his first year students to a Mythbuster-type experiments to either confirm or debunk popular myths. In the process, they not only learn about the physics involved, but also learn how to properly do experiments to get reliable answers.
Physics Prof. Andy Rundquist gets the students access to the building materials and ballfields they need to answer life's pressing questions: Will tin foil scramble a speed radar? Can you climb out of a sandpit after being buried to the neck? Will a frozen golf ball fly farther?This is a terrific idea, and certainly is a heck of a lot more interesting than simply repeating the same experiments year in, year out. I don't know whether it will fulfill the basic syllabus for an intro physics class. I certainly think that something similar to this can be incorporated even in a standard set of the usual undergrad physics experiments now and then, to keep things interesting. I think any experiment in which the students have to design their own set of methods to solve a problem is extremely useful.
The myths must involve physics and no strange materials. "He put the kibosh on a bunch of ideas," reported Summer Haag, a first-year student from Rochester. For example, he nixed the question of whether a duck's quack would echo. "We weren't allowed to get a duck," she said.