The Physics
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Instructions to Students

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The Physics Factbook is an encyclopedia of scientific essays written by students that can be used by anybody. It is an exercise in library research methods in which students are sent out in search of a measurement with the intent of having them find more than just a number with a unit. It is an ongoing project with no foreseeable end date or limits.

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Each student has been assigned four (4) measurements at random from a list of quantities that might be found in a typical physics textbook. Find your assigned topics and write them in the spaces above. Select one (1) of the topics and then do the following assignment.

  1. You must find reference to your topic in these five (5) different types of sources.
    1. Textbook: Any high school, junior high, or college physics, chemistry, biology, earth science, economics, or other textbook.
    2. Reference: Any dictionary, encyclopedia, glossary, desk reference, or handbook (like the Handbook of Chemistry and Physics).
    3. Technical: Books, journals, or papers on a specific subject or a source primarily intended to be used by people with special training like nurses, building contractors, aircraft and auto mechanics, or other skilled technicians.
    4. Old: Any source of any type with a copyright date before 1990 or a reference in a contemporary source to an event that occurred before 1990.
    5. Other: Whatever doesn't fit into any of the above categories, a duplicate of a previous category, different editions of a source already cited, or a different value on another page of the same work.
  2. Make a photocopy or a printout of the page containing the numerical value. Circle, underline, or otherwise highlight the quotable text so I can locate it quickly. Do not highlight any other text.
  3. Complete the cover page on the back of these instructions or a reasonable facsimile. Write a bibliographic entry for each citation. Quote the result exactly as stated in the source with any relevant text that might be around it. Restate the result as a number with an appropriate standard unit (typically an SI unit or an SI unit with a prefix).
  4. Write a standard page (250 word), encyclopedia or magazine-style essay based on your research. A good essay should explain the topic, be interesting, concise and easy to read.
  5. Assemble all seven (7) pages in this order: cover page, photocopies/printouts in sequence, and essay. Do not include any other pages. Staple them once and only once in the upper right-hand corner. Submit everything when you arrive in class Tuesday, 26 May 2009. If your submission is inadequate, it will be returned with comments on how to improve it. You will be allowed to resubmit several times after that.

It is strongly recommended that you visit The Physics Factbook website as soon as possible to get a sense of the scope of this project. There you will find links to online resources, guidelines for writing bibliographic entries, preferred standard units with conversion information, and a few hundred completed essays. Once your work is approved you should download a copy of the generic webpage from the website. Replace the generic content with your content using an html editor like Dreamweaver, FrontPage, GoLive, etc. If your completed webpage is received in good condition on or before Friday, 5 June 2009, you will receive 110% on Quiz 13.