Stimulus 2012

Making Sense of the Universe

This document is a topical index of projects for Stimulus 2012 - The Annual Festival of Learning of Abhinav Vidyalay & Jr. College, Dombivli, India. It contains topics outlined by areas which can be taken by a group of about 4-6 students for working on, for a period of about 2 months or ~ 50 hours. The names of the mentors (ex-students and enthusiasts, available online) and project coordinators are mentioned and their blog IDís and addresses are given. There are topical links to the relatively easy references on the net and also there are certain links in general for most topics and for beginners at the bottom of the page.

Each topic should cover the following aspects with approximately the given weights:

20% - History of the discoveries; 40% - Concept: idea, examples, classification, equations (if simple); 20% - Technology involved in researching in this are; 20% - Spin-Offs - i.e. how discoveries from this area solved problems (or created benefits) in other areas of human endeavor

The discussion group for all project-groups and mentors & coordinators to meet is Stimulus. Make sure that your discussions are meaningful and decent at all times. You need to use the logins provided by the school to access this group. Anyone from outside Abhinav, may also join the discussions, however, you need to write an email to Mr. Santosh Lakeshri to get enrolled. Please note that some of the resources linked below are available only on the intranet of Abhinav Vidyalay


Area  - Topic  - (Guide) - Scope - Demo

The March of Reason

Ca8, a7

Patterns in the Sky   (Rangita Menon)
What we see up there on a clear night, with the naked eye: Constellations, Stars and Planets. Their movements and the patterns they form. Using these patterns to measure time - Day, Month, Year (how are calendars made, about time measurement)
Make a Sun Dial and an astrolabe, Use Starry Night

Ca6, b8

Beginning to Understand   (Medha Kshemkalyani)
Mythology; Panchang as a record of patterns of daily & annual movement of Sun, Moon and Planets; Early ideas of the Universe - particularly Ptolemy's Geocentric view ; Heliocentric view of Copernicus, Galileo (use of telescope & first observations), Brahe & Keplar

SAb3, b9, b10

Making Light of IT   (Santosh Lakeshri)
The electromagnetic Spectrum, Radio & Optical windows; Luminosity, Brightness, Pogson & magnitudes, distance-magnitude relation

SBa8, b2, b10

From the Labs to the Sky   (Varsha Patil)
Kirchoff's Laws & Spectra. Atomic Origins of Spectra-Bohr's model (applet), Spectrum as a fingerprint
(CD spectroscope, NASA spectroscope)

SBa1, a2, a3

Understanding the Heavens   (Varsha Patil)
Saha, his ionisation formula & the birth of astrophysics, Eddington and the engines of stars, Chandrashekhar & his Limit

SAa5, a8, b2

Laws of Nature   (Varsha Patil)
The Quantum World (idea of duality, Heisenberg's Uncertainity Principle, The Zoo of Particles
Tools of Exploration

Ca4, a9

Collecting Light   (Nirma Tiwari)
Optical Telescopes - Refractors & Reflectors, How they work, Major observatories; The physics - Focal lengths & magnification, Diameters and magnitudes, Amateur Telescopes
Working model of telescope (refractor & reflector) with adjustable lenses / mirrors and cut open from the top for audience to view the path of a laser through the optics

Cb1, b4

Recording Light   (Makarand Moghe)
Photography (plates, emulsions, exposures), Plate Scales; Finding Brightness, Measuring sizes, Tracing Motion using multiple photographs, Amateur Photography (Demonstrate using photograph of stars how to find relative brightness of star using image diameters. How to find plate scale and therefore sizes of objects.)

SAa1, a3, a6

Analysing Light   (Makarand Moghe)
Spectroscopes - design, work of prisms & gratings; Types of lines and composition, Thickness and abundance of elements, Doppler shift and velocities, Spectroscopy in other wavelengths- UV, X-ray
( Identifying elements, and velocities from the shift in line)

Ca1, b3

A Step Outside of Earth   (Nirma Tiwari)
Basic Aeronautics - principles of flight, fuels, limits (balloons to high-altitude airplanes); Rocketry - Sounding rockets to multi-stage rockets and the Shuttle

(Paper model of rockets and space shuttles, Principles of rocketry using balloons)


Cb6, b10

Big Brother in the Sky   (Santosh Lakeshri)
Satellites - types and purposes; monitoring weather, geological activity, military movements, Space Telescopes

(Paper model of a communication satellite and Hubble Space Telescope/Chandra/Spitzer/Egret)


Ca10, b5, b2

Exploring the Neighbors   (Santosh Lakeshri)
Interplanetary missions using robotic spacecraft and probes, their design and limits; planning the mission - orbits, payloads, telemetry, power, etc.

(Paper model of Voyager, Pioneer, Cassini, SOHO)


SAb4, b8, a9, a10

Life in Space   (Nirma Tiwari)
Manned missions (Soyuz to Apollo and now ISS); problems - Air, Water, Food, Radiation, Biology in Micro-gravity, Loneliness

(Large labelled chart of a space suit-lunar program, present day ISS, Z-1 prototype : portable life support system 2.0)


SBb1, b3, b9

Reaching Out   (Santosh Lakeshri)
Plans for manned missions to other planets and stars; Dealing with problems - Navigation, Communication, Food production, Fuels

(Model of a lunar colony)

Family of the Sun

Ca2, a3

Tour of the Solar System   (Pooja Sarang)
The sequence of planets, their distances from the Sun, their relative sizes and moons, rings, etc. Gaseous / Rocky, Atmospheres, Possibility of water

(A model of solar system from sun to oort's cloud using POP/thermocol)


SAa7, b7, b5

In Shape with Gravity   (Pooja Sarang)
Keplar (Laws of Orbits), Newton (Law of Gravity, Laws of motion), Orbits & Trajectories; Roundness & conservation of angular momentum; Roche Limits, moons & rings

(Applets regarding orbits, chaos, Roche limits)


SBb8, b7, a7

Dance of Charges   (Pooja Sarang)
The layers of the Sun - Core to Corona; the magnetic field and sun-spots, flares, CME's and solar winds and their effects on Earth, Cosmic-ray showers and Aurorae; Satellite disruptions, Magnetic fields & dynamo cores; Io & Jupiter

( Model of the cut section of sun showing the inner layers and the outer phenomena like granules, flares and sunspots)


Cb9 Or 9Bb2

Distant Visitors   (Reena Khatyani)
Comets - structures, types & origin (Oort's theory), Kuiper belt objects Trojans and other rocks; The possibility of impact and its solutions

( Show the effects of impacts using sand/water/mud with ball bearings/marbles to demonstrate crater size, tsunami, grazing impacts)


Ba5, a9

A Coincidence Called Life   (Reena Khatyani)
Habitable zone; Geological activity in the young earth leading to formation of atmosphere, Wickramasinghe-Hoyle theory, Action of Lunar tides; formation of life

(Applets regarding tides, habitable zone)


Ba4, a6, b6

Life Elsewhere   (Mariya Khan)
Discovery of exoplanets; possibility of water (or other solvents); Life there could be like us; the Drake-Sagan equation; SETI

( Demonstrate the evidence of discovery of exoplanets and their characteristics.)

Pockets of Energy

9Bb4, b6, Ab4

The Zoo of Stars   (Pratibha Dubey)
Tiny spots of light in a vastly empty space; Types of stars - by Luminosity, Size, Mass and Spectra

9Aa7, 9Bb7, b8

More Kinds of Stars   (Medha Kshemkalyani)
Binaries, Variables, X-Ray Binaries, Cepheids and their use in measuring distances

9Aa4, b1, b6

The Larger Creatures   (Pratibha Dubey)
Nebulae - Reflection, Planetary, Dark, HII Regions, Nurseries; Clusters of Stars - Open, Globular

9Ba3, b5

Arranging the Jigsaw   (Pratibha Dubey)
The HR diagram; The regions of the HR and the idea of ages of these stars (based on metalicity & complexity in spectra)

SAa2, a4

The Birth of Stars   (Makarand Moghe)
Birth - Bok Globules, Gravitational Collapse, Proto-stars, T-Tauri Phase, Propylyds; Coming into the Main sequence, Reactions that keep the Sun shining - pp-chain, CNO-cycle

SAb1, b6

Maturity & Death   (Makarand Moghe)
Fuel Vs Gravity; Contraction and Qunatum Pressures; The Onion-skin model; Red Giants, Novae & Supernovae, White Dwarfs, Neutron Stars & Pulsars (properties, mechanisms & use)
To compare the sizes use balls of different sizes and to explain the mass use seesaw or physical balance with weights. Mount double cone with LEDs fitted inside it on the pipe which can be mounted on the motor gives an idea of pulsar

9Aa2, a6, a8

Against Common Sense   (Makarand Moghe)
Black Holes - Size, Ergosphere, Event Horizon, How time is affected inside the BH; Wormholes or the Einstein-Rosen Bridge
Vortex in a waterbody or vortex made up of paper fitted in rectangular box or made up of funnel cardboard to explain bottemless well , and send some ballbearings near to it so as to explain their motion in the BH.
The Big Picture

9Ab3, b5, 9Bb3

Islands of stars   (Raju Dharmadhikari)
The idea of a galaxy; Galaxies - Types by shape (Hubble's Fork), Groups (Clusters, Super Clusters, Ö); The giant engines - supermassive black holes and jets; Quasars, Compact Objects, Are the galaxies evolving?, Cannnibal Galaxies

9Ba4, a7, 9Ab7

The Hidden Universe   (Mala Chanda)
Beyond optical observation - multiwavelength astronomy - different wavelengths and the phenomena seen; The Milky Way at different wavelengths; Stress on Radio Astronomy with phenomena; Galaxies active in Radio emissions, AGN's,
Analogy with the radio transister with the antena or model of RT

9Ba2, a5, a6

Observing the Universe?   (Raju Dharmadhikari)
The scales of structure in the observable universe - Man - Town - Country - Earth - Solar System - Galaxy - Local Cluster - Super Cluster - Mega Clusters - Great Wall & Voids; Slipher's interpretation of red-shift of nebulae as Doppler shift; Hubble & Humason observations of galaxies moving away and the idea of expansion; Baade's observation of Galaxy rotation curves led to Dark Matter; Supernova observations by Perlmutter and evidence of Dark Energy

9Aa1, a5, b2

Einstein's Legacy   (Makarand Moghe)
Light speed as a constant; Special Relativity; General Relativity & Mach's ideas; Space-Time-Gravity
To explain curvature of space time use box fix tightly placed thin cloth with the matrix or box of squares drawn with the black pen then keep some balls of varying mass on it . The dents so produce indicate the gravitational field. Then use heavy ball-bearing to explain black hole

9Ba1, a8, b1

The Story of the Universe   (Mariya Khan)
The Big Bang - Standard Model of the Universe, Concepts, Expansion, Formation of Elements, Thermal history, clumping and structure, CMB

Links common to most topics (Also for advanced study)

  1. A handy beginners guide to Astronomy; covers all basic concepts in simple manner with questions to drill understanding with each chapter

  2. Hyper-physics - Concept maps with quick notes for Physics and allied areas

  3. A good eBook with deep, yet simple discussions of concepts in high-school Physics

  4. NASA home for latest missions and their findings, also the concepts behind the exploration

  5. European Space Agency for Europe's contribution to space exploration

  6. ISRO Home: Indian efforts at space exploration

  7. Martin Dale Center - Links to hundreds of Tutorials, Applets & Presentations to learn stuff

  8. The Facebook group  - Stimulus - for discussions and ideating

  9. Lectures in Astronomy for high school students - a) Solar System and b) Stars & Cosmology

  10. Some useful software - For viewing maps of the sky (Celestia, Skymap) or simulating the sky and some objects (Stellarium)

  11. An FAQ on Stellar Physics by IIA