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Abstract Title: Introducing Coarse-Graining: From Molecular Dynamics to Random Walks
Abstract: Analyzing structure formation in chemical and biological systems often requires coarse-graining -averaging over short time and length scales of the system to reduce complexity and to obtain physical intuition. We present an instructional sequence intended to introduce this concept to introductory level students. The sequence involves students in constructing and comparing several computational models for diffusion: a deterministic molecular dynamics model - treating all the interacting particles in the many-body system using deterministic mechanical laws; an intermediate Langevin model, where the mechanical laws are applied only to the colloidal particles while the solvent is accounted for by friction and stochastic forces, and a random walk on a lattice model. The sequence was implemented in an experimental program for scientifically oriented excelling 10th grade students at a regional science center. We will present preliminary findings from a study of the evolution in students' perceptions of diffusion and Brownian motion.
Abstract Type: Contributed Poster Presentation

Author/Organizer Information

Primary Contact: Haim Edri
Weizmann Institute of Science, The Department of Science Teaching
Hertzl st. 234, Rehovot
Tel Aviv, 7610001
and Co-Presenter(s)
Nava Schulman, Bat-Sheva Eylon, Sam Safran, Edit Yerushalmi