Monday, July 21, 2008

The best of hands-on, real-world, interdisciplinary, multi-media learning

In true, left-brained, analytical spirit:

Over his 38 years at Yale, Bennett carried out research in diverse fields ranging from atomic physics to computer science and acoustics...

Many of the approaches Bennett used to collect data for his projects provided much amusement to his students and colleagues. For one project, he rented a truck and filled it with equipment and a mattress and, together with his wife and dog, set out to measure the "Fifth Force" at a site where a large body of water changed height rapidly. The site he chose was the locks on the Snake River in Washington, which gave him special dispensation to camp there with his truck for the summer.

He was also frequently seen at various sites around the Yale campus collecting data for his popular course on "The Computer as a Research Tool." For this course he was named one of the 10 best professors at Yale for many years in a row. His lectures in that course were multi-media events and included demonstrations of firestorms, removal of warts by laser, calculations of how long it would take monkeys sitting at the typewriter to produce phrases recognized from great works of literature, and comparisons of the sound waveforms of the French horn and the garden hose.

One time the professor was spotted dressed in scuba gear and pushing scales and other gadgets at the bottom of the Yale swimming pool, measuring drag coefficients.

...He used his expertise in physics and sound to make calculations on how to decrease the noise levels in the Yale dining halls and used those successfully to improve the ability to converse and to enjoy chamber music concerts there. He also measured magnetic fields around campus and around New Haven. With the magnetic field data, he showed that it was improbable that those fields could cause cancer.

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