Jimmy Newland, a high school teacher in Houston, seriously takes the cake. He took with my physics lessons and recreated them better than I could have imagined in his physics classroom.

You have to check out his blog and hear his students talking about their experiments to fully appreciate the kind of learning that can take place when students get free reign to explore and learn inside a virtual world.

Here’s a sample of a student talking about his experiment in terminal velocity.

Great job, Jimmy! I’m incredibly happy to see that Portal helped make learning physics fun for your students 🙂

If you remember from last time, I calculated the amount of work being exerted by an aerial faith plate, then used my answer to calculate the distance a projectile would fly. I asserted that if I could predict where the projectile would land using the amount of work being done, then work is a measurement that is actually conserved by an aerial faith plate. The only problem is that in calculating the initial velocity of a projectile off an aerial faith plate, equal masses cancel out. Equating work to kinetic energy and solving for velocity, we find that:

v = √(2*W/m)

and given that

W = m*a*d,

we actually have

v = √(2*m*a*d/m) [bolded for emphasis]

And if the two masses are the same, they cancel out. So last time when I correctly predicted the distance my projectile would travel, I erroneously claimed that I was able to do so because that work done by aerial faith plates was conserved. It was actually because my calculations cancelled out mass, so being able to calculate the distance my projectile traveled had nothing to do with work.

So, I reran the experiment, this time with a weighted sphere, which, according to the game, has a larger mass of 75 kg. Plugging in to the equations above and running the same experiment as last time, we find that the weighted sphere should travel about 5 panels if the aerial faith plate enacts the same amount of work on any object it launches. As you can see in the video below, that clearly doesn’t happen.

Work done by the aerial faith plates isn’t conserved. It appears as if they ignore the mass of an object and so subsequently calculating the amount of work an aerial faith plate exerts isn’t useful. It appears they use a different factor to determine the path a projectile will take, which will be investigated soon.