AAPT vs. Global Physics Department
It’s not a fight, it’s a comparison. Let me just be clear about that.
First, a quick overview. What is the AAPT? This is the American Association of Physics Teachers. The AAPT has two national conferences a year. If you go to one, they can be a bit crazy in terms of event. Lots of stuff and lots of people. It’s a good time and you can learn quite a bit. This winter (now), the AAPT conference is in New Orleans – so I didn’t even have to fly here.
What about the Global Physics Department? This is an online meeting that happens about once a week (typically Wednesday’s at 8:30 PM Central). Ok, that’s about all you need to know about GPD.
Now, for a comparison. Here is my analogy for GPD vs. AAPT conferences.
On the left is the Saturn V rocket. This sucker is huge. It had a thrust of over 4 million Newtons. Of course, it only ran the main engines for 6 minutes. That’s still enough to essentially get you into orbit. On the right is the Deep Space 1 with an ion propulsion system. Instead of using a chemical reaction to throw stuff out the engine, the ion thruster uses electrostatic forces to throw out charged particles. This thruster has a force of around 90 milliNewtons – so, not a lot. However, it can run for extremely long periods of time.
Why is AAPT Like the Saturn V? If you just go to the talks-portion of the conference, that is like three days. Three days is not a long time. However, there is a lot going on. Large forces, small time. Even the talks are usually short ranging from about 10 minutes to 30 minutes. Of course the reason for short talks is that you can fit more of them in.
Why is GPD Like the Ion Thruster? The GPD talks are one hour long each week. However, they don’t just happen twice a year. They happen all the time. Each GPD talk is like a little charged particle that is shot out the back of the physics community pushing it forward. I really like the GPD talks – they help me to focus on a single topic at a time instead of jumping from session to session like I do at the AAPT meetings. Oh, also the talks are all recorded for GPD – this makes it the same as having a time machine. Just imagine if you could go back and watch all the old AAPT talks. That would be awesome.
It might seem like I am saying that GPD is better than AAPT. No, that’s not true. Just think back to the Deep Space 1 spacecraft. Do you think it used its ion thruster to get off the surface of the Earth? No, it had to use a chemical rocket first. So, the same is true for GPD and AAPT. They serve slightly different purposes.