Fowler's Physics Applets

Fowler's Physics Applets

Michael Fowler - University of Virginia Physics

Old home page.

Check out our flashlets (but they're not mobile friendly -- we're currently updating them).

This website is under reconstruction! I am working with several students to update the Java applets to JavaScript, which will play on any device.

One-dimensional one-atom classical gas

This applet describes a single atom gas moving in one dimension. It accelerates or decelerates only through classical collisions with the moving piston on its container. This alone is enough to explain why the gas gets warm when it is compressed and cool when expanded.

Rutherford Scattering

Rutherford scattering from a Thomson Atom and from a Nuclear Atom - Relevant Lecture in Physics 252Modern Physics.

Watch alpha particles scatter from Thomson's model atom with charge spread evenly through all the atom's volume (as most people believed), and another model with all the charge concentrated in a small central nucleus.These were the two competing theories of atomic positive charge distribution in 1910. The startling experimental discovery of occasional large angle scattering proved there had to be a nucleus. This was the birth of nuclear physics.

Einstein's Explanation of Brownian Motion

This applet shows how atomic velocities cause the Brownian Motion of a dust particle. In one panel a small ball jitters. In the next, we see that it jitters because many smaller balls bat it rapidly about. Here's the original Java version.

Group Velocity and Phase Velocity

Change the group and phase velocities of interfering sine waves. Relevant Lecture for Physics 252 Modern Physics.

Eclipse of the Moon

A short movie of the Moon entering the Earth's shadow, and how it appears from Earth. The ancient Greeks used this picture to estimate the distance to the Moon. Their estimate was within ten per cent of the correct answer.

Kepler's Laws

Kepler's Laws

Projectile Motion

Shoot a cannon (or throw a ball!) to see how high and far the ball flies.> Here's the original Java applet.

Kinetic Proof of Pythagoras' Theorem

Prove Pythagoras' theorem by moving the triangles around--in the original configuration, the total area inside the red square is equal to that of the four identical triangles plus the area of the central square on the hypotenuse (side = triangle's longest side). Rearrange to see that the total area inside the red square is also that of the four triangles plus the sum of the areas of squares on the other two sides.

Wave Pulse Encounters Different Medium

A wave pulse traveling down a uniform string under tension comes to a join with a string of different density. The pulse is partially transmitted, partially reflected. The relative densities of the two strings can be set by the slider. Note the phase of the reflected wave as a function of relative string densities. The physics is the same for a wide variety of wave reflection phenomena.

Click here to play!

Two Dimensional Collisions (Java)

(Trial version of this.)

Click here to play!

Old Java applet nicely illustrates motion in a two dimensional collision in the center of mass frame and the "lab" frame.

Newton's Cannon (Java)

This is still in Java: Newton's imaginary cannon is on a high mountain, and fires a cannonball above the atmosphere. Depending on speed,it could fall, circle the earth, or fly away depending on how hard it was fired, showing the motion of an cannonball near the Earth and of the Moon are different aspects of the same thing. (Here's the Flash version.)


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