For Some Reason, These Quantum Mechanics Toys Didn’t Catch On

Allison Marsh, IEEE Spectrum, Aug 03, 2018
Commentary by Stephen Downes

These were aluminum blocks created by Costas Papaliolios in the 1960s to help students understand quantum mechanics; they were hollow and had polarized filters through which you would shine light. "The quantum toys were equivalent to the magnetic field of the Stern-Gerlach experiment and to Schwinger’s matrix. By reordering, adding, or omitting blocks, you could see the unique characteristics of calculations made with matrices." All very good, but nobody could understand how to use them. If you were given some guidance, then they helped, but you couldn't just figure out on your own. That's the thing with manipulables (and here I think all the way back to John Holt's Cuisenaire rods). They help, but they need context. Anyhow, this article tells a great story.

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