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PhET Sims + Science Literacy


Posted August 4, 2012 by Dr. Henri Montandon

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"PhET Simulations and Science Literacy Web Resource"


f a picture is worth a thousand words, then what is a simulation worth? We reckon a one minute simulation is worth approximately 1,200,000 words. (20 frames per second x 60 seconds x 1000 words per frame.) This site contains dozens of interactive simulations from all the sciences, developed by the well known PhET team at the University of Colorado, Boulder.

(Originally Physics Educational Technology, the team has kept the acronym although there are now plenty of biological, chemical and neuroscience simulations as well.)

Each simulation has adjustable parameters, as well as measures which can be applied to analyze the dynamics of the model. Each run is a separate experiment which can be saved and played back.

The sims are designed for all levels of learners, from grade school through university. Of interest to consciousness science are Resonance, Molecular Shapes, Membrane Channels, Curve Fitting, The LAC Operon, Natural Selection, Plinko Probability, Normal Modes, and many others.

What distinguishes this site from many other fine sims sites is that each of these is free, downloadable and can even be embedded on your own site. Plus free source code for developers.  Their work has been translated into over two dozen languages. I played with six of the sims, and found them very easy to use.

Although I counted 120 simulations on the site, good sims always make me hungry for more.

This site should be added to your library of sims sites. Check it when you need an interactive, dynamic visualization of a basic science concept, especially if you want to place it in your own blog or site.

Resonance Sim

For advanced undergraduate students: Observe resonance in a collection of driven, damped harmonic oscillators. Vary the driving frequency and amplitude, the damping constant, and the mass and spring constant of each resonator. Notice the long-lived transients when damping is small, and observe the phase change for resonators above and below resonance.


About the Blog: Cool Runnings

The 1993 cult-classic of the same name was a film about something unique yet not to be missed – the first-ever Jamaican Olympic bobsled team. In this site we aim to present you with yarns of a different sort – also unique and not to be missed – scientific and mathematical sites which will quicken pulses, expand horizons, and inspire. Each week we will present a different site, with a brief annotation from our editors. This is a labor of love, and we invite you to suggest your favorite sites as well. If your pick is chosen, we will include your choice (identified as contributed by you) as well as an autographed picture from a top scientist in consciousness science.

Consciousness science is highly interdisciplinary, and COOL RUNNINGS will reflect this, featuring sites from all over the pedagogical map. — Dr. Henri Montandon

Did you enjoy this article? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Please be respectful both in inquiry and debate. Subscribe to our RSS feed + sign up for email updates to stay conscious!

Dr. Henri Montandon



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