So what better way to begin to understand Linus Pauling’s use of models and demonstration along with a captivating lecture style than to take a class from him… this afternoon found me enrolled in ‘Valence and Molecular Structure’, for which I’m certain I am lacking the prerequisites. You too can sit in on any of the three-lecture series, conveniently presented in 5-10minute increments for those of us needing to rest our braincells more frequently than the majors in the class. Have a look here: http://scarc.library.oregonstate.edu/coll/pauling/bond/video/index.html
Some transcriptions from MY notebook during the first part of the first lecture:
– In Dr. Pauling’s initial lecture, he begins by masterfully setting up the complex material to come with examples most likely familiar to all (eg. diamond and graphite – both ONLY carbon atoms, but very different due to arrangement of those atoms, etc.)
– This classical lecture scene would be difficult to reproduce in my department; we have built little boxes of classrooms, and plug faculty into where-ever best fits the schedule, with little or no thought or concern for the individual teaching style, the access to materials, visual aids, etc. I have it a bit better than most, in that I teach, at least at present, next door to where my gizmos are stored. But those simple things – models that can be pulled out from behind the podium; a large podium in the first place to set up demonstrations!; a wall of chalkboards that can be moved up/down/right/left to have a record of the full day’s lecture; those are all elements of the educational environment that many of us have lost, and a single power-point screen does a poor job of replacing.
– Ok – 4 minutes in to my first lecture on Valence, and Dr. Pauling picks up a sample of feldspar and writes KAlSi3O8 on the board. Then he shows various other samples, and rattles off: “…beryl, Be3Al2Si6O18, garnet, Mg3Al2Si3O12, tourmaline – I can’t remember the formula of tourmaline right at the moment…” Looks like I’ve go some work to do.
– Model of the Element Copper – looks like a stack of 2-inch cannon balls; a tetrahedron six ‘atoms’ wide at the base and six two-inch atoms tall. Dr. Pauling points out that this way of arranging spheres in space, each sphere with six neighboring spheres, is the way nature packs atoms most closely in space -the center of each atom in the copper molecule 2.55 Angstrom units from the neighboring atom center (I’ll bet the balls are 2.55 inches!). So I just learned something from watching this; even though the model on the podium in the live lecture is appearing in a three inch square window on my computer, there is something fundamentally different than reading the same information in a book, or seeing it in a flashy cartoon-based slide presentation. IS this more effective, more engaging? If so, why?
-OK, I feel like nobel prize material now; Dr. Pauling finished his discussion of the copper molecule by noting ‘this is sometimes the way in which cannonballs are piled in front of the courthouse, on the lawn….’