Simulation of the diffusion process on the Web

Maria Cecilia Coperchio
Francesco Luigi Navarria
Tiziano Rovelli
The educational material is intended for teaching general physics to non-physics students, such as those oriented towards biology, pharmacy, medicine etc., who do not usually have access to university computers as physics or mathematics students do.

The aim of the project is to create an interactive book oriented towards the experimental aspect of the discipline. This package should help in teaching and learning physics by offering new tools.

The document is provided with an open and self-evident structure, which should permit an expansion of the package and an easy navigation even for novice users.

The text (hypertext) is naturally divided between frame pages and pages containing notes. Frame pages present basic notions following a main line; the notes offer more detailed information comprising as well mathematical details. The bibliography contains general references and some reference to research papers whenever relevant.

Inlined figures help to understand experimental equipments.

Animations developed with Imagemagick show standard phenomena as a preliminary example before virtually executing the experiments.

The capability of executing scripts inside Mosaic has been exploited in conjunction with the use of forms to pass input data to the server. This is useful to create ad-hoc HTML pages and simulations from conditions imposed by the user. The interactivity should stimulate students in repeating experiments and in making comparisons and developing their own considerations on different effects generated from different starting conditions.

Simulations are presented as a sequence of images automatically displayed to the user. This is achieved by activating a link to a script calling CCI Slide Show.

Imagemapping permits ``virtual measurements''. On the basis of the point-and-click philosophy, there are clickable images where it is possible to obtain the local value of a physical variable simply by clicking on a point. The values obtained are then stored and it is possible to re-use them to produce graphs.

The goal is to build a tool to render a student capable of following in detail parts of the programme of a General Physics course and to gather applicable understanding of specific arguments through a sort of virtual experimentation.

The philosophy is not to create an alternative to the laboratory but a complement to it, by offering a way to interact in situations not easily reproducible in a lab, because of their danger or instability or long temporal evolution or other.

III WWW Conference, Darmstadt 10-14 Apr. 1995