SNIPPET LESSON PLAN FOR:
Thermonuclear Reactions in the Sun and As a Source of Unlimited Energy for Mankind Using "Spiderman 2"
Subject: Science & Technology — Astronomy — The Sun,Ages: 12+: Middle School Level
Length: Snippet: Approximately eight and 1/4 minutes in two segments. Lesson: approximately 30 minutes.
Learner Outcomes/Objectives: Students will be introduced to the thermonuclear reactions that take place in the nucleus of the sun. They will come to know why it would be a major technological breakthrough to be able to control thermonuclear reactions to make electricity and the difficulties tnat have made this endeavor impossible to date. Students will be introduced to the magnetic fields of the Sun and see films sunspots and solar prominences.
Rationale: The film "Spiderman 2" provides a cinematic representation of an attempt to control a nuclear fusion reaction with strong magnetic fields in order to produce a limitless amount of energy. Showing these short segments will provide interest and variety to enhance classes on the Sun, thermonuclear reactions, and the Environment.
Description of the Snippet: A scientist is being funded by Peter Parker’s former school mate, Harry Osborn, now turned wealthy corporation manager. The scientist, Dr. Otto Octavius, is doing research on a clean and limitless energy source that could provide cheap electricity to the whole world. He is trying to devise a way to hold nuclear fusion in a controlled environment. During a conversation with Peter Parker, Dr. Octavius describes his research and invites Peter to a demonstration in his lab. In order to manipulate the mini-Sun he is about to create, Dr. Octavius plugs an artificial intelligence device into his spine through which he can control four arms that can withstand the high temperatures involved and which are not affected by the strong magnetic fields produced by the mini-Sun. Initially it all seems to work as desired, but soon the mini-Sun gets out of control, its magnetic fields attract most metallic objects in the room and large prominences form arcs of hot matter. Dr. Octavius refuses to admit his failure and insists on carrying on with the experiment. Spiderman has to come to help stop the device.
1. Review the two film clips suggested for this lesson plan and make sure that they are suitable for the class.
2. Review the links referenced below; pick those that are appropriate for the class and the lesson. Decide when to present them to the class.
3. Be familiar with the location of the clips on the DVD, check for accuracy of the minute and second locations of the clips on the DVD, and practice getting quickly from one film clip to the other. Cue the DVD to the beginning of the first segment. Assemble all other matierials necessary for the class.
Step by Step1. Introduce the first clip by providing the following information through a lecture or a student handout. The handout can be created by copying and pasting the text into a file in a word processing program, deleting any instructions, and adapting it to the needs of the class.
3. Ask the question of why many oppose nuclear energy. Issues such as safety (the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, Chernobyl, Three Mile Island) and radioactive residues will surely come up. In fact these are the two major arguments against nuclear power. Without attempting to start a debate on nuclear power, let alone to reach a conclusion about it, introduce the fact that if we were able to reproduce the fusion reactions that take place in stars, there would be no debate on nuclear power nor the need for any other alternative energy source. Hydrogen the fuel for the thermonuclear processes of the Sun is all around us (as in water, H20) and there are no toxic or dangerous residues. The result would be clean and unlimited energy for the whole planet.
4. Show segment # 1. (Dr. Octavius explains precisely that if successful, he would be able to provide clean and cheap electricity for everyone, as just explained.)
5. Ask students why they think that controlled fusion as devised by Dr. Octavius is not being done in real life. Make sure that the discussion includes the concept that fusion thermonuclear reactions require high temperatures and pressures. Such a hot lump of matter could not be contained anywhere on Earth — any structure built to hold the material would burn or melt. Explain that the only theory that scientists have come up with to control a Sun-like fusion reaction on Earth, is to use magnetic fields of opposite polarity to control the very hot material. the resulting repulsion would force the mini-Sun to hover, not touching any material support.
6. Show the second segment. (Dr. Octavius creates a mini-Sun and tries to demonstrate how he can actually contain it with magnetic fields. However, the experiment runs out of control. Also seen are large prominences from the mini-Sun. These are large arcs or matter that flows out of the surface of the mini-Sun and fall back onto it. In fact, these prominences are the first to cause damage once the system becomes unstable.)
7. Ask the class what has happened in the segment. Lead the discussion toward the following concept: What appears to have happened to the experiment of Dr. Octavius is that the interaction between the magnetic fields used to keep the mini-Sun from expanding and those within the mini-Sun itself have rapidly and exponentially enhanced the strength of the magnetic fields within the mini-Sun. This first affects anything that could be attracted by a magnet, and then forms such large prominences that they get out of control destroying the whole laboratory.
8. Explain that another visible feature of the magnetic fields that come out or into the surface of the sun are sunspots. Where magnetic fields cross the surface, the temperature is somewhat lower than in the surrounding areas of the Sun, although they are still in the thousands of degrees. Show the class pictures and films on the Internet of Sunspots and solar prominences. A view of Sunspots on the solar surface is located at Sunspots. Movies of sunspot evolution over time are available at: Movies of Sunspot Activity. Dramatic movies of prominences are shown at SOHO Gallery. These sites are from NASA.
If conducting a solar observation, be sure to give students strict warnings about the dangers of looking directly at the sun and research other recommended precautions.
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