Physics can be hard, right? Even though the idea of curved space-time has been around for at least 100 years, most of us average Joes and Joelles have a hard time wrapping our heads around the concept. And so even upon the recent proof of gravitational waves many of us still have a hard time understanding just what they mean. The same is true with many scientific concepts.
Luckily, PhET Interactive Simulations is bringing hard-to-picture scientific concepts closer to the real world. On their landing page they have a button that says, “Play with Simulations” and that is exactly what it feels like. Are you trying to describe how the density and volume of wood and ice will decide how they float in water? There is a sim for that. Want to show how a balloon collects electrons from a sweater? There is a sim for that. Having trouble getting students to visualize the Stern-Gerlach experiments? There is a sim for that.
I usually look for videos to augment my lessons, but PhET simulations take it a step (or many steps) further by adding interactivity. You can change the concentration of a solution or the angle and force of a throw or the amplitude of a huge selection of variables for a growing number of phenomenon. Something for everyone can be found by searching by subject, grade, and even device compatibility.
Check it out and please comment on your favourites or any you found particularly useful. My current favourite below.