Physlets

Physlets-"Physics applets"-are small, flexible Java applets  that can be used in a wide variety of World Wide Web (WWW) applications.  Many other Physics-related Java applets are being produced around the world - some of them very useful for education.  However, the class of applets we call "Physlets" has some attributes that make it especially valuable for the educational enterprise.

Physlets are simple.  The graphics are simple; each Physlet is designed to deal with one facet of a phenomenon and does not incorporate very much in the way of data analysis. This keeps Physlets relatively small - easing downloading problems over slow network connections - and removes details that could be more distracting than helpful.

Physlets are flexible.  All Physlets can be controlled with JavaScript. For example, Animator can be used for almost any problem involving forces or particle trajectories. Only the JavaScript - not the Java - associated with the problem needs to be changed. Data taking and data analysis can be added when needed using inter-applet communication.

Physlets are written for the Web.  They can run on any platform (on the Macintosh using Physlets requires the HotJava browser from Sun) and can be embedded in almost any type of html document, whether it be a homework assignment, a personal website, or an extensive science outreach site. Physlets can be used as an element in almost any curriculum.

Physlets are freely distributable for noncommercial use. Physlet archives, that is, compressed archives containing compiled Java programs, can be downloaded from the Davidson College WebPhysics server:

 http://webphysics.davidson.edu/applets/applets.html.

These files can be mirrored on a local hard drive or on a noncommercial web server in order to provide students easy access to customized curricular material.