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Conceptual Diagrams

As you read through a physics textbook, you will see many examples of schematics, or conceptual diagrams, that help readers understand the physics. Drawing such diagrams is an important skill that you will practice as an element of your term paper.

Shown below is an example of simple black and white conceptual diagram that illustrates a scientific idea in a biology journal. The principles of drawing a clear schematic are universal, they apply equally well to physics as they do to biology. Notice that every schematic has a caption underneath that helps the reader interpret the schematic. This diagram would get full points in my grading rubric. I expect that everyone in the class has the ability to pick up a black pen and a white piece of paper and draw something like this.

Example from Dr Bill Dennison, University of Maryland

Creating a good, unambiguous and information-rich diagram requires some time and imagination. It requires that you understand the most important parts of a science idea, and think about how to summarize the idea in an visual way. You will not be graded on artistic flair, three-dimensional perspective or the use of computer aided design.

If you enjoy the intersection of art and science, I encourage you to cultivate this interest. There are so many ideas to explore. Beyond the pure fun of it, visual communication is a valuable asset in your skill set. Here is an example of one of my science drawings that helped me understand a concept, and helped me communicate the idea to other people.

Figure 2. The colors of a rainbow appear as arches across the sky because each wavelength of light bounces off a spherical raindrop at a specific “magic” angle. The Sun (not shown) is behind the observer, sending rays of sunlight into the raindrops.

wiki/conceptual_diagrams.txt · Last modified: 2019/02/27 10:52 by ethanminot