Georgia Journal of Science


Due to advancements in computing techniques it has become possible to extend the accessibility of physics experiments across the physics curriculum by means of computational simulations. The widespread availability of computers in modern classrooms provides virtual access to hands-on physics, chemistry, and biology experiments, among others. Here, specifically, we consider Robert Millikan’s famous oil drop experiment. This experiment requires equipment that can be dangerous and expensive. A more practical approach is achieved via a computer simulation, a useful and a universally available alternative. The goal is to encourage scientific thinking, literacy, and innovation while promoting a free network of academic tools. Here we present a simulation that allows the user to carry out Millikan’s ingenious experiment by measuring the velocities of oil drops as they are influenced by an electric field. This is repeated until enough data is produced to deduce the charge of the electron. The simulation provides a clean and simple user interface, allowing for realistic interactions within a computational environment. For best results, a basic understanding of the theory and experimental procedure is valuable. We use Easy Java Simulations as the programming environment to carry out the simulation presented here.

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