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UWC professor uses his cartoon to teach complex nuclear physics concepts

The cartoon focuses on complex nuclear physics concepts, formulas and calculations and breaks them down to make nuclear physics a simple-to-understand process. Picture: Supplied

The cartoon focuses on complex nuclear physics concepts, formulas and calculations and breaks them down to make nuclear physics a simple-to-understand process. Picture: Supplied

Published Feb 21, 2022

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Cape Town - Nico Orce, a professor and nuclear physicist at UWC, has garnered worldwide praise and adoration in the science community for his YouTube cartoon clip called Isomeric and the Radioactive Ion Bean Facility, which follows the adventures of a cartoon physicist.

The cartoon focuses on complex nuclear physics concepts, formulas and calculations and breaks them down to make nuclear physics a simple-to-understand process.

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Orce’s idea was that it’s supposed to be make a quick and fun introduction to nuclear physics a bit clearer.

“I believe this can be a powerful teaching tool – a way to gently hook the student into the subject, and make some complicated concepts a little clearer.”

Orce knows first-hand how difficult it can be to understand complex concepts.

One example he used was understanding how to reach the production of the exotic nuclei that exist for a short time, but tell us so much about the creation of elements in explosions.

He has also played an important role in the growth of the UWC physical sciences department, which was ranked number one in South Africa and on the continent by the Times Higher Education Subject rankings for 2021/2022.

His methods of teaching through cartoons must be a big contribution to that.

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Orce has led students and done research all around the world, conducting UWC’s first Africa-led nuclear experiment that was proposed at Cern (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), as well as being a driving force behind the multiUniversity Gamma ray spectrometer for knowledge in Africa (shortened to Gamka – the khoi word for lion).

He uses his real-life experiments and experiences as part of Isomeric’s story, with an interesting twist in the use of the ray in the cartoon.

But Orce’s story doesn’t end with the Isomeric and the Radioactive Ion Bean Facility, as he has two other stories lined up to continue Isomeric’s adventure.

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The cartoons and teachings have led him to research conferences where he has been asked to give a science/education talk at an international conference.

Cape Argus

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