Electromagnetic Hearts

by Ed Nolan

Ed currently works for the newly founded Institute for Educational Outreach. His hobbies include backpacking and MIDI-based musical composition.



Instructional Objective The learner will be able to identify the use and relative size of any frequency on the electromagnetic spectrum.

Learners/Context The learners are high school and college physics students who have had prior experiences with exponents, negative numbers, conceptual physics and the metric system.

This card game is designed as a lab exercise soon after the introduction of particles, radiation, energy and light. This game is played just like a conventional game of Hearts. Because the deck is designed like a standard playing deck, it can be used for many other games such as war and poker. The Hearts version of the game is preferred for advanced students and is described here.

Rationale The known electromagnetic spectrum is described as a continuum of ordinal values divided up into eight distinct categories. Much like standard playing cards, the eight categories serve as the suits and the ordinal values serve as the numbers. As shown later in this document, the electromagnetic continuum has been distributed among 52 cards.

Using this approach, the student is encouraged to conceptualize the electromagnetic spectrum by the relative size of the wavelengths presented. Since it is easier to think of International Broadcast Bands (5.95 - 26.1 MHz) as approximately 50 meters in length rather than 5 million centimeters, associations can be made between the function and the size of the frequencies.

Rules For the purpose of this lesson, the rules for Electromagnetic Hearts are as follows: The game requires four people. The objective of this game is to NOT gain points. The only way there is to gains points is by taking a "trick" that contains the Infinity card.

1. The 52-card deck is shuffled and dealt to all players in standard fashion (13 cards per player). Each player is given time to organize their cards in order of frequency. Once the players are ready, the person with the "Rotating Generator" card goes first. The first card (Rotating Generator in this case) is placed face up in the middle of the players. In clockwise order, everyone else puts in a face-up card of the same suit (the valid suits being Power/Phone, Radio Waves, Microwaves Infrared, Ultra Violet, X-Rays and Gamma Rays). Whoever has the highest frequency of that suit, wins the trick. The winner places the four cards nearby for a later tally. The winner of the trick lays down another card of any suit. Clockwise, everyone else puts in a face-up card of the same suit. The person with the highest suit takes the trick and so on. This process is repeated until all 13 tricks have been played.

2. If a player does not have a card of the suit played, that player may substitute, otherwise known as sluff, any other card. No matter what the value of a sluffed card is, that card can never win a trick.

3. Infinity cards can only be played if one has already been sluffed.

4. Once all cards have been played, each player examines all of their tricks for Infinity cards. Each player gains ten points for each Infinity card taken. There is one exception to this rule. If a player obtains all three Infinity cards, the other three players all gain ten points. This is called Shooting the Moon. This provides any player an opportunity to turn a losing game into a winning game.

Card and Deck Design Each card, except for the Infinity cards, has four types of playing information: The suit, frequency, use and relative wavelength. These fields help the student to identify the value of the card.

The 52 card deck is comprised of eight suits. There are six values for each suit except for visible light which has 7. The remaining three cards are the Infinity cards.

Design Process The topic alone provided a plethora of ideas for games. In an effort to keep the rules and the game simple, the standard 52 card deck appeared to be the obvious choice. As previously mentioned, two or more people can play a simple game of war with this deck (high card wins the trick).

The original card design included the actual wavelength for each frequency measured in centimeters. This additional field appeared to make the cards too noisy and intimidating for the learners.

The frequencies and comparisons are only approximations and have not been verified.

    Suit      Use                      Freq.    Length in cm    Relative size     
Power and     Rotating Generator       1        100,000,000,00  2 Earth's         
Phone                                           0               circumference     
              Microphone               10       50,000,000,000  Earth's           
              Audio Frequency          50       10,000,000,000  Asian continent   
              Transmission lines       10^2     5,000,000,000   Earth's diameter  
              Electrical Outlet        10^2.5   100,000,000     California's      
              Telephone line           10^3     50,000,000      Rhode Island's    
Radio Waves   AM Radio                 10^3.5   10,000,000      1/2 Mile          
              International Broadcast  10^4     5,000,000       30 Meters         
              Marine Navigation        10^4.5   1,000,000       15 Meters         
              Low VHF                  10^5     500,000         8 Meters          
              FM Radio                 10^5.5   100,000         4 Meters          
              High VHF                 10^6     50,000          1 Meter           
Microwaves    UHF Broadcast            10^6.5   10,000          30 Inches         
              Magnetrons               10^7     5,000           28 Inches         
              Klystrons                10^7.5   1,000           26 Inches         
              Harmonic Generators      10^8     500             24 Inches         
              Microwave Oven           10^8.5   100             22 Inches         
              Masers                   10^9     50              20 Inches         
Infrared      Fasers                   10^9.5   10              4 Inches          
              Welbach Mantles          10^10    5               2 Inches          
              Far Infrared             10^10.5  1               1 Centimeter      
              Intermediate Infrared    10^11    0.5             Fruit seed        
              Low-light vision         10^11.5  0.1             Millimeter        
              Laser                    10^12    0.05            Pinhead           
Visible       Red                      10^14.1  0.0007          Protozoa          
              Orange                   10^14.2  0.0006          Ameoba            
              Yellow                   10^14.3  0.0005          Golgi Apparatus   
              Green                    10^14.4  0.0004          Escherichia coil  
              Blue                     10^14.5  0.0003          Vacuole           
              Indigo                   10^14.6  0.0002          Prokaryotic cell  
              Violet                   10^14.7  0.0001          Neurotransmitter  
Ultra Violet  Kelvin Temp 10k          10^16    0.00005         Mitochondrion     
              Kelvin Temp 20k          10^16.2  0.00001         Polio Virus       
              Kelvin Temp 30k          10^16.5  0.000005        Tobacco mosaic    
              Kelvin Temp 40k          10^17    0.000001        Adenovirus virus  
              Kelvin Temp 50k          10^17.2  0.0000005       Eubacterial       
                                       5                        flagellum         
              Kelvin Temp 60k          10^17.5  0.0000001       Atom              
X-Rays        Radiography:             10^18    0.00000005      Half-Atom         
              Superficial Therapy                                                 
              Radiography:             10^18.2  0.00000001      Two Angstroms     
              Diagnostics              5                                          
              Radiography: Deep        10^18.5  0.000000005     Angstrom          
              GRE: Light Materials     10^19    0.000000001     Half-Angstrom     
              GRE: General             10^19.2  0.0000000005    Quarter-Angstrom  
              GRE: Welds and Heavy     10^19.5  0.0000000001    100th Angstrom    
Gamma Rays    Linear Accelerators      10^20    0.00000000005   Milli-Angstrom    
              Betatrons                10^22.5  0.00000000001   Oxygen nuclei     
              Synchrotrons             10^23    0.000000000001  Helium nuclei     
              Cyclotrons               10^23.5  0.000000000000  Electron          
              Secondary Cosmic Rays    10^24    0.000000000000  Sub-atomic        
                                                01              particles         
              Tertiary Cosmic Rays     10^24    0.000000000000  Quark             
Unknown       Unknown                  10^?     Infinity        Infinity          
              Unknown                  10^?     Infinity        Infinity          
              Unknown                  10^?     Infinity        Infinity