A model of what makes up the physical world

In summary: Looking at your diagram, I see it is a sort of hybrid Venn diagram with no apparent intersection of space / time with the other fields. That implies there is some 'exclusion' involved, which could cause further aggro.To sum it up, I would say that your idea is too abstract for students whose preoccupations are with learning concrete facts for exams. The diagram will surely be taken as literally as the equations of motion that you write on the board and you could then have to pick up the pieces. Physics is not Philosophy.
  • #1
pkc111
225
26
Hi there I am a high school science teacher and I want to present my senior classes with a model of the fundamentals of the physical world to serve as a mind map for us when we reach each topic.
I have started by creating the one below and then realized I may have left off momentum...is momentum worth mentioning as a separate bubble, or just a "mix" of matter and energy? I would really appreciate any opinions. Thanks
upload_2018-5-13_8-52-3.png
upload_2018-5-13_8-52-3.png
 

Attachments

  • upload_2018-5-13_8-52-3.png
    upload_2018-5-13_8-52-3.png
    42.5 KB · Views: 1,423
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
This sort of grouping of ideas is very personal and you may well find it useful for yourself.
However, you may need to consider the sort of group you are teaching. Students can be very literal and spend a lot of time worrying about how to apply any such classification system to specific topics and quantities. "Where does this fit in Sir?" could be a frequent question to expect so you'd need to be ready with answers. :wink:
The Hyperphysics site uses such concept maps and you might find their ready made versions useful - (although yours is one layer higher). This maps are very handy as a practical way of checking that the content of a course has been dealt with or for a revision programme. It could be better than just a straight list.
 
  • #3
Thank you so much Sophiecentaur.
The reason I have gone up another level from the hyperphysics is that I like to teach by including a single "anchor", using "the power of one" as I call it..ie just one mind map (preferable with symbols that show relationships) page that we can always come back to as a class and orientate ourselves as to where we are up to, and what we have covered in our understanding of physics.
I also like to try and portray a simplicity to the whole subject of physics that reassures the students that the understanding is eventually possible, it just needs to be broken down into its bits, which is where each of the following lessons fits in.Otherwise I find some students see physics as very complicated confusing and daunting.
My concern was that this diagram may had a glaring error with something vital left out eg momentum, that would hamper their understanding further down the track, or some relationship between the concepts that was obviously wrong.
I am going to try and teach the topic by presenting matter, energy and forces as types of "purities" first and look at their definitions, history of understanding and models we now have of each of them. I then intend to go to the textbook and start with the mechanics, thermodynamics chapters etc where we will meet each of these purities and their interactions with each other. I will then ask the students to map out where each of the textbook topics sits on the mind map and place the relevant equations for the topic onto the mind map as we go, just to give them a framework to the whole course.
Any feedback is welcome, thanks.
 
Last edited:
  • #4
pkc111 said:
is momentum worth mentioning as a separate bubble

This is a very good reason not to teach this invention of yours. Also, what about torque?

Adopting this kind of invention is bound to cause more confusion than clarity.
 
  • Like
Likes fresh_42
  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
This is a very good reason not to teach this invention of yours. Also, what about torque?

Adopting this kind of invention is bound to cause more confusion than clarity.
Thanks Vanadium.
I would consider torque to be a type of force...just rotational
 
  • #6
pkc111 said:
Thanks Vanadium.
I would consider torque to be a type of force...just rotational
And so it goes on, I'm afraid. You can expect to be flooded with more of that sort of query from students who will take every opportunity 1. to be confused and 2. to challenge you (I have been there).

Looking at your diagram, I see it is a sort of hybrid Venn diagram with no apparent intersection of space / time with the other fields. That implies there is some 'exclusion' involved, which could cause further aggro.

To sum it up, I would say that your idea is too abstract for students whose preoccupations are with learning concrete facts for exams. The diagram will surely be taken as literally as the equations of motion that you write on the board and you could then have to pick up the pieces. Physics is not Philosophy.
 
  • #7
pkc111 said:
I would consider torque to be a type of force

And that's why I don't like this. Torque is not a "type of force" - it has different units. Yes, there are some analogs, but ultimately you are forcing yourself to teach wrong things to shoehorn conventional physics into this personal invention of yours.
 
  • Like
Likes Dale
  • #8
The only thing I would pick upon is the relegation of momentum to being just a " ... mix of matter and energy... ", which it is not. This is extremely apparent when you do collision problems, where in the majority of cases, momentum is conserved but kinetic energy is not. So how can one be a mix of the other when they obviously follow different conservation laws?

In fact, at a more fundamental level, momentum and energy conservations are due to different symmetry rules of our universe. So they are definitely not of the same specie.

At the level that it is aimed for, I would rather stick with the "subject" categories made by Hyperphysics, with the caveat that these subjects are all interconnected, not separate i.e. a force is a force - of course, of course - no matter whether it is due to a spring, a charge particle, gravity, etc...

Zz.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters and bhobba
  • #9
you can see problems arising really quickly with this sort of diagram. Consider a student asking " ok - if there is force and matter - what is a force if there is no matter?" the diagram suggests this. the diagram suggests also there is matter without energy. I know YOU may know the specifics related to these kinds of questions, but a student may not even bother asking this but just use it to internalize their own misconceptions, or worse - reinforce them.

Perhaps you would consider treating it more as a tree - in which you can treat the entire course as a build up of ideas from some core questions? I'm only spit-balling here, as i really am not certain of whether this approach is a good idea anyway - i personally find issues with the hyperphysics set up as well, which is useful to a point but suggests linear arrangements of ideas that may not really or should be set up that way.
 
  • #10
Hpyerphysics already has a pretty good starting diagram, with details down in the diagram (clickable). Why not just start with something more standard like this? Plus, you could use Hyperphysics as an online teaching resource for your class...

http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/hframe.html

hphconw.gif
 

Attachments

  • hphconw.gif
    hphconw.gif
    32.6 KB · Views: 841
  • Like
Likes Dale
  • #11
pkc111 said:
I want to present my senior classes with a model of the fundamentals of the physical world to serve as a mind map for us when we reach each topic.

IMHO what I think is the mind map for physics is Noether's Theorem:


It explains what energy, momentum and angular momentum is and why they are conserved. It is very profound.

Another thing they need to understand is what the concept of force really is. Take Newtons first law - it follows from the second and the second is just a definition. The content is in the third law - which is easily shown to be equivalent to the conservation of momentum - but as shown above that follows from Noether. Just what is classical mechanics telling us. Have the class investigate and discuss this.

The answer you as the teacher should know is the real basis of mechanics is what is assumed in Noethers theorem - the Principle of Least Action which follows from Feynman's path integral approach to QM. Newtions laws are not laws in the usual sense - but rather a prescription that says - get thee to the forces - but they need to discuss and understand, under your guidance, why this is. Your students can read about it here:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0691024170/?tag=pfamazon01-20

This will teach your students the actual modern view of what physics tells us about the world.

Have they done calculus and have some previous knowledge of physics? If so I would recommend the following for what you want to do:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0521876222/?tag=pfamazon01-20

It's really first or even second year university, but its the only book I know that presents at the lowest mathematical level possible the correct basis of modern physics - it has Noether and all that. Supplement it with the first few chapters of the Feynman Lectures, plus of course the QED book by the same great teacher I mentioned, and you will have a course that will prepare your seniors with a deep understanding of physics - excluding EM. But they will understand concepts that will prepare them for things like why do fields have energy etc.

If they do not know calculus then I think there will be a lot of work for you in preparing a course and notes.

Good luck. If I was a teacher it is what I would do. Its unconventional and hard in that you have to do t yourself - no standard text for it - but your students will get what I think is the core of modern physics.

Thanks
Bill
 
  • Like
Likes Dale and fresh_42
  • #12
Thank you all very much for your great ideas...this is such a fantastic forum!
I may start with this mind map and call it one idea for a beginning concept map of physics... aimed at identifying for students some of the most basic and important things that make up the and shape the physical world...the stuff that physicists study..rather than the fields of physics study which I see the hyperphysics mind map to be more like.

The model I presented certainly has its limitations as pointed out by a number of posters eg where would torque be? (yes its not really a force). Where would momentum be? (yes its not really on the intersection of mass and energy) I may end up placing labels for those ( and other things that are too hard) in the spaces outside the balls of matter, energy and forces...yes a bit shoehorn I know, but in the absence of a more correct mind map, it may be my starting point.

I will certainly not present it as a truth, but may rather offer it as scaffold for a beginning to understanding some big concepts in physics, that can be thrown away later when the students try to "join the dots" in their own ways.

The Noethers theorem video was fantastic by the way..thanks bhobba...I may play that to my students when the question comes up of "which system should I consider if I want to know that momentum will be conserved?"
 
Last edited by a moderator:
  • #13
oh...and in my travels I have found this...I love it ...not exactly what I was looking for but so interesting!
 

Attachments

  • upload_2018-5-15_16-20-59.png
    upload_2018-5-15_16-20-59.png
    216 KB · Views: 606
  • #14
pkc111 said:
The Noethers theorem video was fantastic by the way..thanks bhobba...I may play that to my students when the question comes up of "which system should I consider if I want to know that momentum will be conserved?"

It's more than why its conserved - its what momentum, angular momentum and energy is.

But you are teaching the course - not me - I will leave it up to you how you explain the implications, and what they are, to your students. Oh what she calls energy is really the Lagrangian - in classical physics it has a simple relationship to energy (kinetic minus potential energy) - but not so for things like fields etc. That too can take your class in an interesting direction.

Thanks
Bill
 
Last edited:
  • #15
I disagree that you should teach Noether's theorem. Yes it's pretty. Yes it's important. But the students do not have the background for this, so it can only be taught at the level of a popularization. This is doubly so because it means cutting and skimping on something else. The last thing you need in an introductory class is more material to cover.

I disagree even more strongly that a teacher's personal "model of what makes up the physical world" should be taught. Beyond the specific objections, there's a more fundamental one: you are charged with teaching conventional physics.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #16
pkc111 said:
Hi there I am a high school science teacher and I want to present my senior classes with a model of the fundamentals of the physical world to serve as a mind map for us when we reach each topic.
What about space, time, mass, matter, fundamental interactions and symmetries? Almost everything else comes from these.

--
lightarrow
 
  • #17
pkc111 said:
I also like to try and portray a simplicity to the whole subject of physics that reassures the students that the understanding is eventually possible, it just needs to be broken down into its bits, which is where each of the following lessons fits in.

That's a great approach. But in my opinion you are going about it all wrong. Instead of some kind of general overview, start with specifics and work your way towards the generalities. Teach first the thing, and then the name of the thing afterwards.

Otherwise I find some students see physics as very complicated confusing and daunting.

What seems clear from the literature is the general-to-specific approach reinforces the notion that physics is a confusing and daunting topic to study.

I am going to try and teach the topic by presenting matter, energy and forces as types of "purities" first and look at their definitions, history of understanding and models we now have of each of them.

Matter occurs naturally. Things like energy and force are creations of the human mind, they are part of the modelling process used to describe how matter behaves. So they are in fundamentally different categories.

Also, if you teach them about these "purities" of yours it's something that they will have to unlearn if they take more advanced courses. And if they don't take more advanced courses they'll be left with a serious misconception.

pkc111 said:
Where would momentum be? (yes its not really on the intersection of mass and energy)

But your diagram doesn't have mass, it has matter. They are two very different things. The former is yet another one of those human inventions created in an attempt to understand matter. It was thought that mass is a measure of the amount of matter, but the Einstein mass-energy equivalence showed us that that is wrong.
 
  • Like
Likes PeterDonis
  • #18
Personally I don't have a problem with students shedding their mind maps (or any models that I give them) as they grow. Just as I am mandated to teach the Bohr model of the atom to my juniors, I do it with the expectation that they will be presented with alternative models as they progress through their learning. Do I have a problem that they will have to unlearn what I have taught them, not really. No model in science is presented as the absolute truth otherwise it would not be a model, and the whole nature of science as a collection of certainties would be a gross representation of what science is and how science, and scientists, work. Personal metaphors have a very valuable place in learning and understanding in my experience and I have always been encouraged in my training as a teacher to be transparent as possible with my students in those areas (see Hattie's effect sizes on student learning). So to those of you who have a philosophical problem with teachers sharing their own personal metaphors/models in the classroom, then I understand where you are coming from and you are entitled to your opinion, but I do not completely agree with you, and exploring those personal opinions on the moral rights and wrongs is not really the purpose of this post.
Thank for all of your ideas, they have really helped.
NB I am thinking of joining the matter and energy balls as "matter-energy" later when we reach the E= mc2 bit.
 
  • #19
Independently of the models/concepts/paradigms used, as student, even at university I had difficulties in understand that *it was a model*!
At every stage of teaching I would try to make them understand this, as well as possible.
Regards.

--
lightarrow
 
  • #20
Ok...so another question... what is physics the study of exactly? I feel I might have a better chance of making a mind map if I had this I am looking for a reliable comprehensive and meaningful definition of physics?
I know its the study of the universe, but that's too general to be meaningful or useful to me. And I know what the fields of study of physics are but that's not really the same thing.
My oxford dictionary says "physics is the study of the laws that determine the structure of the universe with reference to the matter and energy of which it consists."
What about laws that reference to time and space dimensions in which it exists? surely it is a study of these as well? not to mention the momenta, torques etc?
As a physics teacher I think I should know a thorough definition...or at least learn one now!
Many thanks
 
  • #21
So, despite all the negatives, as well as presentation of better alternatives, you plan on going forward and teach your personal theory. This seems like a bad idea to me.
 
  • Like
Likes anorlunda and nasu
  • #22
pkc111 said:
Ok...so another question... what is physics the study of exactly? I feel I might have a better chance of making a mind map if I had this I am looking for a reliable comprehensive and meaningful definition of physics?
I know its the study of the universe, but that's too general to be meaningful or useful to me. And I know what the fields of study of physics are but that's not really the same thing.
My oxford dictionary says "physics is the study of the laws that determine the structure of the universe with reference to the matter and energy of which it consists."
What about laws that reference to time and space dimensions in which it exists? surely it is a study of these as well? not to mention the momenta, torques etc?
As a physics teacher I think I should know a thorough definition...or at least learn one now!
Many thanks

At the level you are teaching, why can't you just say that physics is the study of the behavior of our universe? And when I say "universe", I don't simply mean studying the heavens. A semiconductor, a quark, a bridge, etc. are also encompassed inside our universe.

Zz.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters
  • #23
I take your point Zapperz.
However to my way of thinking ducks and and elephants are also part of the universe... But I don't really think they are the focus of what physicists study. I am really after the fundamentals of what physics theory says the universe is made up of ...the matter, energy, space, sort of level.
 
  • #24
pkc111 said:
I take your point Zapperz.
However to my way of thinking ducks and and elephants are also part of the universe... But I don't really think they are the focus of what physicists study. I am really after the fundamentals of what physics theory says the universe is made up of ...the matter, energy, space, sort of level.

Actually, ducks and elephants ARE part of what a few physicists study. Biophysics, medical physics, and things such as the use of the magnetic fields by birds to guide them during migrations, are connected to physics. I taught physics for Life Science/Pre-Med majors, and our applications of physics to such fields are PLENTY. In fact, going even a step further, human behavior, economics, politics, etc. are also being modeled as though they are physical systems.

As Ernest Rutherford used to say, "All science is either physics or stamp-collecting". Physics still has to catch up on a lot of these so-called "emergent" phenomena, but no one can dismiss that it is the foundation of everything in our universe.

So what I said is still accurate.

Zz.
 
  • #25
pkc111 said:
in the absence of a more correct mind map, it may be my starting point.
The hyperphysics site is a more correct mind map. As far as I can tell, yours is not even a mind map, maybe closer to a Venn diagram.

I am not sure that I understand your intention here. What is it that you intend this diagram to convey, and how do you intend that students would use it?
 
  • #26
Dale said:
The hyperphysics site is a more correct mind map. As far as I can tell, yours is not even a mind map, maybe closer to a Venn diagram.
Can three overlapping circles with a circle around them not be a mind map?
Anyways I agree the hyperlink page is a mind map of the fields in which physicists study, although it is more like a circular list rather than a mind map showing any meaningful relationships between the areas of study.
But my question is what are the fundamental building blocks of the universe put forward in this foundation science? its a very different question to me. The definitions that describe physics as the study of matter and energy are very close to what I am after, but I feel there must be things like space, time, momentum also in this list.
Or am I wrong? Does conventional physics assert that mass and energy are the only fundamentals that exist, and everything else like momentum, forces and torque are derivatives or results of mass and energy interactions or simply theoretical constructs?
Barring of course that mass and energy may well be variations of the same thing.
 
  • #27
pkc111 said:
Does conventional physics assert that mass and energy are the only fundamentals that exist, and everything else like momentum, forces and torque are derivatives or results of mass and energy interactions or simply theoretical constructs?

"Conventional physics" asserts no such thing. You read it off an encyclopedia.

If you want to be 'crude' about it, our physics is based on C,P, and T symmetries. But that provides ZERO help and insight to your students.

Zz.
 
  • #28
ZapperZ said:
"Conventional physics" asserts no such thing. You read it off an encyclopedia.

If you want to be 'crude' about it, our physics is based on C,P, and T symmetries. But that provides ZERO help and insight to your students.

Zz.
So what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ? if it doesn't include mass or energy
 
  • #29
pkc111 said:
So what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ? if it doesn't include mass or energy

No one says that it "... doesn't include mass or energy..."

The symmetry laws apply to mass AND energy. You are too focused on STUFF rather than the general rules, and that is the problem with your whole concept here. The "study of the universe" implies finding universal description that apply to EVERYTHING, be it "mass", "energy", "space", etc. Nothing is excluded!.

Zz.
 
  • Like
Likes nasu
  • #30
pkc111 said:
what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ?

It depends. If you mean, what does physics say are the closest things to "fundamentals" that we currently understand, I would say it's spacetime and the fundamental fields and interactions given in the Standard Model of particle physics. But I don't think any physicist believes those are the final fundamentals; they're just the closest thing we currently understand.

If you mean, what does physics say the fundamentals of the universe are, the only honest answer is that we don't know.
 
  • Like
Likes Dale, bhobba and nasu
  • #31
pkc111 said:
So what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ? if it doesn't include mass or energy
As it was already mentioned, energy and mass are just concept introduced by physicist to model the physical world. They are not more "fundamental of the universe" than length, speed or acceleration. They are not things, parts of the universe. Unless you include mental processes in the universe studied by physics.
Same is true for "force".
It seems that you are trying to "force" both reality and the ensemble of physical concepts to a "model" which is not based on either.
 
  • Like
Likes Mister T and berkeman
  • #32
pkc111 said:
Personally I don't have a problem with students shedding their mind maps (or any models that I give them) as they grow.

Consider the problems you'll create for the students, though.
 
  • Like
Likes russ_watters, bhobba and sophiecentaur
  • #33
pkc111 said:
So what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ? if it doesn't include mass or energy
pkc111 said:
As a physics teacher I think I should know a thorough definition.
You are setting yourself far too hard a task here; you are risking a lot with many of your students.
I mentioned before that 'students' (young ones in particular) mostly want things in hard black and white and any home brewed attempt to present a form of universal concept map will be mis-used by many of your students. You have to ask yourself in just what way is it supposed to help them? No use for revision, at all and a possible source of confusion ("now, where does this jigsaw piece fit?") when they haven't listened to your caveats and assurances about what it's really intended for. You must be aware that the first time some of your students will actually look at your diagram will be when they are at home and they want to use it for answering a question. They will have been looking out of the window when you earnestly told them the context of the map.
Then they will put a confused post on PF when they try to make sense of it. They may not get a good reception or a satisfactory answer.
Boring as it may seem, the standard Curriculum has at least be subject to a certain amount of peer review and, for those students with more of a gift, there is plenty of peripheral stuff to read. The Hyperphysics approach is pragmatic and has the approval of dozens or more of PF members (it's a major source of references on PF posts).
 
  • Like
Likes Dale
  • #34
pkc111 said:
Can three overlapping circles with a circle around them not be a mind map?
Wow. I can't believe you said that.

You need to look up Venn Diagram. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venn_diagram

55a780e2?r=20170706115333_1499297218_5a1b38c3-e1f1-5276-85ea-7f9729e7e6a1&thumbnail_type=block_3.png


Plus that your map is just plain wrong. Forces come from fields, so the word on the diagram should be fields.. Then, it shows a region where you have energy but no matter no fields. That is a common misconception. Energy is a property of matter and fields, like color is a property of each circle above. Energy is not a "element" of physics independent of matter and fields.
 

Attachments

  • 55a780e2?r=20170706115333_1499297218_5a1b38c3-e1f1-5276-85ea-7f9729e7e6a1&thumbnail_type=block_3.png
    55a780e2?r=20170706115333_1499297218_5a1b38c3-e1f1-5276-85ea-7f9729e7e6a1&thumbnail_type=block_3.png
    36.4 KB · Views: 418
  • Like
Likes nasu, bhobba and berkeman
  • #35
pkc111 said:
So what does Physics assert are the fundamentals of the universe ? if it doesn't include mass or energy

Others have had their two cents - so will I. Our best guess right now is what Peter said. But a definite answers isn't really what science is about:


In fact the essence, the rock bottom characteristic of science is doubt. If your students need to understand anything its that.

As far as your students go watching and reading Feynman's Character Of Physical Law will help:
https://www.amazon.com/dp/0262533413/?tag=pfamazon01-20
http://www.richard-feynman.net/videos.htm

Mass and energy are part of the universe - but we now know they are not necessarily fundamental eg look into Higgs and mass. I won't discuss energy because that will involve Noether which we already have talked about.

Thanks
Bill
 
Last edited:

Similar threads

  • Beyond the Standard Models
Replies
0
Views
1K
  • Programming and Computer Science
Replies
4
Views
1K
  • Beyond the Standard Models
2
Replies
42
Views
6K
Replies
1
Views
157
  • Science and Math Textbooks
Replies
1
Views
994
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
11
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
1
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
2
Replies
37
Views
1K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
7
Views
791
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
8
Views
1K
Back
Top