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Will Flannery

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<Mentor’s note: this thread is closed as a duplicate of https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/the-coming-revolution-in-physics-education.954664/ >

In the March 2024 issue of Nature Physics 'Computing in Physics Education' (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41567-023-02371-2) we read:

"In the USA the undergraduate physics curriculum - that is, the standard set of coursework and activities in an accredited physics major – looks much the same as it did 60 years ago."

In that 60 years the computer has completely transformed how physics is used to analyze the real world, specifically:

#1 Classical physics is based on the analysis of differential equation models of physical systems.

#2 The differential equation models of most physical systems are analytically unsolvable (this is the University's little secret). This is why physics education is so difficult, and why so few physical systems are analyzed.

#3 The computer and computational calculus, i.e. numerical methods for solving differential equations, made it possible to to analyze unsolvable models of physical systems.

#4 Computers and computational calculus quickly became the norm for analyzing systems outside the classroom in science and engineering.

Clearly this transformation has not been incorporated into physics education.

The first step would be to incorporate computers and computational calculus into the curriculum. Fortunately, computational calculus, unlike analytic calculus, is simple, intuitively transparent, and the powerful basic method can be taught to high school science students with no previous exposure to calculus in a single one-hour lecture.

Now, what else needs to be taught? Newton's law of gravity and 2nd law of motion are already being taught in high school.

I've taught such an introductory class, and written it up in 'The Coming Revolution in Physics Education' (https://pubs.aip.org/aapt/pte/article/57/7/493/1016338/The-Coming-Revolution-in-Physics-Education) and described the extension to the university here 'A Revolution in Physics Education was forecast in 1989, why hasn't it happened? What will it take?' (https://pubs.aip.org/aapt/ajp/artic...volution-in-physics-education-was-forecast-in)

Just as computers and computational calculus will transform introductory courses, they will transform all courses in the classical physics curriculum, introductory to advanced.

In the March 2024 issue of Nature Physics 'Computing in Physics Education' (https://www.nature.com/articles/s41567-023-02371-2) we read:

"In the USA the undergraduate physics curriculum - that is, the standard set of coursework and activities in an accredited physics major – looks much the same as it did 60 years ago."

In that 60 years the computer has completely transformed how physics is used to analyze the real world, specifically:

#1 Classical physics is based on the analysis of differential equation models of physical systems.

#2 The differential equation models of most physical systems are analytically unsolvable (this is the University's little secret). This is why physics education is so difficult, and why so few physical systems are analyzed.

#3 The computer and computational calculus, i.e. numerical methods for solving differential equations, made it possible to to analyze unsolvable models of physical systems.

#4 Computers and computational calculus quickly became the norm for analyzing systems outside the classroom in science and engineering.

Clearly this transformation has not been incorporated into physics education.

The first step would be to incorporate computers and computational calculus into the curriculum. Fortunately, computational calculus, unlike analytic calculus, is simple, intuitively transparent, and the powerful basic method can be taught to high school science students with no previous exposure to calculus in a single one-hour lecture.

Now, what else needs to be taught? Newton's law of gravity and 2nd law of motion are already being taught in high school.

I've taught such an introductory class, and written it up in 'The Coming Revolution in Physics Education' (https://pubs.aip.org/aapt/pte/article/57/7/493/1016338/The-Coming-Revolution-in-Physics-Education) and described the extension to the university here 'A Revolution in Physics Education was forecast in 1989, why hasn't it happened? What will it take?' (https://pubs.aip.org/aapt/ajp/artic...volution-in-physics-education-was-forecast-in)

Just as computers and computational calculus will transform introductory courses, they will transform all courses in the classical physics curriculum, introductory to advanced.

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