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Special Relativity for the School Going Child

  1. Nov 30, 2004 #1

    ZapperZ

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    I have no idea how "effective" this is, but if you know of a 12-15 year old child (more like a teenager, I suppose), could you give him/her this and see if he/she can understand Special Relativity? :)

    http://arxiv.org/abs/physics/0411219

    Or maybe we should just give this to the quacks.....

    Zz.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2004 #2

    russ_watters

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    I've thought a lot about how high school science should treat relativity. I really think a lot could be accomplished in only a day (really, an hour). When I was in high school, the only treatment it got was the matter/energy equivalence for chemistry(nuclear). I think it would fit well into the space between Newtonian mechanics and optics in physics class. That would help disabuse the #1 myth promulgated by high school physics: that light actually slows down when traveling through a medium. Beyond that, people really need to be aware that the way the universe works isn't quite how Newtonian mechanics models it.
     
  4. Nov 30, 2004 #3

    Ba

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    I've always thought that we should learn basic relativity and quantum physics concepts before actually going on to the classical, to me it makes more sense. ZapperZ your text brings to mind Mr. Tompkins in Wonderland, I read that about that age and I can't claim I really understand it it did spark my intrest.
     
  5. Nov 30, 2004 #4

    ZapperZ

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    In any case, I am VERY much interested in discovering what a 12-15 year old actually can understand out of this text. It's one thing for me to read it and call up on all the stuff that I already know and say "oh, of course! That's obvious", but it's another to see if a 15-year old actually GET what is being described. So if anyone actually took up the challenge, I would be interested in hearing about it.

    Zz.
     
  6. Dec 4, 2004 #5
    Well, I haven't been 12-15 for quite a while, but I managed to skip SR in school altogether (here it is skipped almost only as a passing reference unless you're going to actually study physics "seriously"), so I might say how it appears for me... :tongue:

    Very comprehensible reading, but one sentence appeared in contradiction:
    If I understood correctly what I read, you can't say something is different from what it is actually (wasn't it supposed to be relative? so no "actual" measurement exists? if it does, what is the reference?) in SR and nothing appears to be something; it is. Shouldn't the above say something like "object shorter in the reference of...clock runs faster".

    Or have I missed something completely?

    PS. Apparently you atleast have managed to lure one lurker out of the shadows with that paper. :shy:
     
  7. Dec 4, 2004 #6

    selfAdjoint

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    With computers you could have the famous train example with the train moving at 1 pixel per second and light (represented as a bright dot) moving at 2. This could actually be enhanced for older kids to illustrate the pole and barn, and so on.
     
  8. Dec 4, 2004 #7

    ZapperZ

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    Gosh! There must be some kind of a special prize in PF for my having accomplished this! :)

    Zz.
     
  9. Dec 8, 2004 #8
    Zz

    Is the paper intended for a British student audience?
    -the use of Torch instead of Flashlight.

    "lakh" is that something they/ we / I should be familiar with?
    I'm not - what does it stand for?

    Finally I always considered Special Relativity to be as much "Law" as Newtons. From your last page :
    What are the "Problems" with SR ??
    - - the ones that some scientists might be "working on" to update or replace SR??
     
  10. Dec 8, 2004 #9

    jcsd

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    It's probably intended for an Indian audience.
     
  11. Dec 8, 2004 #10
    Myth Buster

    Russ
    Not only did I learn that light slows down, but that the rate of slow down was wavelength dependent. That this was why a Prism turned light of different wavelengths at different amounts.
    What is the correct way to understand the bending of light with a Prism?

    RB
     
  12. Dec 8, 2004 #11

    Andrew Mason

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    It doesn't? Or are you saying that the effective speed of the signal is caused not by a reduction in the speed of the photons per se, but by repeated delays due to absorption and emission of light through the medium?

    AM
     
  13. Dec 8, 2004 #12

    cepheid

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    That's what he's saying. I've seen people stress that point with quite vehemently on the forum. As for my comments on the document...it explained things very slowly and clearly...for someone as old as 14, I think the tone might seem a little childish/tedious at times. The document may not be satisfactory in the sense that after reading it, one might be inclined to say...well you told me that if such and such conditions are met, and if such and such assumptions that have been made are true, then our view of space and time should be changed in this certain way, and therefore we would observe these effects (if we were able). But why should any of that be so?

    Yet what answer can one give them...those are the postulates of SR..their ultimate validation comes from experimental verification.

    btw 1 lakh = 100,000 (as was obvious from the context). An Indian number.
     
  14. Dec 8, 2004 #13
    im 15 and i understand the special theory of relativity (god, that sounds like im bragging). its not as if it has hard mathematics. awesome stuff, the implications are really insane.

    edit: i just read through some of that, and it is WAYYYY easier and simpler then what i used to learn lol. it would have been better to read this first imo.
     
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2004
  15. Dec 9, 2004 #14

    ZapperZ

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    How about if you give it to other 15-year olds (or don't you socialize with other kids your age anymore? :)) and see if they get it? It would be interesting to see if they have the same understanding as you do when they don't already know what it is.

    Zz.
     
  16. Dec 9, 2004 #15
    As it happens 100,000 is an English number as well.
    As to the value of a "lakh" being obvious to someone that may not know what c is I guess I missed it.
    But I still don't know; is "lakh" an Indian word or an acronym for 4 words?

    RB
     
  17. Dec 9, 2004 #16

    Andrew Mason

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    It is a Hindu word. But it is also used as an English word as well. For example, if I win 100,000 I have good lakh and if I lose 100,000 I have bad lakh.

    AM
     
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