The best commonly understood physics

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In summary, the average person with at least a high school education would most effectively interpret Newton's laws in physics. However, the most misunderstood and misapplied concept is the uncertainty principle, often used as a tool by pseudoscientists and crackpots. Other concepts that are frequently misunderstood include entropy and the second law of thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and M-theory. It has also been shown that while people may know what Newton's laws are, they may struggle with comprehension and application of these laws.
  • #1
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What physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education most effectively interpret?
 
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  • #2
Newton's laws.

- Warren
 
  • #3
Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?
 
  • #4
Hmmm... most likely something in quantum mechanics. How about the path integral technique?

- Warren
 
  • #5
Originally posted by Loren Booda
Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?

Uhhh... Relativistic invariant quantum chromodynamic field theory ??

:wink:
 
  • #6
GR then SR. They should both be taught. Then maybe I would have stayed at high school . I only have a year 10 high school education. That was more than 15 years ago.

Raavin

ps. what do you mean by interpret?
 
  • #7
The "avg person with high school education" cannot misinterpret QCD, since (s)he has not heard about it.

I think the most frequently misunderstood piece of physics is the uncertainty principle. It has been given lots of attention (and wrong descriptions) by pseudoscientists and crackpots.
 
  • #8
I have read of studies that show that the normal man on the street does NOT comprend Newtons laws. Most who have not learned physics do not understand the concept of, and relattionship between, Force and Accleration.

When asked where a ball will land if droped from a moving car they go with the pre Newton concepts.

Most of modern Physics (starting with Newton) is not intutivly obvious, this may be why Physics is considered a difficult subject.
 
  • #9
Originally posted by Raavin
GR then SR. They should both be taught. Then maybe I would have stayed at high school . I only have a year 10 high school education. That was more than 15 years ago.

Raavin

ps. what do you mean by interpret?

I'm in year 11 at school and we have been taught about SR and GR, although it was on very simple terms.
 
  • #10
Interpret: translate into familiar language.

Do a Google search on the truncation "magnet," and you will bring up some of the most outrageous pseudoscientific medical claims.
 
  • #11
Originally posted by Jack
I'm in year 11 at school and we have been taught about SR and GR, although it was on very simple terms.
Wasn't even taught very basics of SR till 2 years after that here.
 
  • #12
Originally posted by Mulder
Wasn't even taught very basics of SR till 2 years after that here.

I must admit it was very basic.
 
  • #13
This isn't what you asked but it seems to me that quantum mechanics is the branch of physics manipulated most by quacks to do evil.
 
  • #14
Originally posted by Loren Booda
Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?

Most misunderstood and misapplied? Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics --- very few trained people seemed able to handle it in the creation vs. evolution discussions which took place on PF 2.
 
  • #15
Originally posted by Loren Booda
Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?

QM or m-theory.
 
  • #16
There's some good Physics education research going on right now. A large study was conducted on college students, Physics majors and non-majors, and Grad students. One of the major conclusions was that students might know what Newtons law's are, but the vast majority didn't have comprehension of how to use the laws or what they actually meant. Even graduate students had problems in this area.. They went on to show that by changing the teaching method and having increased student interaction the students understanding of introductory physics was rasied.

JMD
 
  • #17
Originally posted by Loren Booda
What physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education most effectively interpret?

I think this is a fascinating topic. You could play the following game: construct a multiple-choice test and hand it to anyone who is interested. Then correct it and tell him how he did. People will be quite eager to do it. Could look like this:

QUESTION 1. Why does a tiled floor feel cold, and a carpet feel warm?
() lower temperature () harder () better heat conductor.
QUESTION 2. Why don't the Moon fall down?
() weightless () pulled up by sun () moving.
QUESTION 3. Can a magnet only pull or also push?
() push & pull () just pull.
QUESTION 4. Why does a compass point north?
() electricity in Earth () attracted by polar star () gravity.
QUESTION 5. What surfaces reflect light?
() All () just mirrors () just mirrors & white surfaces.

And so on. It's fun!
 
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  • #18
Now, Vegeta, M-theory is cheating: Nobody understands M-theory.
 
  • #19
Originally posted by ahrkron
The "avg person with high school education" cannot misinterpret QCD, since (s)he has not heard about it.

I think the most frequently misunderstood piece of physics is the uncertainty principle. It has been given lots of attention (and wrong descriptions) by pseudoscientists and crackpots.


I would just like to point out that I only have a high school diploma (just barely) and 3 semesters in college. I never took a physics class exept in 12th grade but all we did was classical mechanics. I just recently read about Heisenberg's uncertaintly principle (in brevity) and it makes TOTAL sense to me. As does GR. Well most of it, anyway.
 
  • #20
BTW, what's m-theory?
 
  • #21
Originally posted by mouseman
BTW, what's m-theory?
I don't know a whole lot about M-theory, but...
M-Theory is basically a sub-set (or should I say superset?) of string theory. String theory is based on the idea that matter is made out of tiny open or closed strings. Infinite curvature does not exist any more because every string has a minimal length. Through the vibrations of the strings the four elementary and the elementary particles with their properties arise. The shape of space is important for the vibrations of the strings. This is because the strings wrap around space. There need to be 11 dimensions, as opposed to the usual 4, the other undetected 7 dimensions are "folded up". This is a possible precursor to a TOE, though there is no evidence for it as far as I know.

Search topics include: m-theory, m-branes, string theory, superstrings, branes, supersymmetry, Calabi-Yau.
 
  • #22
Yep. I don't understand that.
 
  • #23
Originally posted by Bystander
Most misunderstood and misapplied? Entropy and the second law of thermodynamics --- very few trained people seemed able to handle it in the creation vs. evolution discussions which took place on PF 2.

I remember trying to argue against those who used it as support for the "intelligent design" theory, but because they could not understand the basis of their own argument, they could not be dissuaded from it. They used ignorance as a shield.

Njorl
 
  • #24
Greetings !
Originally posted by Loren Booda
What physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education most effectively interpret?
QM of course, even average people like
to "quantify" everything all the time...:wink:

Seriously though (:wink:), I think action and
reacion are the most instinctive ones.

Live long and prosper.
 
  • #25
arcnets-

Feel free to construct a derivative poll!
 
  • #26
When I was in the third grade, some co-worker of my father's came over to our house and told me that the reason gravity exists is because of the Earth's rotation. The dipsh:t then showed me my younger sister's gyroscope and tried to explain to me that its rotation was creating its own gravity. For years I was confused about gravity and gyroscopes. It wasn't until middle school that I discovered that rotation has nothing to do with gravitational pull.

Also, I remember in kindergarten an adult was trying to explain the famous "twin paradox" to me. Except he told me that if a person travels in outer space for a considerable length of time, he/she will get younger and come back as a baby.

And, I remember when I was in the fifth grade, a kid in my class started a rumor that if you travel at the speed of light, you will quantumly tunnel through every object in your path.

One more thing... every space-war-type movie I saw when I was younger deceived me into believing that sound waves can traverse the void of space.

Trust no one!

eNtRopY
 
  • #27
Your post reminded me of something my 8th grade science teacher did on the equinoxes, entropy. She'd work all morning to balance an egg or two and when she finally got it she'd go off on some explanation of how "gravity balances" on the equinoxes or something. Ugh.
 
  • #28
That's funny. But at the same time it's not.
 

1. What is the difference between classical and quantum physics?

Classical physics is a branch of physics that studies the behavior of macroscopic objects, while quantum physics studies the behavior of microscopic objects. Classical physics follows deterministic laws, while quantum physics allows for uncertainty and probability in the behavior of particles.

2. What is the theory of relativity?

The theory of relativity, developed by Albert Einstein, is a set of two theories that explain the behavior of objects in the presence of gravity and when moving at high speeds. The theory of special relativity explains the relationship between space and time for objects moving at a constant speed, while the theory of general relativity explains the relationship between gravity and the curvature of spacetime.

3. What is the concept of mass-energy equivalence?

The concept of mass-energy equivalence is explained by Einstein's famous equation, E=mc^2, which states that energy and mass are interchangeable and can be converted into each other. This concept is a fundamental principle in understanding the behavior of particles at high speeds.

4. What is the nature of light?

Light is a form of electromagnetic radiation that travels in waves. The behavior of light can be explained by both classical and quantum physics, and it exhibits properties of both particles and waves.

5. How does the concept of entropy relate to physics?

Entropy is a measure of the disorder or randomness in a system. In physics, the second law of thermodynamics states that the total entropy of a closed system will always increase over time. This concept is important in understanding the behavior of systems, such as the transfer of energy and heat.

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