Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

The best commonly understood physics

  1. Mar 20, 2003 #1
    What physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education most effectively interpret?
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 20, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Newton's laws.

    - Warren
  4. Mar 20, 2003 #3
    Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?
  5. Mar 20, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Hmmm.... most likely something in quantum mechanics. How about the path integral technique?

    - Warren
  6. Mar 20, 2003 #5
    Uhhh.... Relativistic invariant quantum chromodynamic field theory ??

  7. Mar 20, 2003 #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.


    ps. what do you mean by interpret????
  8. Mar 21, 2003 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Gold Member

    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.
  9. Mar 21, 2003 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    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.
  10. Mar 21, 2003 #9
    I'm in year 11 at school and we have been taught about SR and GR, although it was on very simple terms.
  11. Mar 21, 2003 #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.
  12. Mar 21, 2003 #11
    Wasn't even taught very basics of SR till 2 years after that here.
  13. Mar 22, 2003 #12
    I must admit it was very basic.
  14. Mar 22, 2003 #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.
  15. Mar 22, 2003 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    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.
  16. Mar 22, 2003 #15
    QM or m-theory.
  17. Mar 23, 2003 #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.

  18. Mar 23, 2003 #17
    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!
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2003
  19. Mar 24, 2003 #18
    Now, Vegeta, M-theory is cheating: Nobody understands M-theory.
  20. Mar 26, 2003 #19

    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.
  21. Mar 26, 2003 #20
    BTW, what's m-theory?
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?