The best commonly understood physics

  • #1
3,077
4
What physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education most effectively interpret?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
chroot
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
10,226
34
Newton's laws.

- Warren
 
  • #3
3,077
4
Keeping the original post in mind, what physics concept would the average person with at least a high school education least effectively interpret?
 
  • #4
chroot
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
10,226
34
Hmmm.... most likely something in quantum mechanics. How about the path integral technique?

- Warren
 
  • #5
566
6
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
87
0
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
ahrkron
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
736
1
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
Integral
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Gold Member
7,201
56
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
108
0
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
3,077
4
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
54
1
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
108
0
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
55
0
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
Bystander
Science Advisor
Homework Helper
Gold Member
5,191
1,212
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
RuroumiKenshin
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
418
3
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
508
0
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!
 
Last edited:
  • #18
Ben-CS
Now, Vegeta, M-theory is cheating: Nobody understands M-theory.
 
  • #19
mouseman
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
mouseman
BTW, what's m-theory?
 
  • #21
204
1
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
mouseman
Yep. I don't understand that.
 
  • #23
Njorl
Science Advisor
258
10
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
drag
Science Advisor
1,062
0
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
3,077
4
arcnets-

Feel free to construct a derivative poll!
 

Related Threads on The best commonly understood physics

Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
2
Replies
36
Views
3K
  • Last Post
Replies
13
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
1K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
7
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
2
Views
543
Replies
28
Views
4K
Replies
7
Views
4K
Top