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Why isn't GR a requirement?

  1. Jan 10, 2017 #1
    It's one of the most important works in science of all time.

    It's at least as important as evolution theory and the theory of the atom.

    Kids these days spend too much time memorizing different types of minerals, and other random scientific facts. Obviously they would not know what a manifold is, as they wouldn't have the math. But so what?

    Thinking of spacetime as curved by under presence of mass, even if it's just memorized that it is so and not well comprehended, provides more valuable knowledge than memorizing a thousand minerals.

    Not knowing the nature of gravity is like not knowing organisms are made of cells. It's just too fundamental to ignore.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2017
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  3. Jan 10, 2017 #2


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    First you learn to crawl. Then you learn to walk. Then you learn to run. Trying to get a toddler to run is not helpful. Newtonian gravity works well enough to get men to the moon so it's not a bad idea to learn it first.
  4. Jan 10, 2017 #3
    True, but virtually everyone in first world countries know what a cell is. Even though most don't understand the machinery behind cells, there's still something to be said about just knowing what it's and trusting the details to the scientist. There's something to be said about being kept up to date.

    It's just a shame that the vast majority of people outside physics don't even know what Einstien is famous for. They just think of him as some smart guy.
  5. Jan 10, 2017 #4

    Vanadium 50

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    Teaching kids to chant words and think it's science is wrong.
  6. Jan 10, 2017 #5


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    Sure, and most, if they have heard of Picasso at all just think of him as some weird painter who put the eye both on the same side of the face in his strange paintings and Motzart was some old white guy who did that awful "classical" music, and on and on. What's your point? You expect everybody to learn everything?
  7. Jan 10, 2017 #6
    I prefer an approach to education where the common rules are taught before the rare exceptions. Undue focus on the exceptions can impart the misconception that the rules that apply most of the time are not as important as they are.

    I never memorized different kinds of minerals. I did memorize a lot of the periodic table, including most of the first 70 or so electron configurations.

    But more important than memorization is an appreciation for the scientific process of discovery and a passion for learning. There are simply too many science "facts" to argue about what the most important ones are for inclusion in a time too limited to include them all.

    The purpose of including "facts" is to shine light on the discovery process and build a foundation for additional learning and to impart a passion for learning so the flame in each student is not snuffed out. Any set of "facts" that succeeds at this is good enough, even if one's personal sacred cows get left out.
  8. Jan 10, 2017 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    Not really.
  9. Jan 10, 2017 #8

    Dr Transport

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    Very true, in everyday life just where does GR come into it. Walk before you run.
  10. Jan 10, 2017 #9
    I don't think relativity is on the same level conceptually and is too hard to teach. I think it would be good if kids maybe learned a bit more about Einstein from a historical perspective. I don't trust this stuff to the educational system, so I'll be reading https://www.amazon.com/Beam-Light-Story-Albert-Einstein/dp/145215211Xto my son or doing https://www.amazon.com/Albert-Einstein-Relativity-Kids-Experiments/dp/161374028X when he gets a little older.

    -Dave K
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  11. Jan 10, 2017 #10

    George Jones

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    I don't understand the title. Requirement for what? Kindergarten graduation, which is so common these days? Elementary school? High school? All undergrads (as a breadth requirement)? Physics major undergrads? Physics grad students?
  12. Jan 10, 2017 #11
    It sounds like he is referring to the upper level high school classes where you learn basic Newtonian Mechanics (maybe) and chemistry and whatnot.
  13. Jan 10, 2017 #12
    We could all make good arguments for why kids should learn certain subjects at younger ages. I've seen good arguments made for teaching calculus concepts as early as 5th grade (in an appropriate manner). I think we should teach graph and certain types of number theory in elementary school. Probably biology and chemistry folks have similar opinions relative to their area of expertise.

    If there's something I feel my son is not learning in school I'm going to teach him myself (or send him to science summer camps.)

    -Dave K
  14. Jan 10, 2017 #13


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    This is an overkill.

    There is a difference between learning about Newtonian gravity versus learning GR. It is not the same thing.

    Many of us who specializes in condensed matter, particle accelerators, etc.. etc... don't have to deal with gravity, because it is so freaking weak, it might as well not be there. That is why we don't care take ANOTHER course that has no direct relevance with our field of study, especially when we're already have our plates full.

    So that is your answer.

  15. Jan 10, 2017 #14


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    @FallenApple if you are really looking for something condemn our educational system for, focus on the lack of teaching the scientific method. This is ENORMOUSLY more important than any particular theory and yet huge swaths of the high school population, as I understand it, can't even tell when something is blatantly false and they really have no idea how to find out. If it's on the Internet it's true, seems to be their attitude.
  16. Jan 10, 2017 #15
    Of course, that's why the concepts should be covered as well, maybe by the time of high school.

    But really, in elementary school, you think they learn anything else besides chanting words?
  17. Jan 10, 2017 #16
    I'm more or less referring to the population in general. Many people go through life without even knowing what GR is. I mean, a cursory chapter in middle school science would suffice, just to keep kids up to date. How hard is it to include some pictures of the rubber sheet analogy?
  18. Jan 10, 2017 #17
    Just education in general. People should know at least what the topic deals with. Just like how everyone should know that the earth is round. That's not asking for too much.
  19. Jan 10, 2017 #18
    Well, not knowing the basic nature of space and time at least conceptually is like not knowing that the earth is round instead of flat. They don't need the details, for example, for most people, earth being spherical suffices. For astronomers, sure they need to that planets are more elliptical due to rotation, hence the refinement in knowledge for the task at hand.

    It's just important because it's fundamental. Physics is just going to keep moving forward, while everyone is being left behind. Can you imagine if we reach the space age( think star trek) and people still are stuck in thinking that 19th century physics is the true description of the world?
  20. Jan 10, 2017 #19
    True. You'd think that human knowledge would improve with the internet.
  21. Jan 10, 2017 #20
    I agree that learning the methods and mode thinking about science is the most important thing.

    I see your point about giving people misconceptions. But at the same time, if anyone is going to teach it, it should be schools. You know when I heard about the theory of relativity? When I was watching star trek as a teenager. Hopefully, the education of modern physics isn't relegated to science fiction. I've seen a lot of kids whose first time of hearing about QM is when watching Antman. Can you believe that?

    I would imagine that learning about GR and really interesting stuff that comes along with it like blackholes and time dilation would inflame their passion for learning, not snuff it out. People are drawn towards the esoteric. Especially kids. It doesn't have to be difficult. Just at a level of the rubber sheet analogy.
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