Where No One Has Gone Before... Dave Swartz – Rocky Mountain High School, Fort Collins An interactive voyage from the Sun to Earth and beyond.
When StarTrek first aired in the mid 1960's, it was an immediate hit. Here was an almost believable journey that everyone could take. The trek usually involved warp speed, which meant breaking the light speed barrier. To this day we don't understand why this barrier exists, and our physical laws as written will not let us ever go any faster.
Today you will travel at the speed of light and hopefully walk away with an experience that helps you relate to the vastness of space.
Grades 5-8 4.41 Describing the basic components, composition, size, and theories of origin of the solar system. 4.43 Comparing Earth to other planets (for example, size, composition, relative distance from the Sun): and in this case, absolute distances from the sun using models. Colorado State Educational Standards addressed by this activity:
Grades 9-12 1.7 recognizing and analyzing alternative explanations and models. 2.34 describing and explaining physical interactions of matter using conceptual models 4.4 Students know the structure of the solar system, composition and interaction of objects in the universe, and how space is explored 6.3 using graphs, equations, and other models to analysis systems involving change and constancy Colorado State Educational Standards addressed by this activity:
Preparation 1 hour. Entire lesson delivery 68 minutes. The activity itself will run 30 minutes for a class of 30. Allow 15-20 minutes or more for an introduction to models and scales. Discuss scale development and how it is used for this model. Then walk (literally) through the activity. For in-class completion allow 15 minutes post activity for the student's write-ups. Estimated Time for setup and completion of this activity:
A long hallway or outside open space with a straight shot of over 110 meters. Bigens Bouncing Ball (101mm or larger - available @Toys-r-Us), weather balloon, or 1 meter diameter circular construction paper cutout. meter stick air pump clay to make the planets 100 meter + tape measure printout of reference points for ground stopwatches Essential Materials needed:
prepared overheads for scale explanations additional planets chairs for placing planets outside thread or fishing line to suspend planets from the ceiling waste barrel to hold the sun 7.5 minute topographic map which includes your school Additional Materials :
The student will experience travel at the speed of light (a physical limit that under current scientific reasoning can not be exceeded) and learn via modeling how the members of the solar system relate to each other in absolute and relative terms. The student will also share their impressions of how relative models they have learned from in the past may have impacted their views of the true dimensions of the universe. Objectives :
This activity helps students to grasp the true size and relationship between objects in our local solar system. It dispels myths introduced by such popular TV programs as Star Trek by pointing out physical limits and dimensions that are accurate to our scientific reasoning. The activity utilizes a true scale model, in contrast to what I like to refer to as "mental" models such as a drawing of the solar system in a book or the Bohr model of an atom. A true physical model is accurate in scale, and I have found no other method to accurately portray our solar system. Teacher Content Information :
I take the opportunity of making this an interdisciplinary assignment. I assign a writing exercise to the students, having them reflect on their journey. I have varied the writing assignment and more recently asked the students to consider a science-fiction approach. For example, they might take on the personality of a photon of light making the journey, or what the trip would be like for the first humans to venture these distances. (Remember, it took three days for Apollo to cover 1.5 light seconds on its journey to the moon!) You may want to solicit the help of your Language Arts department in grading the assignment, or even developing a rubric for the assessment. Other assessments could include variations with scale to fit smaller venues, calculations of the density of the solar system, model building, etc. Evaluation :
Calculating the scale : The absolute best way to do this is to use the online calculator at the Exploratorium: Build a Solar System.You can make changes to your scale on the fly for your venue (I didn’t today because I wasn’t sure where I would end up!) The calculator will even scale the speed of light for you!Build a Solar System The following four pages are screen shots of the calculator:
Other wonderful models : The Thousand Yard Model is fantastic, although the scale is such that it would make the walking journey very difficult!Thousand Yard Model If you are looking for a model that shows the entire solar system in a “workable” space, this is it! I think he should change the name to Thousand-Meter Model myself!
Links to other Solar System Models The Thousand-Yard Model http://www.noao.edu/education/peppercorn/pcmain.html http://www.noao.edu/education/peppercorn/pcmain.html This is a classic model and nice scale to visit all the planets Build a Solar System http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/ http://www.exploratorium.edu/ronh/solar_system/ The calculator at this web site is awesome and even gives you light speed pace for walking at the speed of light. The web links to other Solar System sites are up-to-date and very reliable. Solar System Live http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/uncgi/Solar http://www.fourmilab.ch/cgi-bin/uncgi/Solar This site shows the position of the planets, in stereo vision if you’d like! You’ve got to try this!
How to contact Dave Swartz : The very best way is, of course, email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: (970) 416-7222 Snail Mail: Rocky Mountain High School – Science 1300 West Swallow Road Fort Collins. CO 80526