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It’s Time to Reinvent Introductory Physics It is first about Nature, and only later about History, Mathematics and Philosophy Larry Curtis Distinguished.

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Presentation on theme: "It’s Time to Reinvent Introductory Physics It is first about Nature, and only later about History, Mathematics and Philosophy Larry Curtis Distinguished."— Presentation transcript:

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2 It’s Time to Reinvent Introductory Physics It is first about Nature, and only later about History, Mathematics and Philosophy Larry Curtis Distinguished University Professor of Physics and Astronomy University of Toledo

3 What we are doing now? Prof. Donald Holcomb, Cornell University “The current standard model syllabus reflects a 1950 world view. New topics are simply draped across the existing skeleton. Left untouched are evolutional ways of thinking about physics developed over the past 60 or 70 years. Physics Education Research accepts the current model & focuses on ways to teach within the confines of the status quo.”

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7 John Rigden … the only way departments of physics touch future national leaders is through introductory physics courses. Those equation-driven courses do not, in my judgment, qualify as a science education. …the value of an introductory physics course, 6 months after the final exam, is negligible. …I wager that adults who once took an algebra- or calculus- based introductory physics course are unable to discuss common physics phenomena and cannot demonstrate a better understanding of basic physical concepts than can those who never saw the inside of a physics classroom.

8 Is Physics a coherent body of useful contemporary knowledge? Or… only a Method of Inquiry unchanged since the Age of Enlightenment? What should be the public awareness of Physics? Intro. Phys. I – to American Revolution Intro. Phys. II – to American Civil War Modern Phys. – to the Great Depression

9 Relearning the ignorance of the “Enlightenment” Planetary motion (Copernicus, Galileo, Brahe, Kepler ) Newton’s laws (Newton 1687) Electricity (Coulomb 1777) Magnetism (Gilbert 1600, Oersted 1819) Kinetic theory (Maxwell 1860) Relativity E&M (Voigt 1887) Atomic confirmation (Einstein 1905) Line spectra (Kirchhoff 1859)

10 ‘The only justification for a historical treatment is when you must explain how things got to be so messed up.’ Many textbooks introduce the topic through history. Why? Because there is a compelling need to explain how things came to be so muddled and confused, and you won't understand the situation unless you appreciate the history. - Gary Bradshaw ‘First things first, but not necessarily in that order.’ - Dr. Who (J. Flanagan & A. McCulloch, Meglos) Until you know it yourself, it doesn’t matter who discovered it!

11 Stephen Jay Gould: ‘We have to extract meaning out of the confusion of the world around us. We do it by telling stories, and by looking for patterns. And whenever we see a pattern, we have to tell a story about it.’ David Layzer: ‘There is a peculiar synergy between mathematics and ordinary language. Without adequate verbal support, formulas and diagrams tend to lose their meaning; without formulas and diagrams, words and phrases refuse to take on new meanings.’ Richard Dawkins: ‘if solid things are mostly empty space, why don't we see them as empty space?" The answer lies in our own evolution. You might think that our sense organs would be shaped to give us a ‘true’ picture of the world as it ‘really’ is. Instead they have been shaped to give us a useful picture, designed to understand the mundane details of how to survive in the stone-age African savannah’

12 Discover Magazine - October 2005 Issue

13 The Force Concept Inventory

14 ‘the concept of force has reached the end of its life cycle … (suggesting) its disbarment from the inventory of fundamental concepts in physics.’ Max Jammer, Concepts of Force, 1957 ‘In all methods and systems which involve the idea of force there is a leaven of artificiality… there is no necessity for the introduction of the word “force” nor the sense-suggested ideas on which it was originally based.” Peter G. Tait, Dynamics, 1895 ‘If people were to learn to conceive the world in a new way, without the old notion of “force,” it would alter not only their physical imagination, but probably also their morals and politics.’ Bertrand Russell, The ABC of Relativity, 1925

15 Quotes from Force-Trained students: ‘How can a rocket work in outer space where there is nothing for the force to push on?’ ‘The moon doesn’t fall to earth because the centrifugal force holds it out.’ ‘We know that nuclei are small because  -projectiles miss them and go mainly forward. If nuclei were large,  -particles would hit them, feel a force, and bounce backward.’ ‘If weight is gravitational force, and orbiting astronauts are weightless, then they must be outside the range of gravity.’

16 (Ohio State Board of Education –12/10/02)

17 Are the problems we assign even realistic? 1. Viscous drag nonlinearly couples horizontal & vertical – solve numerically. 2. Aerodynamics of backspin dominates the range achieved. Am. J. Phys. 71, 1152 (2003); dispute / R.K. Adair 73, 184 (2005). ____________________________________

18 A lousy approximation!

19 HOW PHYSICS LOOKS TO A BEGINNING STUDENT


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