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Putting Einstein first: It's time to stop lying to our children about physics

3 comments, 210 views, posted 8:10 pm 13/12/2019 in Sci-Fi, Science & Space by tricpe
tricpe has 15929 posts, 7147 threads, 609 points, location: In a pair of Speedo
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Isaac Newton is a physics icon, but he was wrong.

Sure, three hundred years ago, his discoveries about gravity and the laws governing motion revolutionised the world.

And yes, sure, those discoveries led to an incredibly useful mechanistic, deterministic view of the universe – in which one thing causes another.

It's the story we all still learn in school. But Einstein proved it was wrong a century ago.

What did Newton get wrong?
While Newton saw time and space as absolute, Einstein proved that time is relative – it depends on height and speed.

And space? Einstein said that space is curved by matter. So parallel lines will always cross, because space is never flat.

It's mind blowing. And it's not what we're taught in school.

Our kids still learn that time is absolute. And parallel lines never meet. In fact every bit of geometry you learn at school is approximate, because Newton's fundamental assumption about the fixed nature of space was false.

But it doesn't stop there.

When Einstein showed that light comes as little packets of energy (that we now call photons), he also predicted the physics of solar panels.

Louis de Broglie extended Einstein's hypothesis, and proposed that everything, whether a cricket ball, an electron or a photon of light, combines both 'bulletiness' (the momentum you feel when you catch a heavy ball) with 'waviness' (like the ripples on a pond).

Einstein's physics for kids
An image of a person standing on a soapbox
Listen to David Blair talk about whether kids can understand relativity and quantum physics.

A consequence of all this is that our universe is far from mechanistic and deterministic. In fact, everything in the universe is statistical.

Reality is governed by strange but precise statistical rules. Reality is … fuzzy.

Einstein himself hated this conclusion and struggled to prove the absurdity of it. Famously saying: "God does not play dice."

But God and dice aside, physicists went on to prove that reality is indeed fuzzy.

Richard Feynman described it like this: "The rules are so strange … the rules are so screwy that you can't believe them!"

But this is the truth we all have to get used to. "If you don't like it," he said, "go somewhere else … to another universe!"

Physicists and chemists have been using these rules of the quantum world for decades to invent transistors, computers, lasers, nuclear reactors, cameras, mobile phones, whole body MRI scanners, drugs and medicines.

But kids are still learning the old stuff in school. The Newtonian world view — the lies.

Teachers are still teaching Newton's physics because of a combination of Einstein's physics being seen as too hard, and teachers themselves being more comfortable with the Newtonian physics they were trained in.

I believe that we owe it to our kids to stop the lies, and to teach them our best understanding of the universe.

Six years ago my team set out to discover if it was actually possible. We designed programs that we have tested from year 3 to year 12. They are fun and interactive, based on models and analogies.

We converted the maths of the quantum world into the maths of arrows. We tested to see if kids could grasp what it means for space to be curved, and whether they could appreciate the weirdness of the quantum world.

The evidence is overwhelming: the kids enjoy it, ask for more, and wish all their science could be so engaging. They all know that they have been learning old stuff.

Girls who normally start with a less positive attitude to science than boys, respond more strongly to our approach and come out equal with the boys.

And while adults respond to the ideas, with "Wow, you must be a genius to understand this science", the children just take it in their stride. They are learning a new common sense.

Putting Einstein first
Following our first trials, we have been funded for a five-year program in which we are developing an integrated school curriculum called Einstein-First. It is designed for all students, not just the academically talented.

Our goal is that university lecturers will never again have to say "forget all that stuff you learnt in school". We want everybody to feel comfortable in the modern world where nearly everything is powered by Einstein's physics.

But why is this important?

In the world today a few scientists and technologists speak one language of reality, and everyone else, the consumers of Einsteinian technology, whether they be prime ministers, lawyers, primary school teachers or farmers speak the obsolete Newtonian language of reality.

Imagine a world without mobile phones, solar panels, cameras, nuclear reactors, black holes or gravitational waves. That's the world we're preparing our kids for. These things don't exist in the Newtonian world we teach.

Neither does climate change. Tiny traces of carbon dioxide in the air make a heat blanket around earth because of the Einsteinian physics of photons interacting with CO2 molecules.

And high-energy photons like X-rays and UV can damage molecules like DNA, causing cancer. But low energy photons like those used for radios and mobile phones cannot.

Understanding the physics of our world allows us to make better, more informed decisions. Without the language of Einsteinian physics all our technology may as well be magic. And we are beholden to whoever makes the strongest sales pitch.

Our creation story
Beyond understanding things around us, humans have always yearned to understand our place in the universe. And our best understanding is 100 per cent Einsteinian.

It has given us the story of the Big Bang creation of the universe, the formation of galaxies and stars, the making of the elements, the evolution of solar systems and the future death of the Sun.

It is the most fantastic, wonderful and awe-inspiring story. Everyone could share it if we all spoke the Einsteinian language of reality. Don't our kids deserve the opportunity to share this story?

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Comments

4
12:21 am 14/12/2019

Quaektem

Quote by tricpe:
A consequence of all this is that our universe is far from mechanistic and deterministic. In fact, everything in the universe is statistical.



Unless the progressives don't like the statistics

But on a serious note...

Newtonian physics and Euclidean geometry are fundamental building blocks, it also helps that they always apply consistently in the scope and perception of the world we live in.

Geometry in particular is one part of a field of abstract concepts we use to define the world called Mathematics. Hell, even the concept of using a 10-digit base is an evolutionary accident according to the best scientific theory!

A 'line' is an idea, two parallel lines are a definition of further abstraction. Knowing the rules about parallel lines allows us to solve real world problems. At no point will we, in our day to day lives ever have those rules fail.

Newtonian physics does a fantastic job of explaining real life physics. Sure, if a quantum singularity pops up next door I'm sure that the rules of velocity might not work as expected, but I'll have other things to worry about.

What the author misses is that moment of awe that happens when someone realizes that parallel lines as we imagine them can't exist in the real world. If you're never taught Euclidean geometry you can't even grasp the significance of the deeper concept. Same with quantum entanglement, or wave-particle duality. You have to be comfortable with three building blocks of atoms before you can appreciate quarks or anti-matter.

It's like teaching a kinder-gardener that cat rhymes with hat without jumping into why bough, cough, dough, ought, rough, through and tough don't rhyme.

3
3:05 am 14/12/2019

MASTERV

Its all relitive
Geomery is a great tool and building block that can be used by anyone to acomplish hands on tasks, refer to the pyramids.

Newton laws take it up a knotch and alow complex math to be used and taught. It will get you from point A to point B within our solar system.

But it doesnt stop there. Einstien theories at perspective and time to Newtons math and motion. With that we can predict use and understand gravitational lensing.

Beyond Einstien comes quantum physics allowing us to take our math and science from galaxy size age, speed and mass down to partical physiscs.

In my opinion science is not something that should be judged right or wrong as progressive level of understanding and when applied to a problem will give you an answer you can us.

Distance to the moon pythagreums theroy works.
To calculate where the moon will me in 18 hours add to Newtons. Discribe why the moon orbits the way it does add Einstien....

BTW
Why is politics and religion always brought up in a science conversation. Can't we ever get a break from that shit?

3
5:41 am 14/12/2019

Quaektem

I made one slight reference acknowledging current scientific consensus. Sorry

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