Everyday Mechanics and Special Relativity: From Earthly Speed to the Speed of Light! - Senior SPARK
This course is expected to run but has not yet been scheduled.
Special Relativity is awesome! It is a new understanding of the universe where spacetime plays shenanigans to common sense, light can change color just by how you’re moving, and mass seems to increase out of nowhere! Special Relativity is also the basis for General Relativity, where spacetime becomes so whimsical that it gives us blackholes!
It was all thanks to Einstien, who revised Newton’s theory in the early 20th century. When Isaac Newton developed his mechanics back in the 17th century, he actually did it from a mindset not so different from our modern folk’s common intuition: distance can be measured by a ruler and time can be measured by a clock, but any fixed length or duration will be measured as the same regardless of any conditions of the observer. As it turns out, Newton only had an approximate picture of the world. (To Newton’s credit, though, his approximation was really, really good.) It wasn’t until 1905 that Einstein showed, though Special Relativity, a vastly different world where space-time can be warped, mass can be changed into energy, and simultaneous events are not absolutely simultaneous.
In order to see Einstein’s new world, we must first learn Newtonian mechanics. We will apply Newton’s Laws to solve simple problems and conduct exciting hand-on activities. Then we will step into Einstein’s shoes, reenacting his “thought experiments” so that we can see how the physics work quite differently than Newton’s picture. We will also distinguish the physical conditions when the old approximation is enough and when Einstein’s new ideas become important.
At the end of the course, students will know and understand Newton’s Laws. They will be able to solve simple mechanics problems and describe the motion of the objects. They will be able to describe what the effects of the special relativity are, and when the effects become significant.
Students are expected to know some algebra. There are no science prerequisites for the course. This course provides a good introduction to physics, paving a foundation for high school.
*This Senior SPARK course is designed for students currently in 8th grade (entering 9th grade Fall 2014). Younger students are encouraged to register for our Junior SPARK courses.