[ASC-list] PhD scholarship on introducing curved space geometry in primary school

Nancy Longnecker nancy.longnecker at uwa.edu.au
Wed Aug 3 02:52:05 UTC 2011

Contact Professor David Blair if you are interested in this scholarship:

dgb at physics.uwa.edu.au

Since early in the twentieth century physicists have known that the geometry of the universe is the geometry of curved space, and that the quantum reality of the universe is weird and difficult to comprehend. Curved space gives rise to surprising phenomena like the effect of gravity on clocks. Despite knowing that Newtonian physics is strictly incorrect, the teaching of physics at school has remained Newtonian, with almost no recognition given to the discoveries which are now 100 years old. 

The premise of this PhD project is that it is possible, and indeed, beneficial, to begin to teach the new physics at an early age. This project will test the following: 
a) the ability of primary school students to understand curved space geometry, and to understand that flat space geometry is  a special case, but one which for most purposes is a very useful approximation. 
b) the ability of secondary students to understand  basic concepts of both quantum mechanics and Einstein's relativity, while also understanding that Newtonian physics is a useful approximation.
c)  whether this new approach to teaching physics helps to improve student attitudes to physics by presenting physics as a frontier of learning with many mysteries and problems still to be solved.

The PhD student will develop new curriculum materials  with the help of physicists, and will work with a few selected school groups. The project will make use of exhibits and facilities at the Gravity Discovery Centre in Gin Gin, WA and will involve working with students in the classroom. Interviews and questionaires will be used  to assess student attitudes and understanding.

David Blair
Winthrop Professor
Director, Australian International Gravitational Research Centre (WA
Government Centre of Excellence)
dgb at physics.uwa.edu.au
Tel: 61 8-6488 2736 (office)
       61 8-9575 7591 (Gingin)
       0409 687 703 (Mobile)
Fax: 61 8 6488 1170
Home: 61 8 9279 1003
School of Physics
University of Western Australia
35 Stirling Highway
Nedlands, WA6009
Cricos Provider 0126G

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