Physics and Math

By this time more than 1 million people have seen the video of Andrei Linde being told his prediction about gravity waves and inflation had been proven correct.  It is one of the most heart warming scenes in science that you will ever see:

I was lucky enough to be in the audience in 1992 when George Smoot and the COBE team released the first detailed map of the cosmic microwave background radiation.  The excitement from that announcement inspired me to do a little research in theoretical physics for my undergraduate thesis and also to study mathematical physics in graduate school.   As much as I really love math, I try to not just do  “math for math’s sake” stuff with the boys, and have really enjoyed sharing fun results in physics to motivate various aspects of math that we’ve studied.  It isn’t always easy to do this with younger kids, but we have found a few really neat examples.

A few of my favorites:

(1) Comparing the relative sizes of the Earth and the Sun using a marble, a yoga ball, and a soccer field:

 

(2) Talking about one neat little property of the Higgs boson I read in a Frank Wilczek article:

 

(3) Finally one of my absolute all time favorites – how fast is the Sun moving around the center of the galaxy?  Sorry that this one is a little long, but one super fun thing in this problem is that the number 1 quintillion comes up!

 

I really love having the opportunity to share these ideas with the boys.  As they are both struggling a little this week with some new math concepts we are covering, reviewing these old videos reminds me of why I love teaching them.  Hoping for a few fun physics examples in 2014!

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