How is physics taught and learned. Teaching strategies, class examples and demonstrations; learning resources, career advice, etc. For explicit problems, use the 'homework' tag instead.

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How do I explain to a 6 year old why people on the other side of the Earth don't fall off? [closed]

Today a friend's 6 year old sister asked me the question "why don't people on the other side of the earth fall off?". I tried to explain that the Earth is a huge sphere and there's a special force ...
82
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7answers
5k views

Does Earth really have two high-tide bulges on opposite sides?

The bit that makes sense – tidal forces My physics teacher explained that most tidal effect is caused by the moon rotating around the Earth, and some also by the Sun. They said that in the Earth and ...
48
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10answers
5k views

What is a field, really?

There was a reason why I constantly failed physics at school and university, and that reason was, apart from the fact I was immensely lazy, that I mentally refused to "believe" more advanced stuff ...
44
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13answers
9k views

Best books for mathematical background?

What are the best textbooks to read for the mathematical background you need for modern physics, such as, string theory? Some subjects off the top of my head that probably need covering: ...
42
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7answers
3k views

Explaining to a five year old - why don't bubbles run like water

My five-year old daughter was asking about astronauts the other day and why they float in space. After me showing her a few bits on the kids section on the NASA web site I started explaining about the ...
40
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7answers
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Explaining UV radiation to a 6 year old

My (just completed) PhD involved a considerable amount of research involved with the detection of solar UV radiation. This generated quite a bit of interest, especially when I was conducting my ...
34
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9answers
4k views

Classic home experiments for an 8-year-old child

My 8-year-old daughter's school report says that she's good at understanding the basic science she's doing, but she's having trouble seeing how experimental results lead to conclusions. Specifically, ...
34
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2answers
11k views

Lev Landau's “Theoretical Minimum”

The great russian physicist Lev Landau developed a famous entry exam to test his students. This "Theoretical Minimum" contained everything he considered elementary for a young theoretical physicist. ...
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14answers
2k views

Why quantum mechanics?

Imagine you're teaching a first course on quantum mechanics in which your students are well-versed in classical mechanics, but have never seen any quantum before. How would you motivate the subject ...
25
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11answers
6k views

What is the simplest way to prove the Earth is round?

Assume you've come in contact with a tribe of people cut off from the rest of the world, or you've gone back in time several thousand years, or (more likely) you've got a numbskull cousin. How would ...
21
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14answers
2k views

Learning physics online?

I'm thinking of following some kind of education in physics online. I have a master degree in Computer Science and have reasonable good knowledge in physics. I would like a program of 1-2 years and ...
21
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9answers
5k views

How should a physics student study mathematics? [closed]

Note: I will expand this question with more specific points when I have my own internet connection and more time (we're moving in, so I'm at a friend's house). This question is broad, involved, and ...
20
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8answers
3k views

Starting a physics Ph.D. at 60?

Decades ago I was in a physics Ph.D. program, made a hash of things, and quite rightly was dropped from the program. Since then I've had a very satisfying career as a computer programmer, and picked ...
18
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8answers
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What are the prerequisites to studying general relativity? [closed]

This question recently appeared on Slashdot: Slashdot posts a fair number of physics stories. Many of us, myself included, don't have the background to understand them. So I'd like to ask the ...
16
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7answers
4k views

How to learn physics effectively and efficiently [closed]

How do you effectively study physics? How does one read a physics book instead or just staring at it for hours? (Apologies in advance if the question is ill-posed or too subjective in its current ...
14
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4answers
2k views

How can I measure the mass of the earth at home?

How can I measure the mass of the earth at home? How was the mass of the earth first measured?
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3answers
1k views

Is there a physics Puzzles site like Project Euler?

I am looking for a site that publishing riddles and problems such as Project Euler publishes problems in computer science. Is there any similar site that is hardcore in the area of physics? This ...
13
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4answers
3k views

What errors would one learn from Eliezer Yudkowsky's introduction to quantum physics?

Eliezer Yudkowsky wrote an introduction to quantum physics from a strictly realist standpoint. However, he has no qualifications in the subject and it is not his specialty. Does it paint an accurate ...
13
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9answers
2k views

What are good mechanics experiments for 10 year olds? [closed]

I'm trying to explain elementary mechanics - without the benefits of calculus or even algebra - and struggling. I'd like to find reasonable ways to demonstrate Newton's laws, minimally, and possibly ...
12
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11answers
18k views

How do you start self-learning physics [closed]

I think this question has its place here because I am sure some of you are "self-taught experts" and can guide me a little through this process. Considering that : I don't have any physics scholar ...
12
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2answers
279 views

Searching books and papers with equations

Sometimes I may come up with an equation in mind, so I want to search for the related material. It may be the case that I learn it before but forget the name, or, there is no name for the equation ...
11
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8answers
5k views

How do you explain spinning tops to a nine year old?

Why don't spinning tops fall over? (The young scientist version) My nine year old son asked me this very question when playing with his "Battle Strikers" set. Having studied Physics myself, I am very ...
11
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6answers
667 views

What is an effective way to search for post-doc positions in physics?

I am a graduate student in experimental physics, currently writing up my dissertation and beginning to apply to post-doc positions. While it is very easy to find out about open positions in my ...
11
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7answers
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What does it take to understand Maxwell's equations?

Assume I want to learn math and physics enough to reach a level where I understand Maxwell's equations (The terms and reasoning in the equations I.e. why they "work"). What would I have to learn in ...
11
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3answers
612 views

Mathematical Physics Book Recommendation [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: Best books for mathematical background? I want to learn contemporary mathematical physics, so that, for example, I can read Witten's latest paper without checking other ...
11
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1answer
509 views

How can I explain or demonstrate the Lorentz Force to a 12 year old?

I'm a space physicist. I've been working with a group of school students (aged between around 10 and 12) exploring the Sun, the Earth and the solar system. We've talked about some basics of magnetism ...
10
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3answers
2k views

PhD Research Areas in String Theory

I'm thinking of applying to do a PhD in String Theory, starting in September 2013. I'm gradually learning more about the subject through external reading, but still most papers are impenetrable! Could ...
10
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6answers
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What is the simplest way to prove that the Earth orbits the Sun?

Assume you're talking to someone ignorant of the basic facts of astronomy. How would you prove to them that the Earth orbits the Sun? Similarly, how would you prove to them that the Moon orbits ...
10
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2answers
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How should a theoretical physicist study maths? [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: How should a physics student study mathematics? If some-one wants to do research in string theory for example, Would the Nakahara Topology, geometry and physics book and ...
9
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5answers
1k views

Why is introductory physics not taught in a more “axiomatic” way?

I am engineer who was taught the standard four semester, two-year physics courses from Halliday and Resnick's book. However, after reading the insightful answers here (e.g. Ron Maimon's awesome ...
9
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3answers
26 views

What are good resources for someone looking to become an amateur astronomer?

What resources would you consider to be essential for an amateur astronomer?
9
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3answers
495 views

What areas of physics should a mathematician study to understand TQFT?

I am studying topological quantum field theory from the view point of mathematics.(axiomatic treatise) So it has no explanation about physics. I would like to know physic background of TQFT. But I ...
9
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2answers
329 views

Motivation for Potentials

This is a hypothetical question about "pedagogy". Let's say I am trying to take someone who has just a very small amount of knowledge about Newtonian mechanics and convince them that the Lagrangian ...
8
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5answers
2k views

Graduate School for Theoretical Physics

First off, let me just say that I am unsure if this question is appropriate for this site, and if the community deems it necessary, the question should be closed. So right now I am a fourth year ...
8
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8answers
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How does the earth move?

My son who is 5 years old is asking me a question about how the earth moves around the sun. What answer should I give him?
8
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9answers
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Should I begin to study quantum mechanics or wait until I have a stronger base on easier topics? [closed]

I apologize if this is off topic since it does not relate directly to the study of physics, but I could not think of a better place to ask. I am a high school student graduating in a few days and ...
8
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3answers
337 views

Supersymmetry in Quantum Mechanics

I was reading Supersymmetry in Quantum Mechanics and got stuck in the various mathematical terminology like "Graded-Lie Algebra", "Super Algebra". Is there any good lecture notes concerning these ...
8
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5answers
1k views

Physics book for 15 year old boy [duplicate]

Possible Duplicate: List of good classical physics books my name is Bruno Alano. As stated in the title, I'm 15 years old (I'll do 16 on 7 of Feb) and much love Computer Science (C, C++), ...
8
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2answers
138 views

How to design a deliberately biased coin?

For demonstrating basic probability concepts, it would be nice to have a coin-like object that lands heads/tails not in 50/50% ratio, but biased in a way that can be revealed in a short experiment. ...
8
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1answer
386 views

Introductory examples of AdS/CFT duality

I would like to know, what are the simplest/starting/basic examples that are typically used to introduce students to how AdS/CFT really works? (not the MAGOO paper, as I am not sure it has concrete ...
7
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5answers
2k views

Trouble with classical mechanics self-learning (How to avoid going down the Physics rabbit hole?) [duplicate]

I'm a retired police officer trying to learn classical mechanics on my own. I have gone through many links on the Internet including the classical mechanics quick reference textbooks from Physics ...
7
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5answers
3k views

Math or Physics degree?

I am hoping to become a physicist focusing mainly on the theoretical side in the future. I am trying to decide whether to go for a physics or math undergrad course. Assuming that I am capable of ...
7
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1answer
583 views

Educational physics stories with a funny punchline [closed]

As a physicist, when I'm giving lectures or during colloquiums, I usually find it necessary to have some appropriate and related jokes in hand. All of the best teachers have some, and they use them ...
7
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3answers
2k views

What math do I need for mathematical physics? In what manner should I learn math? [closed]

I'm a freshman undergraduate. I've got my sight on mathematical physics. I love math but I don't have the talent nor the inclination for purely abstract mathematics. I also love physics. The only ...
7
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3answers
514 views

Computer game with quantum optics / quantum information

Is there a computer game using principles of quantum optics or quantum information? By game I mean not just a simulation or an interactive course, but something than can be played in an enjoyable ...
7
votes
1answer
1k views

How does the boiling time depend on the number of eggs

My nephew showed me an exercise from his school-textbook about boiling eggs. Here is the exercise (translated from german): To make one hard-boiled egg in a pot of water one has to put it for 8 ...
7
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1answer
115 views

An approachable example of a field with a “mass gap”

Preamble: I have come to believe that alot of difficulties in explaining physics to people of all levels comes from the relatively mundane idea of a wave equation with a mass gap $$\left(-\partial^2_t ...
6
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6answers
2k views

Linear Algebra for Quantum Physics

A week ago I asked people on this forum what mathematical background was needed for understanding Quantum Physics, and most of you mentioned Linear Algebra, so I decided to conduct a self-study of ...
6
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3answers
8k views

What is the math knowledge necessary for starting Quantum Mechanics?

Could someone experienced in the field tell me what the minimal math knowledge one must obtain in order to grasp the introductory Quantum Mechanics book/course? I do have math knowledge but I must ...
6
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2answers
937 views

How can some-one independently do research in particle physics?

I'm not affiliated with a physics department and I want to do independent research. I'm working my way through Peskin et. al. QFT now. Let's say that I've finished Peskin et. al. and Weinberg QFT ...