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Thursday, January 10 • 4:00pm - 5:00pm
Difficult Ideas in Physics REPEATED (384)

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I've attached the PowerPoint I'll be using. It is full of questions we'll try to answer in the session - if you can try them out on your students beforehand, that would be useful!
All these contradict our scientific understanding:
  1. Hot air rises allowing the cold air to rush in.
  2. I’m trying to cut down on the amount of energy I use.
  3. Electricity flows from the wall socket to the light.
  4. I need some warmer clothes for the winter.
  5. I need to keep pedalling to keep the bike going.
  6. My art teacher says the primary colours are red yellow and blue
  7. Petrol contains energy to make the car go.

Simple everyday happenings lead us to misunderstand some basic ideas in physics - simple ideas but difficult because they are counter intuitive:
  1. Why does hot air rise? It is massive and is attracted to the earth by gravity, yet science books often describe convection currents by saying "The hot air rises allowing the cold air to rush in"
  2. We use energy yet are told it cannot be destroyed. Here we are confusing the energy measured in joues with the usefulness of the energy. The second law of thermodynamics actually makes more common sense than the 1st law about energy conservation.
  3. Metals are cold to touch yet they are at the same (room) temperature as wood?
  4. What forces act on a ball thrown upwards? Many people confuse momentum with force.
  5. A battery discharges yet the current, we are told, is constant all the way round a circuit. A confusion between current and energy.
  6. R(ed) G(reen) B(lue) are the physics primary colours, yet in art lessons we are told they are red yellow and blue. We need to realise there are 6 colours here, not 4.
  7. We get energy from burning fuels and respiring food, but where is the energy stored - it is definitely not IN the fuel or food, despite what everyone says.

(see chapter 15 of Teaching Secondary Science - 4th Edition Routledge

avatar for Keith Ross

Keith Ross

Retired secondary teacher / teacher educator, Science Issues
I started teaching science in school on VSO in India after a metallurgy degree at Oxford. After a year in industry I made teaching my career, first in secondary schools in Birmingham and Leicestershire, then for 3 years in Nigeria. I was deeply inspired by Clive Sutton during a Master's... Read More →

Thursday January 10, 2019 4:00pm - 5:00pm GMT
Murray Learning Centre UG06