A popular analogy compares the geometry of curved spacetime to a rubber sheet. Yet, science educators have shown that this representation can get in the way of a more abstract understanding of Einstein’s theory of gravity. The findings hint to a deeper mechanism about how human cognition works.
According to general relativity, we live in a four-dimensional curved universe. Since the human mind cannot visualize those four dimensions, a popular analogy compares the universe to a two-dimensional rubber sheet distorted by massive objects.
In curved spaces, geometry can play tricks on you. And tricky geometry lies at the heart of Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity. I wrote a feature for Lateral Magazine mapping out a geometric way of teaching relativity.
Albert Einstein’s theory of general relativity is rarely present in school physics curricula due to its abstract nature. Yet, our research suggests that upper secondary students can obtain a qualitative understanding of general relativity. Read our latest research article to see how we introduced students to the world of relativity.
Within project ReleQuant, I developed an online learning environment about general relativity targeted at upper secondary school students. In January 2018, the Norwegian Centre for Science Education launched the program on the learning platform Viten. You can find the Norwegian version of the program here.
Despite our better knowledge, physics in schools is still taught from an outdated 19th century point of view. I think students should learn about curved space and warped time from an early age. Why? Take a look at my article on Titan.