AAPT Abstract Archive

Abstract Information

  Session: Introductory Courses
  Paper Type: Contributed
  Title: It's About Time: Teaching Correct Intuition for General Relativity*
  Meeting: 2018 Winter Meeting: San Diego, CA
  Location: N/A
  Time: 5:10PM
  Author: Jonathan M. Clark*, University Of Tennessee, Knoxville.
4233100720, jclar121@vols.utk.edu
  Co-Author(s): None
  Abstract: When teaching relativity, many famous analogies and simplifications are called upon to aid students' intuitions. The phrase "gravity bends space" and the visual of a bowling ball on a trampoline are two such examples. However, mathematical considerations of the theory necessitate a more rigorous explanation. Particularly, time's role in relativity is central to the theory's ability to model our world. We present several key connections to the real world which include: the coordinate transformation in Einstein's original thought experiment, a weak field approximation showing that Newtonian gravity can be completely recovered from perturbing the time component in the metric, and the theorem of geometry that a three-dimensional manifold cannot have Einstein gravity in a vacuum with vanishing cosmological constant. These considerations are simple enough to include in an advanced high-school or undergraduate-level lesson plan.
  Footnotes: *Sponsored by Lauren Jeneva Clark
  Presentation: Relativity Presentation.pdf

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