Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Earth to all teachers! Come in, teachers...

So, last night, while watching the Lakewood Country Club fireworks with Trevor, RR, JLR and Gypsy Kitty, I had an epiphany.

I am the first to admit that I am not scientifically minded (not in the least), but I believe that there are ways to teach scientific concepts so they appeal to us right-brainers.

Take fireworks for example. You see the pretty, pretty lights in the sky about four or five seconds before you hear the “BANG”. Therefore, why not use fireworks as an example of how light travels faster than sound? Seriously, I don’t need a mathematical formula or a lesson in physics. All that I require is a real-world example, and the lights turn on.

Now, it is important to mention that I accepted the fact that sound travels at a much slower rate than light a long time ago. It was just one of those things, like learning count from 1 to 10, that you learn to live with – no matter if it was seemingly logical or not.

“Wait. So, it’s 6, 8, 7, 9, 10?”

“No. It’s 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.”

“But I like it better when the number 8 comes before the number 7.”

“Doesn’t matter. The number 7 comes before the number 8.”


“It just is”

“Oh. Okay.”

The light traveling faster than sound thing is no different:

“Light travels faster than sound.”

“Uh, how do you know?”

“Because it does.”


“Yeah. While both light and sound travel as waves, the speed of light is much, much faster. This is because light is composed of electromagnetic waves which travel independent of a medium. That is to say, light can travel in a vacuum, such as outer space. Electromagnetic waves travel very fast. In a vacuum, the speed is 300,000,000 meters per second; the maximum speed which energy may obtain. This value is abbreviated as ‘c’ , and you may have seen it before as part of Einstein's equation E=mc2. However, when light passes through transparent materials, it slows down a bit. This is because electromagnetic waves interact with the subatomic components of matter. In water, for example, light slows down to around 0.75c, or 225,000,000 meters per second. Even in a material as dense as diamond light travels well over 100 million meters per second! Sound, however, is created by small changes in pressure near the surface of a vibrating object. These changes are propagated through a material medium, such as air, like the ripples formed when one tosses a stone into a pool of water. Sound travels through air at about 340 meters per second. In contrast to light, sound often travels faster in dense materials. In liquid water, sound travels 1450 meters per second. And, in metals such as iron, sounds can travel well over 5000 meters per second. While this is about ten times the speed of a supersonic jet airplane, it is only a tiny fraction of the speed of light.”

[Blinking blankly] Oh, right. Okay.”

Now, if you really wanted me to understand what you were saying, why not simply give me an example that I can get my brain behind (or around for that matter)? Otherwise, I’ll just take your word for it and memorize a concept that means nothing to me (other than a BIG headache).

Just a suggestion...


Katie said...

so here is another example




JLR said...

I love how you not only thought of this last night, but you then immediately shared it with us. So we could all benefit from your new knowledge.

And I think it works better than the lightening example (for me, anyway, though obviously not for everyone!) because in my brain I could never connect the two. It's just as though they are two independent things that both happen in storms. But the fireworks worked. and talking on the phone to someone you can see. that's always weird.

Deals On Wheels said...

JLR: Do you always talk on the phone to someone you can see? Because, I'm guessing I'd probably find that to be "weird", too...

Do you talk to people you can see on the phone often? If, yes, I think you might be missing the point of the "phone". Just FYI...

Tim Rice said...

You're a great character, deals on wheels. Thanks for making me smile. :)

Deals On Wheels said...

(Blushing bashfully) Anytime, Tim! I aim to please!

JLR said...

Ha, deals, I'm talking about what happens to me frequently--I'm supposed to be meeting someone somewhere, but I get there and don't see the person, so I call the person on their cell phone, then we find each other, and we have that awkware moment where we don't want to be rude and just hang up so we continue the conversation for a second. "Oh, wait, I see you now. haha! Ok, um, bye, then."

GrammyPammy said...

It takes about 8 minutes for light just leaving the sun to get to Earth. So...that bright spot in the sky, or the red balloon you see at sunset is where the sun WAS 8 minutes before.
(Always kind of blows my mind.)