Stuff Students Ask

One of the things I enjoy most about teaching A-Level physics is the questions I get asked in lessons.Here are some favourites of mine:

  • If heat rises, why is it so cold at the top of mountains?
  • If the fabric of space is exapnding, and the wavelength of light waves are getting stretched with it, why doesn’t their amplitude grow as well?
  • Why aren’t electromagnetic wavess affected by magnetic fields?
  • Where’s the centre of the Universe?
  • Y’know time slows down when you’re moving fast… is that why it takes, like, forever for Christmas to come when you’re a kid and old people always say that time flies by really quickly? Cos they move about really slowly?
  • (after learning about kinetic theory of gases and the motion of individual molecules) If I throw this [insert object] at [insert low speed] does that mean it will cool down?
  • Why are things in the distance smaller?
  • What does “friability” / “auxetic” mean
  • (having plotted the graph’s axes the wrong way round) But WHY can’t I just turn it through 90 degrees?

I think that the more training a physicist receives, the more narrow their interpretation of things becomes – and this is a good thing. Understanding a concept correctly allows for progress and predictions to be made. The only drawback is that we never consider the absurd, or perhaps the obvious questions that some theories raise.


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