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THEME 6: Frontiers of Temporal and Spatial Physics
THEME 6 FRONTIERS of TEMPORAL and SPATIAL PHYSICS How can the exploration of mathematics help us understand and explain the dimensions of the universe? In the quest to understand the physical nature of the universe, physicists, mathematicians and other researchers have expanded and enriched the language of mathematics to more fully describe the known, hidden and mysterious dimensions of time and space. While our powers of perception allow us to understand three-dimensional space fairly well, the concept of time and the possibility of dimensions folded within our perceived dimensions transcend humans' limited sensual (perceptual) knowledge. Through abstract algebra and other symbolic mathematics, the properties and nature of the universe are described and even provide methods to test theories. From the infinitesimally small to the inconceivably large, we continue to strive to explain and understand not only the dimensional structure HONORS IN ACTION of the universe, but also even possibly how to manipulate both space I WOULD HAVE TOTALLY PAID ATTENTION IN and time. ALGEBRA IF I KNEW I COULD TELEPORT! OVERVIEW EXPLORE MORE! Humans have searched for a meaningful and coherent Abbott, Edwin (1884). Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions. explanation of the universe since before time began. While This is a classic tale of a two-dimensional universe disrupted by a students are intrigued by science fiction and fantasy novels visionary inhabitant who discovers a third dimension and begins to that explore the frontiers of time and space, few are motivated imagine a possible fourth dimension. Abbott's work opens our eyes to to learn mathematics with sufficient depth to understand this the possibilities of space and time beyond imagination and illustrates elegant and concise language of physics -- a language that is math and physics as well as social satire to a broad audience. critical for meaningful exploration of these frontiers. Hawking, Stephen (1998). A Brief History of Time. PREPARATION Hawking provides the layperson an understanding of the universe, SELECTION OF THEME Physics intrigues our team. We chose space, black holes, the Big Bang Theory and time. This introductory Theme 6 because 1) we wanted to better understand the guide to cosmology invites the beginner to ask big questions of the physical nature of the universe and the frontiers of time and universe and explore time and space as an engaging frontier. space, and 2) we were intrigued by and motivated to learn the mathematical tools required to explore these frontiers. Kaku, Michio (2008). Physics of the Impossible. Are you ready to time-travel, read your boss' mind or just teleport to DEVELOP RESEARCH QUESTIONS work? Kaku discusses how close these three goals of manipulating time _ In what ways do algebra and physics relate to science and space are and how possible the seemingly impossible might be in fiction-like frontiers of time and space? our lives. _ To what extent are frontiers of time and space significant in the lives of contemporary humans? Kaku, Michio (2011). Physics of the Future: How Science Will Shape _ What discoveries can set the stage for a future imagined by Human Destiny and Our Daily Lives by the Year 2100. scientists and science fiction authors? Kaku explores possibilities in artificial intelligence, Internet connectivity, medicine, space exploration and more ways science will shape human ACADEMIC RESEARCH The team created a research plan that destiny. Through interviews with the world's top scientists, Kaku encompassed multiple directions. We first explored the speculates the economic, technological and political universe humans scholarly works of mathematicians and physicists who proposed will inhabit in 100 years. models of the universe. From that general investigation, we asked the following questions: What are the latest models? For more sources related to this theme, go to ptk.org/honors. How many dimensions do scientists believe comprise the
universe? How do dimensions beyond space-time behave, and how _ A team of members developed an ancillary resource guide for are they verified? Are scientists nearing consensus, or do multiple teachers to accompany the comic book. models exist? Does a model exist that encompasses both the infinitely _ Members managed the copying and distribution of the comic books large and the infinitesimally small, quantum mechanics versus and ancillary materials. general relativity? To determine the answers to these questions, smaller research teams reviewed literature on models of the universe. During COLLABORATION To successfully complete our project, we our research, members found that, nationally, students were not literate collaborated with the following groups: in math and physics in ways that could benefit their everyday lives. Was _ math, physics and education faculty at our community college; this true of students in our community? To find out, we researched local _ student services personnel on campus; academic studies of mathematical and scientific proficiency for _ students, teachers and administrators at two local elementary students of varying ages and interviewed students, parents and schools and two local middle schools; educators in our community about academic challenges in math and _ faculty from our college's art program; science. Are some groups more or less proficient than others? What _ our campus administrators; and preparation do math teachers undergo? How does the mathematical _ members of our region with whom we shared copies of our comic proficiency of students in our community compare to national book and engaged in a formal dialogue about the exploration of the averages? Will lack of math and science proficiency undermine our dimensions of the universe. ability to explore dimensions of the universe? ACTION We created a short, engaging and interactive lesson in the ANALYSIS AND CONCLUSIONS Our team analyzed our research and form of a comic book covering multiple models of the universe and an concluded we had work to do to help people see the possibilities introduction to the mathematics necessary to understand these related to frontiers in the latest research on physics-based and models. Our comic book incorporated super heroes such as mathematical models of time, space and the universe. There are QuarkMan, The 11-Dimensional Woman, their dogs Infinity and Ixi models of the universe that can tell us a great deal about dimensions (Infinity-times-Infinity) and their pet snake SuperString, all of whom of the universe that most of us don't usually contemplate. Those lived in their "Imaginary Igloo." Our heroes and heroines move models can help us make wise choices for the future of significant backward, forward and sideways through time to help human beings of aspects of life. Students in our community test below national averages all ages improve their math skills so they can save the universe from a in their understanding of math and science. What does that mean for threatening mathematical breakdown. In addition to the comic books, our future, and how can we make a positive difference by motivating we provided companion documents, including a history of our heroes, students to see the possibilities inherent in studying algebra and resources for further study of models of the universe and physics? These questions guided the determination of our action. mathematics, and a glossary of important terms and mathematical ideas for teachers to use in their classrooms. DETERMINATION OF ACTION Knowing that students in our community need to work on their math and science skills to help them understand REFLECTION the dimensions of the universe and why those dimensions are EVALUATION To evaluate our project we 1) gained immediate important in their everyday lives, we decided to create a lesson plan in feedback from students via a short survey and follow-up focus groups, the form of a comic book based on effective pedagogical techniques 2) interviewed teachers about the effectiveness of the comic books in we learned from teachers. Our comic book focused on physical and terms of motivating students' interest in math and physics, and 3) made mathematical models of the universe with an emphasis on the follow-up visits with the same students three months after distributing language of mathematics as a necessary tool for meaningful the comic books. We worked with teachers to develop math problems understanding of the models. Using teleportation as a hook, we related to the comic book to see how effectively students had learned created super hero characters to engage students in mathematics. the lessons about the exploration of the universe's dimensions. Our team learned lessons as well. We grew as leaders through the development LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT To successfully complete our workshops and seminars we attended to learn the skills necessary to Honors in Action project, we engaged in the following leadership complete our project. We learned a lot about creating visual interest in development activities: mathematics and physics while trying to tell an important story about the _ a workshop on teaching methods for math and physics conducted role of these disciplines in exploration of this frontier. jointly by college faculty and middle school teachers; _ three math and physics lectures by our college faculty to improve FUTURE IMPLICATIONS What other topics will motivate students to chapter members' abilities to communicate mathematically and study mathematics? Are there other strategies to motivate young scientifically; and students? How do you motivate older students to study math and _ a seminar on comic book and character development delivered by a physics? We are encouraging teachers and community college faculty local author. to consider possible extensions of lesson plans to include sub-atomic physical models and the mathematics of the infinitesimally small IMPLEMENTATION (quantum theory), general relativity and the infinitely large, black LEADERSHIP ROLES holes, teleportation and other more fantastical impossibilities that may _ Officers reached out to our members to create a research team. become possible with the knowledge of the relevant mathematics. _ Members negotiated the dissemination of comic books to students We are also interested in volunteering as readers in an after-school at two elementary and two middle schools. program for which we would share books such as A Wrinkle in Time to _ Team members coordinated the writing and illustration of the encourage a love of all things mathematical. comic book.