Believe it or not – these are my first three pictures in Physics (where 99% of the students in my classes are seniors composed of 0.025% of the school population).
What is so special about these pictures and what do they all have in common? A stupid guy in a world of trouble while putting up his Christmas lights, the bottom of the Eiffel Tower, and the “city of brotherly shove” Philadelphia. Not one student – after minutes of discussion and questions and theories – can really see the invisible. They see their world but they do not really see their world. Even after algebra, geometry, and having a slice of trigonometry – they never see their world is ultimately made up of right triangles.
Take a look around you. What is a square? Two right triangles together. What is a rectangle? Two right triangles together. What is a circle? An infinitesimal amount of right triangles put together. What is a straight line? A triangle with a 0 value for one of its sides (where the hypotenuse is equaled to the one side – this one drives math teachers up a wall). Everything is made up of right triangles and therefore everything is made up of x and y vectors. In layman’s terms – everything is made up of an arrow going in the horizontal and an arrow going in the vertical. But it is not until 12th grade do we believe that our students are ready to look at their world differently – insane! And not only that, only 0.025% of our school’s population is allowed to be entrusted with such high-level and difficult to understand knowledge – insane squared!
We limit the child to only seeing the visible rather than challenging them to see the invisible. To see that a rainbow really has two bows. To see that a magnifying glass makes things upright when held close to your eye, but upside down when held far away from your eye. To see that most things around you are absolutely still and motionless.
Once we start seeing the world around us including the invisible – we will start asking why. And we will be able to discover the amazing order of God’s creation – called physics. This is what Galileo did, Newton did, Einstein did…they saw the invisible. Let’s begin to challenge our students to do the same.