What if you thought the earth was flat? And then you found out it isn’t?

Common physics misconceptions from MinutePhysics, who have previously given us a stride-stopping open letter on the state of science education and animated explanations of why the color pink doesn’t exist, why the past is different from the future, why it’s dark at night, and the purpose of the universe.

Hat tip exp.lore.com

Category: Science, Weekend

Please use the comments to demonstrate your own ignorance, unfamiliarity with empirical data and lack of respect for scientific knowledge. Be sure to create straw men and argue against things I have neither said nor implied. If you could repeat previously discredited memes or steer the conversation into irrelevant, off topic discussions, it would be appreciated. Lastly, kindly forgo all civility in your discourse . . . you are, after all, anonymous.

9 Responses to “Common Physics Misconceptions”

  1. MayorQuimby says:


    HIGHLY HIGHLY recommended book for the layperson.

  2. VennData says:

    Could the US House of representatives pass a bill confirming the Earth is round?

  3. Frwip says:

    Meh. Fail. Total fail.

    Because something is relevant to a highly specialized discipline and is indeed a more accurate description of physical reality than basic Newtonian mechanics, it doesn’t mean it should be the basis for teaching middle and high school kids. If it needs to show up at all in the curriculum, it is, at best, as an explanatory side note showing that Newtonian mechanics are a simplified case, a limit case actually, of the more general theories.

    That kind of puristic whining and holier-than-thou smart-assery by physicists is all the more infuriating, that while results from Newtonian mechanics are easy to reproduce in the class room, GR and SR are NOT TESTABLE AT ALL in the set up of the average high school. So it totally fails on the whole point of teaching science to kids : to show them that it is actually possible to describe and understand nature, to derive reproducible, useful rules from observations, that scientific theories are not arbitrary, NOT something pulled from someone’s ass (someone with a white coat, presumably) and that would have to be accepted as revealed truth. And it’s really distressing to see people like the Perimeter Institute endorse that kind of snotty crap.

    On a personal experience, it’s reminds me of those mathematicians and pedagogy “experts” in the 70s who thought that teaching maths to kids starting with basic arithmetic was just too sloppy and failed to lay a clean and proper foundation for studying math. So, it should start by introducing set theory and concepts of abstract algebra such as groups and homomorphisms to 8 years old kids. Fucking idiots.

    Thanks to my good luck (and to my parents who made sure I knew my multiplication tables), I survived this one. But most of my peers didn’t and just grew up barely able to count and with a profound hatred of maths and any thing remotely scientific. (And if you wonder, it wasn’t in the US. At least, over there, they still had the ambition of teaching kids maths, something the US seem to have now wholly given up).

    • winstongator says:

      I agree. GR and SR are really beyond most people’s comprehension level, and what they need to comprehend. See Krugman’s post:
      That people can’t do basic math and are confused by his original post is depressing.

      I have had a chance to practically apply V=IR (E&M) when jump starting a car (twice in the past 3 days). R gets too high (from thin cables) and negative V of your jumper cables gets too big, car won’t start. Use better cables, car starts.

      What would be the most practical physics concept for people to know?

    • Anonymous37 says:

      You can’t place the blame for this on physicists. Granted, it’s been 20 years since I was an undergraduate, but we learned Newtonian gravitation and classical electrodynamics before Einsteinian relativity and quantum mechanics. And we worked through problems in our introductory mechanics class which assumed that the Earth was flat, because for what we required, that was a perfectly acceptable approximation.

      So, yes, that video is kind of annoying. But don’t blame “puristic whining and holier-than-thou smart-assery by physicists”. Blame “puristic whining and holier-than-thou smart-assery by some physicists”.

      • Frwip says:

        I agree.

        Re-reading myself after hitting Submit, I realized a bit late that I should have written “That kind of puristic whining and holier-than-thou smart-assery by a physicist …”

        But I don’t take back anything else :-)

  4. Bill Wilson says:

    I find it ironic that the video claims be in favor of teaching the truth, then it engages in ridiculous, over the top hyperbole. Teaching Newton’s Laws of Physics to children is like teaching children that the world is flat? Do the people at MinutePhysics really believe that? If they do, someone needs to start a website called MinuteHistory so they can educate themselves.

  5. Denis Drew says:

    Space does not bend near celestial bodies. The earth pulls on space and space pulls on objects. This sort of incoming tide of space bends the path of light as it passes through — but is moving past so fast that we don’t see it is falling.

    PS. Sir Isaac missed that energy increases with the square of the speed (you go twice as far when you go twice as fast). He thought it was linear — check you Principia. :-)