James Clerk Maxwell and the Second Great Unification in Physics

maxwell

James Clerk Maxwell

Newton unified physics and astronomy: this was the first great unification in physics. Maxwell unified electricity and magnetism – the second great unification.  James Clerk Maxwell should be as well known as Newton. Newton has his three laws. Maxwell has four equations. We can understand Newton’s laws at high school, but we have to wait until we have studied enough mathematics to understand Maxwell’s equations. That’s why he is not well known – it looks like code.

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Maxwell’s equations

But even without the maths, we can understand what the equations mean. Continue reading

A Map of Physics

In 1966 Richard Feynman gave an interview about teaching physics. He described a problem with physics teaching: often students did not know where they were:

In other words, there always should be some kind of a map. – Feynman

The book I am writing for novice teachers is built around a map. I started by writing the text for a timeline for five big ideas of physics: space, electricity, forces at a distance, particles and energy. It was tricky, because several of the timelines intersected at points. So this morning I designed my physics metro-map. I have written a text for each of the stops, some of which I have already published (e.g. here, here, here).

Map of Physics

A Metro-Map style map of physics – each stop has a short text to explain the physics.

The book containing the interview is Feynman’s Tips on Physics. It follows on from his lectures. He deserves his reputation as an excellent teacher. One of the fascinating things in Tips on Physics is his emphasis on solving problems. In other words, Feynman was bang on Cog-Psy message 50 years ago.