Relativity visualized

Teaching Philosophy

This project presents relativistic visualizations that adopt a first-person point of view. Central elements of the modules are the computer simulations: images, movies, and interactive programs.

The computer simlations provide an "observational" and "experimental" approach to the theory of relativity that traditionally is taught as an abstract and deductive theory. For example: Though we are not able to travel at nearly the speed of light and look around, the simulation makes this observation possible and thereby the virtual experience of extremely high speed.

In order to illustrate all of the important phenomena we created computer simulations of many different scenes. Simple geometrical objects produce clear images that are easy to interpret. In our experience, however, a reference to daily life is desirable. The more familiar the scene the greater the interest is in the simulation and the explanations. We therefore also show scenes with, e.g., the cube in the form of a dice, with the sphere in the form of a soccer ball, with well-known buildings and with street scenes.

We attach great importance to the detailed explanation of the "observed" phenomena and have created numerous explanatory graphics and animations. In this respect, our site differs from other sites with computer simulations of the same subject-matter but little or no comments.

We address a broad target audience: physics teachers in school and university, their students and also the general public.

The organisation of this site is not linear but cross-linked. The individal contributions are self-contained modules that are linked by references. According to interest, any module can be chosen as the starting point.

The modules on the one hand complement each other, on the other hand overlaps are numerous and intended. They permit to consider a question from different points of view, e.g. once invoking a virtual world in which the observer herself experiences relativistic phenomena and another time discussing astronomical observations that show these same phenomena in reality. The overlaps also permit to provide the explanations of the movies on different levels, verbally, graphically or arithmetically. This way we try to allow for our broad target audience with different backgrounds and interests.

The website does not cover the basics of the theory. It is meant to be used together with a lecture or textbooks.

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Authors: Ute Kraus, Date: April 13, 2007
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