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Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning Opinion Essay

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Updated: Jul 1st, 2019

The scientific revolution was a period in history that saw the development of intellectual thinking, a period referred to as the age of renaissance. This was accompanied by many scientific discoveries that sought to explain naturally occurring phenomena. Many intellectual thinkers at the time used experiments and methodology to provide a substantial basis for their assumptions and theories.

One such great thinker was Galileo Galilei. He was a meticulous, celebrated scientist and mathematician who formulated many laws that formed the basis for modern-day physics. He went against the Aristotelian scientists who were mainly concerned with the ‘why’ questions while disregarding the ‘how’ questions. One iconic discovery that revolutionized the scientific community was the invention of the pendulum.

Physics is defined as the study of the natural world using scientific measurements and experiments. The pendulum, as discussed below, provided the basis upon which Physics provided the much sought after answers to life’s questions.

Providing equipment to students and directing them to make a pendulum is unfortunately not enough. In order, to engage students in Physics, teachers should be in a position to demonstrate the ‘how aspect’, just as Galileo did. For instance, educating students of how the pendulum was discovered and its application in many scientific theories could arouse the students’ interest in the subject.

Teachers could apply history in describing the popular account of how Galileo discovered that the oscillations of the church’s chandelier corresponded with his heartbeat while in church. This led to the invention of the pulsilogium, a simple diagnostic instrument used to measure the heartbeat. This invention was also facilitated by the pendulum as a result of its oscillations.

Therefore, to increase student participation, teachers can assist students in making a practical pulsilogium in order to illustrate the many functions of the pendulum.

Teachers could also discuss the historical rift that existed between Galileo and Aristotelian philosophers. These philosophers, unlike Galileo, dealt with the application of physics in dealing with the world as it is and not the idealized mathematical world that Galileo dealt with. They followed Aristotle’s empiricism ‘if we cannot believe our eyes, what can we believe?’

The pendulum could also improve physics teaching and learning by indicating how its mechanics was applied in the validation of other scientific theories advanced by other philosophers. For instance, the studies of the pendulum by Galileo substantiated the following laws:

  1. Newton, the father of modern physics used pendulum knowledge to validate the laws of motion, particularly the law of attraction. This is because this law formed a basis for the determination of the gravitational constant, g, which revolutionized the scientific world.
  2. Richer, a marine scientist, used a marine pendulum clock that he used to discover the time lapse that occurred at the equator. Amidst major criticism from the church and the scientific community, it was discovered that the shape of the world was that of an oblate sphere. This theory was supported by Huygens in his centrifugal theory.

As a result of the pendulum motion, the pendulum exceeded its scientific role in the transformation of the present day physics. It is due to pendulum motion that the world’s first accurate measurement of time was established. Teachers could apply this knowledge and explain to students how this discovery was made by incorporating relevant simplified calculations into their lesson plans.

World views

Physics is defined as the study of the natural state of matter using scientific experiments and measurements. Matter is, therefore, central to the study of Physics.

Educationists could apply history and philosophy in this case to broaden the perspectives of students as well as improve their teaching ability. Teachers, on the other hand, could apply worldviews in Physics to illustrate how the shift from Aristotelian to the Atomic philosophy revolutionized Physics and the world in general.

The age of renaissance saw the rise of many philosophers who sought to understand the natural state of the world. There was a fine distinction between philosophers who were aligned to the Aristotelian thinking and those who followed the Atomist line of thinking. The medieval age, however, leaned more towards the Aristotelian alignment with its influence cross-cutting in politics, religion, ethics and philosophy.

There was a paradigm shift that occurred and led to the introduction of the ‘New Science’ that alternated the Aristotelian thinking whose philosophy was deeply embraced by the Roman Catholic Church. This led to the establishment of the new worldview, the Mechanical worldview that banished the application of the Aristotelian philosophy.

The seventeenth century bore one of the greatest rivalries in the scientific community, that of the Aristotelian and the Atomist philosophers. This difference was founded on varied thoughts in the explanation of matter.

However, both entities agreed on the fact that substance was constituted by form and matter, an agreed philosophical-theological world view. They differed on the arrangement of material and the forms animated by the form and matter. For the Aristotelian philosophical tradition, the properties or qualities of bodies were real, that is, the color, heat and odor belonged to bodies.

On the other hand, the Atomic philosophy held the position that matter was an aggregate of invisible and indivisible atoms each of which was made of the same material and differing among themselves only in size and shape. It was the aggregate attributes of atoms that gave bodies their tangible properties.

Over the years, there has been unsettling worldviews of science and religion, differing in many scientific and theological aspects.

This dates back to the eighteenth century that saw the establishment of the new science that focused on atomism that contributed to the rise of metaphysics, which was at odds with religion and theology. However, overtime, these differences have been settled upon realization that science has no metaphysics. Instead, it deals with appearances as opposed to making reality claims.

Conclusion

Physics, as a science, has revolutionized the way we view things and is, therefore, vital for our intellectual insight and growth. Consequently, there is need to adopt history and philosophy in order to broaden the perspectives of students as well as that of teachers. This stems from the fact that science is normally taken on the face value and has no substance as its main focus is on laws and formulae.

Introduction of history and philosophy enables students to better understand the science and the scientific methodology they are learning. This helps them appreciate the role of science in the formation of contemporary worldviews. Teachers, on the other hand, should not be inclined to creating worldviews, but rather they should encourage students to identify with these views in order to analyze and appraise their aspects.

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"Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning." IvyPanda, 1 July 2019, ivypanda.com/essays/pendulum-motion-how-history-and-philosophy-can-improve-physics-teaching-and-learning/.

1. IvyPanda. "Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pendulum-motion-how-history-and-philosophy-can-improve-physics-teaching-and-learning/.


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IvyPanda. "Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pendulum-motion-how-history-and-philosophy-can-improve-physics-teaching-and-learning/.

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IvyPanda. 2019. "Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning." July 1, 2019. https://ivypanda.com/essays/pendulum-motion-how-history-and-philosophy-can-improve-physics-teaching-and-learning/.

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IvyPanda. (2019) 'Pendulum Motion: How History and Philosophy Can Improve Physics Teaching and Learning'. 1 July.

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