895: Teaching Physics
Title text: "Space-time is like some simple and familiar system which is both intuitively understandable and precisely analogous, and if I were Richard Feynman I'd be able to come up with it."
The comic makes fun at the idea that physics is only interesting because teachers use interesting analogues, despite the fact that they are over-simplified and don't help when more complex theory is taught. The comic refers to the classic "Ball on a rubber sheet" metaphor as a way to explain gravity in space-time, even though the metaphor breaks when trying to explain what causes gravity. The fourth panel highlights this with the statement that space-time is a set of equations, for which no analogy can fully explain.
The title text continues the teacher's frustration with coming up with an analogy by stating that there is some analogy that is both understandable and precise... and if he were the famous physicist/teacher Richard Feynman he could come up with it. Professor Feynman was famous for his physics lectures and their ability to both entertain and educate his students, from the beginning student to the more advanced graduate students. Recordings of his lectures are still available and applicable to today's audience.
A similar explanation is given here.
- Teacher: Understanding gravity: Space-time is like a rubber sheet. Massive objects distort the sheet, and--
- Student: Wait.
- Student: They distort it because they're pulled down by... what?
- Teacher: <<sigh>>
- Teacher: Space-time is like this set of equations, for which any analogy must be an approximation.
- Student: BOOOOORING.