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Favorite physics theory

Posted by Melissa on October 17, 2008

I’ve been participating in the Adopt-a-Physicist program, and I just got a great question from a student in one of the high school classes that adopted me. The question is, What is your favorite physics theory? I found that to be quite thought-provoking. Here was my off-the-cuff response:

“I think in terms of its fundamental beauty my favorite theory is Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory, in which 4 mathematical equations capture the essence of electricity and magnetism. This was the beginning of physicists’ efforts to try to find a few unifying principles for describing nature, which continues today. In addition, it was in considering Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory that Einstein got his inspiration to develop the theory of special relativity.”

Anyone else want to share their favorite physics theory? And can you explain why you like it at a level that is appropriate for a high school student just starting physics?


3 Responses to “Favorite physics theory”

  1. Rhett said

    You are correct, this is a tough question. If I had to pick (especially as an answer for high school), I think I would pick the work-energy theorm. The idea of energy is so useful and very applicable to everyday situations. So much can be done with just that one idea.

  2. arjendu said

    Hmm, where to start. Chaos? Quantum mech? But the one I tell my students is my favorite candidate for a deity is the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics (did I say this already on this blog? Possibly): It’s implicated in birth, in death, and is a matter of faith.

  3. agm said

    At the high school level, harmonic oscillator. With applets and toys and videos and apparati to teach it and play with it. Why?

    Waves. All waves. Lots and lots of fun, and applicable to all sorts of things in life, from talking with friends to seismic exploration for petroleum to light.

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