At the Limit: Introducing Energy with Human Senses

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Energy belongs to the core ideas of the physics curriculum. But at the same time, energy is one of the most complex topics in science education since it occurs in multiple ways, such as motion, sound, light, and thermal energy. It can neither be destroyed nor created, but only converted. Due to the variety of relevant scales and abstractness of the term energy, the question arises how to introduce energy at the introductory physics level. The aim of this article is to demonstrate how the concept of energy can become meaningful in the context of the human senses. Three simple experiments to investigate the minimal amount of energy that is required to generate a sensory perception are presented. In this way students can learn that even different sensory perceptions can be compared by using energy as the unifying concept.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Physics Teacher
Issue number9
Pages (from-to)552-555
Number of pages4
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2016