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ERIC Number: EJ1209411
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019-May
Pages: 9
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0031-9120
Free Fall in Curved Spacetime--How to Visualise Gravity in General Relativity
Kersting, Magdalena
Physics Education, v54 n3 Article 035008 May 2019
The first direct observation of gravitational waves in 2015 has led to an increased public interest in topics of general relativity (GR) and astronomy. Physics teachers and educators respond to this interest by introducing modern ideas of gravity and spacetime to high school students. Doing so, they face the challenge of finding suitable models that visualise gravity as the geometry of curved spacetime. Most models of GR, such as the popular rubber sheet model, only address spatial curvature. Yet, according to Albert Einstein, gravitational phenomena stem from deformations both in space and time. This paper presents a new model that builds on a relativistic generalisation of Newton's first law. We use Einstein's free fall thought experiment and a classical height-time diagram to explain how warped time gives rise to gravity. Our warped-time model acts as a convenient supplement to the rubber sheet model. To support teachers in integrating the model into their classroom practice, we have implemented the model as an interactive simulation that is freely accessible. The model is the result of a three-year period of developing and trialing digital learning resources in Norwegian high schools. Based on these trials, we suggest specific instructional strategies on how to use the warped-time model successfully in science classrooms.
Institute of Physics Publishing. The Public Ledger Building Suite 929, 150 South Independence Mall West, Philadelphia, PA 19106. Tel: 215-627-0880; Fax: 215-627-0879; e-mail:; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Research
Education Level: High Schools; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A
Identifiers - Location: Australia; Norway