The Physics of Reality & Virtual Reality - Mid-Pacific Institute

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The Physics of Reality & Virtual Reality

This lesson is about experiencing physics and then looking at the equations and seeing how they fit in with this actual experience.

Posted on August 29, 2017 by Scot Allen

Physics is commonly said to be a science that deals with matter and energy and the interactions in the fields of mechanics, acoustics, optics, heat, electricity, magnetism, radiation, atomic structure, and nuclear phenomena. In other words, it is the science of reality. It is about asking fundamental questions and trying to answer them through observation and experimentation.

Semantics (a branch of linguistics and logic concerned with meaning) may suggest that "the map is not the territory," but VR goggles present a very compelling scenario to challenge that assumption.

In 2017-2018 IB physics, the class is starting from a big picture stance, looking at energy and energy transformation. Starting with potential energy transferred into kinetic energy (the energy of motion), students have to figure out "where does the energy go?"

In a recent lesson, the students in Kymbal Roley's IB Physics Class watched 360-degree videos of three roller coasters and then began some deep research to determine the mass of the cars, the height of drop, top speed, etc. The 360-degree video was easily obtained from YouTube. This lesson could work many potential subjects including airplanes and even Formula One race cars!

"It was quite interesting in 360-degrees because we could look behind us and see it from that perspective," said student Vincent. "Overall, I thought it compared with a real roller coaster, although I couldn't feel the environment, I could see all the action."

"This lesson is about experiencing physics and then looking at the equations and seeing how they fit in with this actual experience," Roley said. The students are taking these observations a step deeper and asking 'what are we really looking at?'

"This is a real experience for them and it's similar to when we did the car crash VR experience last year," Roley said. "When you have the VR goggles on it feels like it is really happening at that moment. That's why we need spotters because people actually feel like they might fall. Of course, they can pull the goggles off at any time, and they are not going to get sick. It connects the lessons to real life, which I think is so important. Most of the students have been on roller coasters before, but you never know..."

"It was so surrealistic," said student Julian. "I was wearing a headset, but I could feel like I was moving. I learned about force and gravity and how it affects you, and the transfer of energy. I think it will give me a better understanding of how energy, mass, and gravity affects us and how much force it can create."