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What would a practical physics course look like? - Input Junkie — LiveJournal
August 28th, 2014
11:31 am


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What would a practical physics course look like?
Recently, a nine-year-old girl was handed a Uzi at a shooting range (with her parents' permission), lost control of the gun, and killed the instructor.

There's a lot of consensus that an Uzi takes more strength than a nine-year-old is likely to have, and the instructor wasn't paying enough attention or standing in the right place.

Aside from arguing about guns, I suggest that the accident was a result of people not knowing enough physics-- not thinking about what the recoil of a gun compared to the strength of the shooter *means*, but this is something which could start to be taught fairly young, possibly even before age nine.

Any thoughts about what would be included in such a course?

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(11 comments | Leave a comment)

[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 03:49 pm (UTC)
The fatal mistake is that the instructor switched it to "full auto", which by all accounts was to much for the girl.
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 04:03 pm (UTC)
What I've read is that he made more mistakes than that-- aside from not having safety gear (not relevant in this case, but a sign of sloppiness), he should have had her do several single shots to make sure she could handle it, then semi, then full auto.

And he shouldn't have been standing in the kill zone.

This sounds like a level of ineptness that was probably habitual and should have been noticed by his boss.

Edited at 2014-08-28 04:04 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 04:51 pm (UTC)
I thought thatt she initially did fire single shot, and then the instructor switched the selector, and at that point, she lost control. I'm not anti-gun, but it seems to me that a simple .22 rifle is best for kids to learn with.

Edited at 2014-08-28 04:53 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 04:09 pm (UTC)
I was part of a group getting introduced to automatic weapons by the local SWAT team at their private range. For the submachine gun on full auto the instructor stood across from the shooter with his hand an inch above the weapon. If the shooter lost control it went up into his hand and he grabbed it. This was with full-size adults (okay, a couple of class members weren't that much bigger than my 12yo, but still).

Teaching physics isn't really an issue here because it's a dexterity, challenge, not a mental one. It's the feel of the gun in your hands and reacting properly to the moment that matters.

As for the dead instructor, I have minimal sympathy. At least it wasn't like the case a couple of years ago (in Massachusetts IIRC) where a boy about the same age died in a similar incident.
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 04:21 pm (UTC)
It's a dexterity challenge for people who are strong enough to manage the gun, but there are people who just aren't strong enough-- for them, it's a matter of physics.
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 05:06 pm (UTC)
I wish more people understood that it takes a large amount of force to effect a sudden reduction in velocity -- specifically when they brake or turn in front of a fast-moving bicycle.
[User Picture]
Date:August 28th, 2014 05:25 pm (UTC)
I'm not sure that academic instruction, even with lots of demonstrations, would do much good. It seems to me that really getting this sort of thing engrained calls for, first, using tools and equipment yourself, and second, being introduced to it by experienced adult users who are aware of its dangers. That way you have both kinesthetic awareness (stored in the same parts of the brain that control your actions) and mirroring of behavior to draw on.

The upbringing at least of young men on a farm or in a house with a workshop used to be, in effect, a practical physics course. It's one I personally didn't have; I was raised in a female household with lots and lots of books.
Date:August 29th, 2014 01:13 pm (UTC)
I don't know what the course would be like, but if science teachers spent more time talking about guns, sex, cars, and computers, they probably would be more popular. With the students, anyway.
[User Picture]
Date:August 30th, 2014 04:55 am (UTC)
I haven't read it, but I've seen a lot of recommendations for Thinking Physics by Lewis Epstein. (It probably goes more advanced than what you have in mind, but it does start with basic mechanics and apparently has a strong focus on thinking about concrete situations.)
[User Picture]
Date:August 30th, 2014 07:30 am (UTC)
Practical physics is learned through movement: climbing, jumping, throwing, catching, swinging, building, using different kinds of tools. If people don't learn it, it's because they're spending too much time sitting around staring at a flickering screen.

However, I disagree that the accident was a result of people not knowing enough physics. It was a result of people not having the sense God gave geese. What kind of moron puts a machine gun in the hands of a nine-year-old?

And no, I'm not anti-gun; I was about 9 when I learned to shoot a .22, and my daughter the same. Country kids often start hunting around that age - and yes, hunting accidents happen. So do falls and drownings, but we don't say for that reason that children mustn't learn to climb or swim; only that they need to learn to do it safely.

But seriously, an Uzi?!? That's not a toy for plinking pop-cans off a stump; nor is it a tool for helping to feed one's family; nor even a weapon of self-defense. It's a weapon of war, designed for one purpose only: to kill a whole lot of human beings really fast. What possible good purpose is there in teaching a grade-schooler to do this, regardless of whether she has the strength and dexterity to handle it physically?

Edited at 2014-08-30 07:35 am (UTC)
[User Picture]
Date:September 3rd, 2014 01:58 am (UTC)
A suggestion or two, not a complete answer.

If the idea is to *impart* the "sense God gave geese" to people possibly as young as age eight by way of teaching practical physics... then for the firearms section of the course, first put them to shooting single shots of varying calibers and tell them to pay attention to how much the gun kicks -- this includes shotguns, though 12-gauge and higher may be more than the smaller kids can safely handle, so be careful about what they're allowed to fire. But make sure it goes beyond the range of what is comfortable for them:

"So you can teach them?"
"Bruises. Pain teaches what I cannot."
(quoted, though probably misquoted, from Mercedes Lackey, one of the Alberich books)

11-year-old me learned proper form with big shotguns pretty damn quick because my shoulder MADE me learn!

For the autos, then go to three-round bursts. Again move a bit into the "this hurts but is not actually unsafe to handle" zone. Give the kids respect for just how much energy is being tossed about here.
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