Why Do We Spend So Much Time Teaching Historical Physics?

Forbes - Tech 

In this photograph taken on Friday, Feb. 26, 2010, clickers are shown in the use of students in the physics class of Professor Michael Dubson at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo. One of the two classes I'm teaching this term is our sophomore-level "modern physics" class, which richly deserves its scare quotes. "Modern physics" in an educational context means, essentially, "Physics from 1900-1950." It's a brief introduction to Special Relativity, followed by some introductory quantum physics, and a smattering of applications (solid state, nuclear) as time permits. Some of the examples we use to illustrate key points are modern in the more colloquial sense -- there have been a lot of spectacular basic-quantum-physics experiments in the last 20-ish years -- but the core principles of everything we talk about were locked down in the first half of the previous century.