TOK 2022 12 concepts
Friday 2 April 2021
You may not have noticed but TOK has changed. The main differences are the introduction of 12 concepts and the exhibition. As far as we physics teachers are concerned our role is pretty much the same as before. To point out interesting ways that knowledge is acquired, used and developed in physics, all those TOK moments are still TOK moments so we won't be rewriting all the TOK sections on the website, thank goodness for that. So, what about these 12 concepts?
Is Newton's 1st law true? Well we treat it like it is. If it wasn't we couldn't solve problems. Does everyone's clock measure the same time? not really but we assume it to be true and it normally doesn't matter that much. When we study relativity we find that moving clocks tick more slowly so we know the statement is false but we keep on pretending it's true. Can things be true within certain limitations? Can you move a bishop horizontally? Of course you can but not in a game of chess.
We interpret experimental results in order to evaluate if they support our theory. Due to uncertainties there can be several different interpretations but they must be based on evidence and the laws of physics. You can't say a relationship is quadratic if the theory tells you it's a sine function.
I don't think they mean work done per unit time but in the same way that a powerful engine can exert a greater force over a given distance in less time, something/body with more power has more influence. Do some laws in physics have more power than others? Which is the most powerful? You could use mechanics to explain how perpetual motion could be achieved but your explanation would be trumped by the second law.
Justification of a conclusion should be based on evidence or some mathematical consequence of a postulate that is, I guess justification is a bit like proof. How can we justify the statement that you can't travel faster than the speed of light? It's difficult to justify something you can't do, maybe we just haven't tried hard enough. What you can do is justify the postulates then show that this is a consequence.
Our bread and butter, if you can't explain it you don't understand it and if you don't understand it you can't make predictions. I once listened to a student explaining to another how a transformer worked, it was completely wrong but afterwards the receiving student said, "thanks, now I understand it". What exactly did he understand? Can you understand an incorrect explanation? Does it matter as long as your prediction is correct? Students struggling with kinetic theory might say that they understand the stuff about the rubber balls but not the gas. The balls are our way of understanding the gas, understand that and you understand the gas.
I think we are pretty objective in physics, at least we are always talking about objects. If you spent ages working on a theory then you probably want your data to fit, this could affect you objectivity. Maybe a student thinks they have a better chance of a 7 if they get a straight line? Choosing data that fits expectations. Sometimes it's difficult to be Mr Spock.
We see everything from our own perspective, this is OK provided we can understand that not everyone will see things the way we do. This is the essence of relativity, how we transform measurements made in my frame of reference to find out what they would be in another. Space-time diagrams are a great tool for doing this.