During Block 2, the middle school Big History: Science class compared world views ranging from Aristotle to Hubble.

This represents a very large span in time and intellect. We explored how our current understanding of the model of the universe can be understood in hindsight, and only by standing on the shoulders of Copernicus, Galileo and Newton. The students experienced planetary motions by enacting Ptolemy’s models, and consolidated their understanding of motion with figuring out why the ‘sweet spot’ on a baseball bat really is so sweet, at least for the batter’s hands, not the pitcher! 


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We described motion in many forms. Noticing that parabolas popped up everywhere, we decided to create some parabolas of our own. We launched LED projectiles across the room and captured their trajectories with long-exposure photography. We cut out carpet sections in bizarre geometric ways, placed LED lights at the center of mass, and marveled at how they traced parabolas too!

A lot of the ideas of Big History and what we have been tinkering with in experiments came together. Aristotle was not to be bashed, we learned, just because his ideas were at odds with Newton’s. We learned by dropping paper cones and observing that two stacked cones actually do fall faster than a single cone – heavier bodies do fall faster! Within Aristotle's observational powers, his ideas were indeed plausible at the time--shedding light on how scientific theories develop and evolve. 

--Kaushik Basu