Understanding space-time and relativity

Workshop overview

Year level 9-10, 11-12 (senior version)
Capacity 16-32 students. If you want to bring more students, email stem.schools@qut.edu.au
When School days: Monday-Friday
Duration Full day
Where QUT Gardens Point, Science and Engineering Centre
Cost Free (Late cancellation fees apply. Please refer to Terms and Conditions.)

Workshop details

Students are introduced to the concept of Frames of Reference using Einstein’s thought experiment idea; they then learn about how the speed of light breaks the rules, and how this led to Einstein’s Theory of Special Relativity. A light clock demonstration leads to an explanation of time dilation, and senior students use a Relativistic Time Dilation equation to solve some scenarios. The morning session concludes with 30 minutes at The Cube’s Physics Observatory, visiting planets in our solar system, exploring the effects of changing gravity.

In the afternoon students discuss the effects of special relativity in the real world, how it makes time travel a theoretical possibility, and Einstein’s Twin paradox. They discuss Newtonian gravity and how black holes affect space-time, and students use Newton’s second law to calculate gravity.

Einstein’s theory of General Relativity is introduced, using a demonstration to show how the mass of the sun affects orbiting bodies, leading to the concept of space-time, gravitational waves and gravitational lensing. Students then use a simulator program to conduct experiments in the universe, such as changing the mass of the sun, earth and moon, introducing a black hole and creating their own solar system and finish off with a quick quiz.

Topics covered in this workshop:

  • physics
  • engineering
  • junior science.

Book this workshop

You can request a booking for this full-day workshop. You can also add a 30-minute interactive experience at The Cube to your visit.

All bookings are subject to availability of university spaces and presenters

Book workshops

Curriculum links

Science

Year 9

  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, is contestable and is refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE157)
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on developments in technology and technological advances are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE158)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS164)

Year 10

  • The universe contains features including galaxies, stars and solar systems, and the Big Bang theory can be used to explain the origin of the universe (ACSSU188)
  • The motion of objects can be described and predicted using the laws of physics (ACSSU229)
  • Scientific understanding, including models and theories, is contestable and is refined over time through a process of review by the scientific community (ACSHE191)
  • Advances in scientific understanding often rely on technological advances and are often linked to scientific discoveries (ACSHE192)
  • Formulate questions or hypotheses that can be investigated scientifically (ACSIS198)

Physics Unit 4 (QCAA 2019 Syllabus)

Year 11 and 12

  • Describe an example of natural phenomena that cannot be explained by Newtonian physics, such as the presence of muons in the atmosphere.
  • Define the terms frame of reference and inertial frame of reference.
  • Recall the two postulates of special relativity.
  • Recall that motion can only be measured relative to an observer.
  • Explain the concept of simultaneity.
  • Recall the consequences of the constant speed of light in a vacuum, e.g. time dilation and length contraction.
  • Define the terms time dilation, proper time interval, relativistic time interval, length contraction, proper length, relativistic length, rest mass and relativistic momentum.
  • Describe the phenomena of time dilation and length contraction, including examples of experimental evidence of the phenomena
  • Solve problems involving time dilations, length contraction and relativistic momentum.
  • Recall the mass–energy equivalence relationship.
  • Explain why no object can travel at the speed of light in a vacuum.
  • Explain paradoxical scenarios such as the twins’ paradox, flashlights on a train and the ladder in the barn paradox.

Get in touch

Australian and NZ students

International students

1800 181 848
(within Australia)

+61 3 9627 4853
(outside Australia)

Enquire online