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Building a conceptual profile for the conception of reference frame in physics and the epistemological obstacles to the learning of Special Theory of Relativity

Author(s): Álvaro Leonardi Ayala Filho

Journal: Investigações em Ensino de Ciências
ISSN 1518-8795

Volume: 15;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 155;
Date: 2010;
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Keywords: Conceptual profile | epistemológical obstacle | learning Special Theory of Relativity

In this work, we use de notion of Conceptual Profile as a theoretical tool to investigate the learning of the Special Theory of Relativity (STR) and the epistemological obstacles to its understanding. In particular, we set the Conceptual Profile of the notion of reference frame, taking into account the fact that this notion can be ontologically and epistemologically differentiated when is described from de point of view of the Common Sense, from the point of view of the Newtonian Physics and from de point of view of the STR. Tanking into account the literature results and our own findings, we claim that the detected epistemological obstacles to the STR understanding can be connect to each of these three regions, specially when the ontological and metaphysical aspects of each region are taken into account. We claim also that the epistemological obstacles have two sources. The first one emerges from the attempt to link STR concepts to subsumer belonging to a Conceptual Profile region that not corresponds to this theory. The second origin is the attempt to use of “spontaneous ways of thinking” in order to make this kind of link. We conclude that the successful learning of the STR should be related to the corresponding successful development of the relativistic region of the reference frame conceptual profile and the limited development of this region is the must important epistemological obstacle to the understanding the STR.

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