"If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts"

Author: Sarah Kenyon

Time: 1 class period
15 minutes for photocopying article
Materials: An article for each student


In this activity students explore the historical background of principles that underlie some of the imaging techniques that will be explored. In 1905 Einstein published 5 papers, resulting in a giant leap for the field of physics. Many students recognize his “E=mc2” contribution, but few realize the true scope of his work. Reading an article called “Five papers that shook the world” which describe these papers and their significance, helps to orient students, giving them a historical as well as scientific perspective. As 2005 was the centennial year of these papers there is much reflection of Einstein’s work in the media; feel free to encourage further exploration, or find other papers if desired. At the end of the activity, students are asked to propose how these papers (specifically that of the photoelectric effect) might have influenced biomedical imaging. The title of the lesson is an Einstein quote.

Students will:
1. Read a paper describing Einstein’s 1905 papers and answer 5 teacher-provided questions in small groups to consider the importance of his findings.
2. Describe in personal writings what effect they think these findings might have had on biomedical imaging.

National Science Standards
Content Standard A: Scientific Inquiry
Identify questions that guide scientific inquiry
Content Standard B: Physical Science
Structure and properties of matter
Content Standard E: Science and Technology
Communicate the problem, process, and solution

Related Resource Websites
Using the search terms “Einstein + 1905” many resources can be made available.
Paper used for this activity: http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/18/1/2/1

Teacher Background
Teacher Background: EM, waves, Photoelectric effect supplement
Also read the paper for this activity in advance. (http://physicsweb.org/articles/world/18/1/2/1)




1. As students enter the classroom, have them respond to the following question: “What is Albert Einstein known for?”

2. Distribute the following article: http://physicsweb.org/artilces/world/18/1/2/1 for students to read. Give them 20 minutes to complete the article.

3. Have them gather in small groups to discuss the following questions (you should give them the questions and have them consider each as a group for 3-5 minutes each):
a. Was what you read in the paper different from what you expected? How?
b. In 1905, on what topics did Einstein publish?
c. Describe what you know about the photoelectric effect.
d. Why do you think Einstein was able to make such a big dent in the physics world? Was he special? Was he around at a special time?
e. In the last class, we talked about biomedical imaging. Are any of his findings relevant to biomedical imaging today?

4. Have students, individually, describe in their science notebook what effect they think these findings might have had on biomedical imaging.


In an advanced class you might have students attempt to describe what was shown in one of Einstein’s papers, or look historically at the time to address why these advances came all at once by one man. What else was happening at the time? Where were advances happening elsewhere?.


Embedded Assessment
Science notebooks can be checked for the understanding and ability to connect what they learned in the past lesson with principles addressed in the article.
You can assess student participation in group work by visiting each group and evaluating answers.


PULSE is a project of the Community Outreach and Education Program of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center and is funded by:

NIH/NCRR award #16260-01A1
The Community Outreach and Education Program is part of the Southwest Environmental Health Sciences Center: an NIEHS Award


Supported by NIEHS grant # ES06694

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Last update: November 10, 2009
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