Dark matter makes up most of the matter in the universe but very little of a standard introductory physics curriculum. Here we present our construction and use of a spandex sheet-style gravity simulator to qualitatively demonstrate two aspects of modern physics related to dark matter. First, we describe an activity in which students explore the dependence of orbital velocities on the central mass of a system, in a demonstration of how scientists first discovered dark matter. Second, we discuss the use of the gravity simulator as a visualization of gravitational lensing, a current astronomical technique for mapping dark matter in the sky. After providing the necessary background for the phenomena of interest, we describe our construction of the gravity simulator and detail our facilitation of these two activities. Together, these activities provide a conceptual visualization of gravitational phenomena related to indirect detection techniques for studying dark matter.
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PAPERS| December 01 2015
Simulating Gravity: Dark Matter and Gravitational Lensing in the Classroom
Phys. Teach. 53, 557–560 (2015)
Jes Ford, Jared Stang, Catherine Anderson; Simulating Gravity: Dark Matter and Gravitational Lensing in the Classroom. Phys. Teach. 1 December 2015; 53 (9): 557–560. https://doi.org/10.1119/1.4935771
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