Physics Central

Website review by
Emily Pohlonski, Common Sense Media
Physics Central Website Poster Image
No instruction, but lots of ideas, inspiration, and fun.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this website.

Educational Value

Kids can learn about practical applications of all kinds of physics topics. The site includes resources about chaos, waves, electricity, magnetism, space, force, motion, optics, quantum mechanics, and thermodynamics. Physics Central is filled with fun physics news that may be best for kids who are already familiar with the underlying concepts, but they'll learn how what they've seen in their textbook translates to the real world. More about people and ideas than formulas and problems, Physics Central is a pretty cool resource for curious kids.

Positive Messages

A diverse group of physicists are highlighted.

Violence
Sex
Language
Consumerism

Certain physics T-shirts and toys are available for sale.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Physics Central is an online resource for primarily middle- and high-school-age kids interested in physics. They can listen to podcasts or watch videos about the latest discoveries, find science-fair projects, and catch up on physics-related subjects in the news. With the tagline "Learn how your world works," Physics Central is all about showing the myriad ways in which physics is used across all disciplines. Although it may not help your kids with the nitty-gritty of their physics homework, it's bound to pique interest in the real-world applications of this fascinating science. 

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What's it about?

PHYSICS CENTRAL highlights the fun and interesting parts of physics. The site provides a broad variety of resources including pictures, physicist biographies, podcasts, and video clips. The Physics Buzz Blog describes the current developments in the world of Physics. A section called "Ask & Experiment" gives descriptions of basic physics activities that can be done in the classroom or at home. Examples include "Skull Galaxies," where you can view an x-ray image and read a description of the Perseus Galaxy Cluster; "Weightlessness in Movies," where you can listen to a podcast about how weightlessness is simulated; and "Crash Reconstruction Physics," where you can read an article about the ways physics is used in legal proceedings.

Is it any good?

If you're not looking for actual physics help, this site is a pretty neat resource for physics- and science-related material. Not everything is clearly linked to physics, however; for example, a podcast called "Gauss’s Missing Brain” tells the story of a famous mathematician's brain that was misplaced after he died. But these fun tidbits do offer background and insight into the scientific world; this is where Physics Central excels. There are lots of real-world examples of how physics is used in various ways, including quirky articles such as "How to do a Handstand with Physics." The site is well organized; users can click on a major topic in physics (such as Chaos, Sound, Heat, or Mechanics) and see a broad variety of resources. Although there's no real instruction on the site, the science represented is solid, and kids should enjoy the clear writing and accessible, fun content. 

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can discuss the way popular media portrays scientists and compare it to the physicists on Physics Central. 

  • Families also can talk about ways that physics impacts their own lives (and if you don't know any, the site has lots of learning opportunities).

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For kids who love science and physics

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