The BBC published an article today (3 Oct 2017) regarding some ‘dangerous’ cables that might be risking lives in homes across the UK.

Essentially, in 2010, a Turkish cable company was found to be manufacturing electrical cables with a low copper content. The cables were subject to a voluntary recall, and 7 million metres were handed back. About 4 million meters remain unaccounted for, apparently enough to have rewired 8,000 homes. Scary.

Nowhere in the BBC article was the reason for the ‘danger’ explained, other than it causes ‘overheating’ which could cause ignition.

Explain Resistance Heating
Low copper content causes high resistance which increases the resistance heating effect.

Now, maybe the writers thought that since we make all our students take science at GCSE the explanation was unnecessary. The causes and dangers of resistance heating are, after all, in the GCSE Physics specification so everyone should have met the concept.

However, the skeptical me, can think of a few different reasons that the physics behind it was not mentioned:

  • The writer/s did not understand the fundamental causes of the problem, so ignored it.
  • The writer/s assumed that the general public did not have the ability to understand the physics, therefore it was not included.
  • The writer/s did not feel that explaining scientific concepts was important.

Each of these possibilities leaves me feeling disheartened.

We, as educators, expect our students to learn about these principles in the classroom. Yet those students are rarely, if ever, exposed to their application ‘in real life’. It would not take much, just a sentence or two, to make what can be (let’s be honest) a fairly ‘dry’ topic have more relevance to our students.

If the media could encourage students to make connections with the concepts they learn in class, then maybe we would have greater engagement in the sciences.

#explainthescience

Please Explain the Science
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