I recently had the opportunity to give a lecture to a physics class at my high school, and I was amazed by just how difficult it is to teach a class, even when it is on a topic that you supposedly know a bit about. Even if you attempt to have the most organized and logical presentation of the material possible, at the end of the day whether a class learns anything from your lecture depends on your ability to clarify ideas and provide clear metaphors ex tempore. I think that many people undervalue just how much effort excellent teachers must put into their work.

My lecture was about centripetal forces. When many of us are first taught about centripetal acceleration, it seems like a mysterious concept– the equations and formulae clearly work, but it’s very hard to visualize how exactly the underlying forces act. In these lecture notes, I attempted to explain circular orbits in terms of the classic parabolic projectile problem, using the conic sections as a bridge from a downward force to a central force.

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Centripetal force notes