A physical theory is said to be covariant with respect to a certain class of transformations when its basic equations retain their ‘form’ under those transformations. It is one of the basic notions encountered in tertiary physics, particularly in the domain of relativity. In this paper we study in some detail how students deal with this notion in different contexts (rotational, Galilean, Lorentz and general covariance). The tool of the study is a diagnostic questionnaire administered on a small sample of senior undergraduates undergoing a course on relativity. The analysis helps us identify a number of points where students are vulnerable to error. The most important of these concerns the non-covariant manifestations of a covariant theory. The study should be useful in the teaching of relativity.
Keywords: covariance, invariance, conservation, lorentz and galilean transformations
- “Students’ ideas of the meaning of the relativity principle”. Atanu Bandyopadhyay, Eur. J. Phys. 30 No 6 (November 2009) 1239-1256
Thesis advisors: Arvind Kumar & H. C. Pradhan
Discussant: Aniket Sule