Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Unit 12

In Sync

Heart Beating Heart

Systems of synchronization occur throughout the animate and inanimate world. The regular beating of the human heart, the swaying and near collapse of the Millennium Bridge, the simultaneous flashing of gangs of fireflies in Southeast Asia: these varied phenomena all share the property of spontaneous synchronization. This unit shows how synchronization can be analyzed, studied and modeled via the mathematics of differential equations, an outgrowth of calculus, and the application of these ideas toward understanding the workings of the heart.

Unit Goals

Video Transcript


Many things in the universe behave in a synchronized way — whether manmade, or natural. We see synchronization as an emergence of spontaneous order in systems that most naturally should be disorganized. And when it emerges, there is a beauty and a mystery to it, qualities that often can be understood through the power of mathematics.



While it is true that mathematics can be used to make sense of and make testable predictions about certain real-life situations, such as solar eclipses, there are many types of natural phenomena, such as the turbulence of fluids in motion, for which current mathematical models are inadequate.



This interactive simulates the correlation of a metronome's ticking to a sine wave as well as the synchronization of multiple metronomes on an unstable surface.


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