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A primer to numerical simulations: The perihelion motion of Mercury

  • Christopher Körber

Published in Physics Education

Keywords: Physics Education, Numerical Simulations, General Relativity


Numerical simulations are playing an increasingly important role in modern science. In this work it is suggested to use a numerical study of the famous perihelion motion of the planet Mercury (one of the prime observables supporting Einsteins General Relativity) as a test case to teach numerical simulations to high school students. The paper includes details about the development of the code as well as a discussion of the visualization of the results. In addition a method is discussed that allows one to estimate the size of the effect as well as the uncertainty of the approach a priori. At the same time this enables the students to double check the results found numerically. The course is structured into a basic block and two further refinements which aim at more advanced students.