How Physics Saved Two Million Premature Babies

Physics ... saving lives, one equation at a time! Learners discover the sad truth about premature babies and respiratory distress syndrome, which claimed millions of lives before scientists could understand its cause. Physics, and the Laplace equation, enter the picture and provide a mathematical solution to the problem of tiny alveoli that won't inflate or become stretched.

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CCSS: Adaptable
Instructional Ideas

  • The resource shows the CPAP machine that is used to treat infants with RDS; ask the class what other illness people use a CPAP to treat 
  • Video can supplement a respiratory system lesson or function as an opener for a lesson about premature births
Classroom Considerations

  • Assumes some prior knowledge of the respiratory system to better understand the content of the video

  • Illustrations show how the alveoli in premature babies suffering from RDS fit the Laplace equation in terms of their structure and function
  • The video includes how researchers adapted the CPAP machine to make it more accessible to hospitals and clinics throughout the world

  • None
Common Core