Physicist Failure

Horrible day yesterday. FD SCP had me out cleaning the aft proch and my sinuses are agonizing. The walk in the park was an actual relief this morning. And the weather beavers have mentioned precipitation in the afternoon, or so I may hope.

But I did have opportunity to continue cogitation on the matter of lectures and learning, so I suppose I shall have to take up a recent grrr brrr about lectures. [Link]The contention is that learning is not effective in the lecture format and things have to be made more interactive. My immediate, and enduring, response to this is that it is an extro conspiracy promulgated on the idea that students have to be placated for professors to get paid. Rather like the teach to the test thing in the public schules.

First of all, only the extros participate in these “voting” things. Intros do not. They come to class, they listen, maybe take notes, they go home, read the book, work the problems, and think. But the thinking takes time. There are some things that I got told in freshman physics class I still think about today. And occasionally they give me insights. So the idea that learning occurs only in class is an olla sterci – a crock of feces. Yes, some learning occurs in class, but most of it, including almost all of the insight, occurs later, often much later, out of class.

I have mentioned previously a math methods class on Green functions that took me over thirty years to “fully” realize.

Extros don’t do this way. They don’t go home and read the book nor do problems. They think doing problems is for intros and geeks and nerds. Which they are afraid of becoming. And they don’t think about stuff once the course is over. And they don’t want anything but a good grade so they can get a diploma and have a wonderful career. Working for a nerd.

At least in the mode. There are exceptions. But most of these people are not going to become STEMs. They don’t think enough. And socialization is too important to them to spend time understanding.

I have mentioned Chad Orzel’s taxonomy before. It applies here, in resounding fanfare! The purpose of the lecture, in STEM at least, is to tell the student what is important so they can read the text, do the problems, and think. And learn. Notice that distinction? The learning is out-of-class. And afterwards. So yes, the lecture is ineffective if the metric is in-the-class learning.

But the metric is orthogonal to the reality.

Do the physics. Drop the ball!

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Feces and FORTRAN

Two days now without precipitation. A statement like that wouldn’t normally be joyous, except around Noah time, perhaps, but it is. And the walk in the park this morning was passable. Even the podcast episode had relatively few grammar obnoxities. So I can do a bit of wandering about this morning.

Given the general tenor it seems appropriate to note that Drum Castle in Scotland is the seat of an investigation into fourteenth century micturation and defecation. [Link] Nothing says real archaeology like mucking about in cess pits and the like. Not an activity we can easily picture the hatted one performing.

On a similar azimuth, a U Virginia study [Link] indicates that the kids who are “cool” in high schule are more likely to have social and emotional problems – like being criminals – than the uncool kids. Nerds score again! Bogs get sucked down!

Further, the founding ancestor of Linux has defecated upon the idea that everyone should learn how to code.[Link]  The quote is worth presenting

“I actually don’t believe that everybody should necessarily try to learn to code,” Torvalds said. “I think it’s reasonably specialized, and nobody really expects most people to have to do it. It’s not like knowing how to read and write and do basic math.”

since the majority of folks can’t do basic maths. The article also contrasted to the English government coding mandate

‘the idea that “getting to know code is really important” and that “not just rocket scientists” should learn programming.’

The problem is that coding isn’t rocket science. One of the advantages of being a rocket scientist is that one has a fairly good idea of what rocket science is and basically coding, in and of itself, isn’t. It’s a tool, like a Craftsman adjustable spanner, or an integral table, but that’s about it. You do need coding to get to Mars but coding, in and of itself, won’t get you there.

In fact, scientists don’t do the kind of coding that is associated with the program. We do problem solving, number crunching coding, not people caring coding. Perhaps the best illustration of this difference is that we code in FORTRAN (and maybe a couple of other languages but FORTRAN is the intense one.) It’s not the same thing.

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Commercial Implications

Mixed bag this morning. The density of weight bouncers and educationalists – the bullying ones at least – was down but the podcasts were abysmal. Too much on city science. Now podcast coverage of city stuff is amusing, maybe even educational, in small doses. In larger doses it is annoying and banal, but in these kind of quantities it is distressing, painful, and boring.

The problem is that what works maybe in a high population, high commerce density environment does NOT work in the hinterland. The conscript parents of Greater Metropolitan Arab do not understand this since the basis of their comparison is Nawth Alibam’s Shining City of the Hill, which is a pimple to New Yawk City’s cancer. But they  persist in trying to lure new chain restaurants to Arab when what we need is a friendlier atmosphere for Mom and Pop places. And a minimum wage laid on big businesses, like MalWart.

But this annoyance and antithesis gave me occasion to cogitate. Are the voters of Alibam really as stupid as commercials lead us to conjecture that politicians think we are? I should like the answer to be NO but I fear it is yes. And the basis of this fear is commercial advertising.

I saw a commercial on the electromagnetic audio-visual receiver – several times – about denture maintenance chemicals. This commercial proclaimed that “dentures are ten times softer than real teeth.” Are dentures not real? Are they imaginary?

The packaging for my dental floss proclaims that takes “30% less effort to use.” How do we measure softness? How do we measure easier? I would contend that we do NOT. What we measure is hardness and difficulty, respectively. And what 10 times softer and 30% easier mean is rather unclear. Are “real” teeth ten times as hard as dentures? Is the coefficient of friction for this floss 70% of that for its next higher competitor? How do they get the softer and easier?

And is easier a better thing? I should think that removal of rust off teeth would be enhanced by greater friction between the floss and rust. And why are dentures not harder? The World Wonders.

But based on people gullibly accepting this type of stercus,I can confidently conjecture that the people of Alibam, in the mode, are as stupid as the politicians imply.

Ghetto or Cloister?

End of gym week. Not bad. Density low, especially of obnoxious weight bouncers and educationalists. Only a few over-haughty senior women with entitlement issues. And the podcast, as episode of “The Linux Action Show” was passable, mostly because of the absence of red neck talk about NASCAR and gym flick actors. So I had time and attention span to think about other matters.

I was a bit surprised last evening to hear on the evening news program – the network one, not one of the “local” stations – as if Huntsville is local – that Maya Angelou had discorporated.[Link] My first reaction on hearing this was “Who?” I admit this is not an unusual or rare reaction to such announcements. About half of the people (probably more) so announced I am unfamiliar with, but they are usually journalists of some pelt, so I can blithely dismiss them. Some are sports people and even easier to dismiss, but occasionally the news writers actually acknowledge someone of actual importance and so I had to go do a search on this woman since I had never heard of her before but the coverage – as it always does – makes them sound as if they are founders of civilization.

I am still not certain of this woman. She was evidently one of those people who suffer great indifference by society in youth and then succeed because of that. The former is more occasion to respect than the latter, in my estimation. But whether the woman is worthy of notice or not is not what is pertinent here. I was quickly reminded of Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s address to the American Physical Society meeting. [Link] I was not there but I read the transcript and the journalism and found myself in rather sincere disagreement with Dr. Tyson. Contrary to his claims, science is not in the public awareness. The television comedy “Big Bang Theory” is about stereotypical nerds, not about science. What science is in the program is Potemkin facade.

From what I see here in Alibam, science is only part of bog consciousness as dislike, either as costing too much for too little (no) gain, or taking money away from welfare programs. Evidently the attitude is ‘millions for asprin but zero for a cure’, or the continuation of the species. And scientists are the butt of jokes and hatred by climate change denialists which is definitely policy here in Alibam.

But what I did agree with Dr. Tyson about is that scientists are ghettoized by their disciplines. Not only from bogs, but from each other. And that means we are not cognizant nor knowledgeable of boggery. But I am not at all convinced that we should be. The argument for education of the public on science is altruistic and weak. The strongest bit seems to a rather fragile construction that if the public is educated and in support of science then the congress critters will follow. I find this specious. The congress critters want what they want and are actively engaged in brain washing the electorate to their ends. And they have money and means far beyond those of scientists. So the effort is handicapped, if not doomed, from the get go.

I am not convinced the boggerate is educable. My observations indicate they operate at a catch phrase, personal gratification level and science does not do those well. I am not adverse to measured attempts. IMHO COSMOS is a great success but measured on the stage of political mindmelding, it is a distant echo in an unpopulated desert. Yes, we need to do it because science is worthwhile and we need to attract a few children to study but overall it is a waste of effort and time. Rather like teaching a pig to sing.

And I conjecture that it is good that scientists are largely orthogonal to social “reality” lest they become depressed and cease to strive and humans become extinct.

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Fruit Fall

Gad, I already dislike summer. And it isn’t really here yet but its scouts are already annoying and irritating. That’s summer in Alibam: an itching of the nether regions. And that has nothing to do with the political environment.  Which is reminiscent of those medieval era setting vampire-werewolf oppressions. And yes, Alibam politicians are definitely parasites of the worst sort.

The constitutional was moderate mostly because I had the park to myself- except for critters – but the wind was almost non-existent. Still that is better than those bitterly hot winds that characterize so much of Alibam summer.

On the bright side, today is the birthday anniversary of William Whewell, who is the Victorian scientist who coined the term. I read on a book on him some time ago that made much of him and his colleagues but all I can recall was his coining of the term and some sort of difficulty with marriage. No, not repressed sexuality, but some organizational rule that was prohibitive. I also recall he was a big wind in the British national science organization which evidently was not as much of an indication of scientific incompetence as it is today. Anyway, there is a middling article on him at Wikipedia that I am too lazy to reproduce the URL.

Along which azimuth, I noted a cartoon [Link]

that I ran across yesterday and was rather bemused by. First of all, I have to wonder if the youthful, plague avoiding, Newton would have been wearing a wig to sit under a tree on a farm. Social conventions are seldom logical and rational from without.

It should also be mentioned that Newton did not “invent” gravity. There were already theories of gravity in place at that time. What Newton did was to come up with a consistent mechanics that included gravity in something more than a descriptive fashion. But it didn’t come to fruition under that tree. The falling apple planted the idea seed that grew into the tree of Newtonian mechanics.

How’s that for a really horrible metaphor?

And I have no idea what a “fruit hug” is. I am not even sure it is worthy of  mentation.

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Maths Malaria

No cat killing last night. Evidently this is a perversion that the conscript parents only indulge in occasionally. But there was rain this morning and so I had to suffer that during my constitutional, along with a return to the usual walking podcast, the one about writing implements with the execrable grammar. My experimental podcast proved to be spending the entire episode prattling about exterior defecation when I was expecting some science stuff. Although in semi-relief they did maunder a bit about Adolf Hitler having Parkinson’s. But if all their content is stercus and vir sterci, then I don’t want to waste my time on them.

Speaking of time wasting, I ran across this cartoon: [Link]

yesterday and it struck so home that I had to include it today. This is part of the curse of Amerika. Most of the population of Amerika is maths averse. And, horror of horrors, it doesn’t compromise their reproductive capabilities so we can’t get these clots out of the gene pool.

I have noted it is particularly the case with politicians. They seem to have the condition doubled. Which explains much about  what is wrong with Amerika.

After writing that I can blog no more for now. The sheer disgust of the handicap is compromising my cognition and composition. I have to go read an integral table or a maths text for a while.

Gone Sadly

Fawg this morning. One of those still air mornings, so the air was really quite warm with all of the extra accessible states. And so my walk in the park was a bit heavy. And the podcast was egregiously awful. But I downloaded two new possibilities yesterday to sample so perhaps my audio-mental self-abuse will get altered.

On the bright side, today is the anniversary of THE physicist of the second half of the Twentieth century, Richard Feynman. I have to admit to never having completed the basic physics lectures. I suspect that was because of a nasty statement made me in graduate schule by our most obnoxious professor. Somehow I didn’t get exposed to the Feynman Lectures as an undergraduate, nor did any of my colleagues. Evidently this was not an affirmative thing at the campus of the Black Warrior.

Nor were they mentioned at the campus of the Boneyard although they are perhaps too basic for competent – that excludes me! – graduate students. But when I was doing my qualifying exam at the campus of the Tennessee, this senior professor, the universally hated one who departed at the end of term for a schule more amenable to his insecure ego, rather sarcastically suggested in my exam defense that I needed to read the lectures.

I should perhaps comment that this was the same asshelmet who told his optics class, all but one of whom worked full time and made more money than he did, that what he was lecturing on would be something we would use every day, and got called, by the whole class, on the inaccuracy of his claim. He was not a happy camper. But we were when he left.

But aside from that omission I rather like Feynman’s books. I found the statistical mechanics book especially good after struggling with Kittel and Huang. And his book on distancing oneself from worrying about public opinion is a masterpiece of self-actuation.

So while I never met the guy, he was a mentor. And a hero. And I miss him.

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