Simfish/InquilineKea's Thoughts

Academic Quotes I’ve Collected


[quote]1. Solving difficult problems doesn’t teach one science-it just tires one out. Subsequently, I discovered that simple problems can bring out insight and lasting understanding that are completely lost in reduandant, convoluted computational tricks. And thus, when solving a problem, I always return to my 5-th grade learnings and move from there. There goes my highly-recognized advanced degree![/quote]


As professors, there is one small thing we can do to work towards a change in the culture, and that is to move away from the “look how clever I am I can solve all the problem sets” machismo, which of course is particularly bad at places like Caltech and MIT. The truth is that problem-solving is a very minor part of research, and facility in that frequently pointless activity is an *extremely* poor indicator of excellence in physics or mathematics. A great many problem sheets I see contain senseless problems that are included *only* because they are difficult to solve. I once tutored for a course on Special Relativity, and the problem sheets consisted of endless idiotic problems about tanks falling into ditches, “lab frames”, and all that dreck. One student handed in homework in which he had solved few of the problems, but in each case he had made an effort to translate the problem into Minkowski space language, and at the bottom he wrote, ” I thought SR was basically about flat spacetime, not tanks in ditches?”

I gave him an A+ .

If we cultivate an ethos where solving problems was subordinated to discussions aiming for a deep understanding of the material, we might [in the long run] end up with a more civilized atmosphere in our classrooms, and fewer students feeling inadequate because they can’t solve some stupid problem that should never have been set in the first place.[/quote]


3 Comments so far
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“”Well, the problem with those worked problems is that there is a lot of important stuff in the problems, and Griffiths assumes you have worked every single problem. This wouldn’t be an issue, except most of the chapters have over 50 problems, and the odds that you did the right problem you need when he references that problem three chapters later is pretty slim.””

Comment by inquilinekea

I did astronomy not because I has any interest in it but because it offered more than just the physics degree.
A lot of physics is data reduction, it’s actually a very good way of learning data reduction since the data is often fairly poor and scarce which is a good way to learn how to handle it. The physics of stars and cosmology is at least as intersting as particle physics or nuclear physics.

An astronomy degree isn’t a requirment to do astronomy, even in observatioanl astronomy most astronomers have a failry limited understanding of catalogues and coordinate systems, less on telescopes and instruments or detectors.

Make sure you take enough physics course to qualify for a physics degree or a joint major.

Comment by inquilinekea

“””What would make me feel that my life is fulfilling, and that it is being lived the best way it can be lived? I seem to from time to time be endlessly dissatisfied with myself in some regard — so what would be satisfying?

I suppose if I were a Nobel Laureate, or the author of a bestseller, or both, whose name is on the lips of university students everywhere, and who came up with a world-changing, potentially humanitarian theory that gives rise to new fields of study, who has traveled everywhere and has lived happily into old age with the love of her life in a beautiful home, then, maybe I would be satisfied.

Problem: Disregarding most of the above, I would have to be really old before I could draw the conclusion. And then what good is it?

Problem: Does this imply that I’m only satisfied if I have all of the above?”””

Comment by inquilinekea

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