Musings on Science, and other things

I’m in the library, revising for my electromagnetism exam by reading some of the Feynman lectures on physics. He presents the material in a clear, accessible, and interesting way, and it’s a real joy to read. He also goes off on some great tangents to relate the basic material to more complex unsolved problems in Physics, and it’s really, really interesting. He addresses all the issues you have as an undergraduate – should I have a mental model of what’s going on, is this treatment accurate, and provides tips and tricks for solving various problems.

This got me to thinking in general of how easy it is for your enthusiasm for something to be crushed by the process of actually having to study it – sometimes you read about things the great scientists of the past discovered and you wonder how they could bring themselves to work on anything quite so dull!

Makes me wonder if perhaps we get our knowledge too easy; the things which were the life’s work of some of our greatest minds, taught in a lazy afternoon.

Obliquely, this led me on to thinking about Lost. I’ve just seen the 4th season finale, so it’s on my mind, but I’m going to avoid spoilers here! I realised they’d got their characterisations of the characters completely and utterly wrong!

Jack is the man of faith, and Locke is the man of science! Jack believes so thoroughly in “reason” that he totally ignores the things he can see with his own two eyes – like giant columns of black smoke that can kill people. Locke has the use of his legs restored, and immediately comes to the conclusion that something awfully odd is going on. Locke’s attitude is clearly the more scientific. The writers obviously have no idea what they’re talking about.

This could be just because I’m feeling a tad hostile towards them right now – anyone who’s seen the finale can probably guess why!

33 thoughts on “Musings on Science, and other things

  1. Still about half a season behind, shall watch after Exams.

    I am being crushed at the moment by the sheer volume of SSP to memorise. And being infuriated by some of the approximations. I spent 30 mins chasing down a lost Pi only to find out it was approximated to 3 and canceled out a constant.

    How did you find Thermo + SP btw?

  2. I fudged a lot of the calculations to get the answers, so I am not sure. I either did brilliantly or terribly. So, I expect 65-75% ish, but would not be surprised if it was higher or lower. I am not confident of even writing enough in some places, eg. the ocean question for the carnot cycle. It gave you the answer in the question, and thn gave you four marks for the hell of it.

  3. That's a point about the ocean question. If it was any other way, it just wouldn't work as a cycle! It's hard to wring 4 marks out of that.

  4. I also had no idea how to get the 1/(hw) to appear in the stats question, so I just put an arrow and said that it tended to that when T tended to what ever it said in the question.

    I don't know of any question I definitely got wrong, but I know of many that I could have gotten wrong, or at least only partially right.

  5. Oh, I did the other stats question, so I have no idea. I thought it looked nasty!

    The sum over states is N = Sum(all r) (nBE), then when that goes to an integral, it's N = n0 + Integral nBE dr, then you have to make it into an energy integral, epsilon = hwr, so epsilon/hw = r, therefore dr = depsilon/hw, which is where the hw comes from, it's from the change of variable. Maybe add an extra step explaining you have to count the ground state separately because it has 0 energy?

    Bit late now though anyway.

    I had no idea about how to do the last part of the other stats question, so I chucked away 3 marks. Never mind!

  6. It's a Simpsons quote 😛

    Anyways, the thing about physics is you get a lot of approximation in the theoretical calculations anyways. It mostly isn't important, because as long as the approximation isn't too far out, the experimentalists won't be precise enough to notice the difference anyway.

    Making pi exactly 3 is only a 4.5% error, and a pretty good experiment has 10% error anyway.

  7. Have you watched the new Dollhouse trailer? It does wonders for the pre-examination soul, I've found…

  8. It does look several kinds of awesome. Especially the proper one, where they don't steal footage from old Buffy episodes.

    Alas, it apparently won't actually be broadcast until January!

    How are your exams going, anyhow? I've got one on Wednesday… it's worrying, it is.

  9. At least all that extra time will ensure its Whedon-patented-uber-awesome. That kind is blatently the best.

    I point and laugh at your worried-ness. I only have 2 SFPU tomorrow and History and Physics next Wednesday; 4-day weekend! No major flops yet I think, it's all good. Looking forward to..what was it…Thermodynamics? (I fail at the remembering of your degree modules.) The one you are a-fearing of, anyway.

    Also very excited about Viva la Vida, coming out on the 11th. It's previewed quite well!

  10. Hope your exams go well!

    Thermodynamics has been and gone, along with Electromagnetism and Maths, next up is Quantum Mechanics. Should be fine, hopefully.

    I'm also quite looking forward to Viva la Vida, I really liked Violet Hill, so hopefully the whole thing should be good.

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