Physics Background

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AuthorTopic: Physics Background
Electric Sheep One
Member # 3431
Profile #25
quote:
Originally written by Guilt by Dissociation:

It's the ones who believe that they grasp a subject when they really don't who cause problems.

—Alorael, who thinks that it's rarely true of physics or chemistry or even most biology.

I don't know if there are chemistry or biology crackpots, but the number of people who think they can explain atoms in terms of vortices seems to be large. No doubt they are a tiny proportion of the general population, but physics crackpots are a still plentiful in absolute terms.

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We're not doing cool. We're doing pretty.
Posts: 3335 | Registered: Thursday, September 4 2003 07:00
Lifecrafter
Member # 34
Profile Homepage #26
Isn't true wisdom knowing that you know nothing?

But seriously now. What if you have an undying interest in physics and devour Hawking, Feyneman and Greene books like roast beef? You can quantify physics knowledge by the number of classes you've taken to a hefty extent, but beyond a point it's like saying that only the kids who had Charazard, Venosaur and Blastoise cards could win at Pokémon.

The kid who won the Siemens International science scholarship contest this year wrote some "PhD-worthy" stuff about string theory—string theory!—and he's just in high school. Lookee lookee!

He probably just wrote something that no-one could understand and so they figured it must be brilliant.

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Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

'Spiderweb Software' anagrammmed: 'Word-bereft A**wipe'
Posts: 702 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
The Establishment
Member # 6
Profile #27
While you do not necessarily need extensive coursework in physics (or related disciplines) to achieve a mastery, it sure helps out a lot. As for your example, you point out the extremely rare exception, not the rule.

You can read popularized books on physics all you want, this does not make you an expert in the field. The only way to do this, is to open up and learn the material textbooks and research papers that give the subject a rigorous treatment.

Reading Fabric of the Cosmos does not make you an expert on spacetime. While Brian Greene's depictions are elucidative in concept, they can only take you so far. Since the English language (or any other "spoken" language) is a bit lacking in explaining rigorous and abstract scientific concepts, it is impossible to get the full story and hence there can be some basic errors made on the part of the reader.

To rectify this, a reader that is more interested need only to pick up a textbook on string theory, general relativeity, etc. that gives the mathematical details and hack his/her way through it. I tried it once many years ago, without any real success, primarily because my knowledge of calculus was quite lacking at the time.

One classic example is entropy and the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This is often misunderstood by those who have only read popularized descriptions of entropy: entropy is disorder and disorder increases on average. While this is true, there are many subtleties to the second law requiring a mathematical description. Read up on a vortex tube, seems to defy the second law, but when the calculations are done, it really does not. Common misunderstandings from simplistic descriptions lead to incorrect and often non-sensical arguments.

But I digress, the best way, for most people, to learn the material correctly and in a rigorous manner is through coursework. While it is possible to do otherwise, it most often leads to serious conceptual flaws.

[ Saturday, December 16, 2006 10:42: Message edited by: *i ]

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Your flower power is no match for my glower power!
Posts: 3726 | Registered: Tuesday, September 18 2001 07:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #28
Oh, sure. There are crackpots in every imaginable field, and crackpots have very good imaginations. My point is that most people can accept that they understand Newtonian physics roughly but that quantum mechanics are beyond them and string theory is completely out of the question. ("Even string theory experts don't understand string theory!") Relativity probably gets more pseudo-knowledge because of sci-fi, but it's not too bad.

Medicine is too much of a pop science. Everyone needs to interact with medicine, everyone reads about medicine, and the news loves medical stories, and everyone decides that anecdotes are statistical evidence and the newspaper is a peer reviewed article (for some values of everyone). It becomes a recipe for poor medical choices by people who think they know better and lawsuits from medical panics. Bendectin, anyone?

—Alorael, who thinks that of the usual high school sciences chemistry gets the fewest lunatics. Maybe it's just because it doesn't have the same immediately applicable macroscopic effects in very basic levels as biology and physics. Overall, though, it's probably earth sciences that attract the least attention period and thus the fewest nuts. Global warming excepted, of course.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Off With Their Heads
Member # 4045
Profile Homepage #29
quote:
Originally written by Est. Perpetuum:

of the usual high school sciences chemistry gets the fewest lunatics.
The lunatics in chemistry tend to be the chemists. :P

Not only does everyone interact with medicine, but everyone also has a body, and therefore when people are told how bodies on average respond to certain things, they have immense anecdotal evidence (but often very little scientific evidence) to compare those assertions with.

I like an analogy that (I think) Ash drew at one point: having a car doesn't make you as expert as a mechanic, and having a body doesn't make you as knowledgeable about them as a doctor (or medical researcher).

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Arancaytar: Every time you ask people to compare TM and Kel, you endanger the poor, fluffy kittens.
Smoo: Get ready to face the walls!
Ephesos: In conclusion, yarr.

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The Archive of all released BoE scenarios ever
Posts: 7968 | Registered: Saturday, February 28 2004 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #30
People have less anecdotal evidence about cars, though. If it breaks, most people take it in to be repaired. If we break, we get better. We break a lot, and we get better a lot. We also tend to do things that have only minimal relevance to getting better yet somehow become vastly important to us.

—Alorael, who would like to have a worn with them. They say all kinds of things that are, in fact, terrible advice.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
Lifecrafter
Member # 34
Profile Homepage #31
Who is this famous them? They're certainly mentioned in italics a lot.

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Frisbeetarianism is the belief that when you die, your soul goes up on the roof and gets stuck.

'Spiderweb Software' anagrammmed: 'Word-bereft A**wipe'
Posts: 702 | Registered: Wednesday, October 3 2001 07:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #32
quote:
Originally written by Est. Perpetuum:

Overall, though, it's probably earth sciences that attract the least attention period and thus the fewest nuts.
See my name today for a counterexample. :P

[ Saturday, December 16, 2006 16:21: Message edited by: Abiogenic Petroleum ]

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00
Law Bringer
Member # 335
Profile Homepage #33
And Flat Earthers, and Hollow Earthers, and the list goes on. But I still think the nuts pick the other sciences.

—Alorael, who blames it on legitimate claims. There just isn't that much ridiculous geology out there. But relativity? That's wacky! String theory is a bad joke. And the theory of evolution? Pfft.
Posts: 14579 | Registered: Saturday, December 1 2001 08:00
...b10010b...
Member # 869
Profile Homepage #34
quote:
Originally written by 28th Parallel, 7th Perpendicular:

And Flat Earthers, and Hollow Earthers, and the list goes on. But I still think the nuts pick the other sciences.
Ooh! Ooh! Remind me to do Expanding Earthers later. :P

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The Empire Always Loses: This Time For Sure!
Posts: 9973 | Registered: Saturday, March 30 2002 08:00

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