subatomicuniverse
I was an ordinary person
who studied hard.

Richard Feynman, theoretical physicist, d. 1988 (via whats-out-there)

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Context:

"You ask me if an ordinary person could ever get to be able to imagine these things like I imagine them. Of course! I was an ordinary person who studied hard. There are no miracle people. It happens they get interested in this thing and they learn all this stuff, but they’re just people. There’s no talent, no special ability to understand quantum mechanics, or to imagine electromagnetic fields, that comes without practice and reading and learning and study. I was not born understanding quantum mechanics — I still don’t understand quantum mechanics! I was born not knowing things were made out of atoms, and not being able to visualize, therefore, when I saw the bottle of milk that I was sucking, that it was a dynamic bunch of balls bouncing around. I had to learn that just like anybody else. So if you take an ordinary person who is willing to devote a great deal of time and work and thinking and mathematics, then he’s become a scientist!”

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True of art, as well.

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 “Just swim in your own lane,” he said. Seeing my confusion, he told me that he had been on the swimming team at Stanford. His stroke was as good as anyone’s. But he kept coming in second. “Zeller,” the coach said, “your problem is you keep looking around to see how the other guys are doing. Keep your eyes on your own lane, swim your fastest and you’ll win.”
Eileen Pollack

—›

 “Just swim in your own lane,” he said. Seeing my confusion, he told me that he had been on the swimming team at Stanford. His stroke was as good as anyone’s. But he kept coming in second. “Zeller,” the coach said, “your problem is you keep looking around to see how the other guys are doing. Keep your eyes on your own lane, swim your fastest and you’ll win.

Eileen Pollack

In addition, she said, her colleagues need to recognize the potential of women who discover a passion for science relatively late. Studies show that an early interest in science doesn’t correlate with ability. You can be a science nut from infancy and not grow up to be good at research … or you can come to science very late and turn out to be a whiz.
fuckyeahexistentialism
The history of philosophy has always been the agent of power in philosophy, and even in thought. It has played the repressor’s role: how can you think without having read Plato, Descartes, Kant and Heidegger and so-and-so’s book on them? A formidable school of intimidation which manufactures specialists in thought—but which makes those who stay outside conform all the more to this specialism which they despise. An image of thought called philosophy has been formed historically and it stops people from thinking.
Deleuze, ‘Dialogues’ (via aidsnegligee)
wildcat2030
Whenever philosophical education lapses into learning facts about history and texts, regurgitating an instructor’s views, or learning from a textbook, it moves away from its Socratic roots in conversation. Then it becomes so much the worse for philosophy and for the students on the receiving end of what the radical educationalist Paolo Freire referred to pejoratively in Pedagogy of the Oppressed (1970) as the ‘banking’ of knowledge. The point of philosophy is not to have a range of facts at your disposal, though that might be useful, nor to become a walking Wikipedia or ambulant data bank: rather, it is to develop the skills and sensitivity to be able to argue about some of the most significant questions we can ask ourselves, questions about reality and appearance, life and death, god and society. As Plato’s Socrates tells us, ‘These are not trivial questions we are discussing here, we are discussing how to live.’
astronomnomy

Seven tips for (Physics) Freshers: Things to Keep in Mind As You Begin Your Journey

astronomnomy:

Congratulations for picking a really fun and satisfying subject to study! As someone who’s been through it all already (MSci Theo Phys and am in the midst of an Astro PhD) I thought, in honour of the first day of term, I would impart some old-people wisdom for those just starting their first classes - mistakes I made so you don’t have to…

Read More

Artists, designers, art students, and other people who can’t figure out how to do what you love what’s important:

Stop hitting yourself, why do you keep hitting yourself?

James Victore answers:

Q: I work at a job doing design I hate, I can never seem to find time to do the work I want to do, and I am constantly frustrated with myself. I wasn’t able to go to a great art program because of financial reasons so my BA was wasted. I don’t know what to do. I want to quit my job to become an amazing motion graphics designer but I’m scared. I’m in LA and it’s expensive and I don’t have anyone to fall back on. I have some money saved, but still I’m scared. I’m 26 and I see my thirties just ahead. I want to do what I love, not just waste time.


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Victore can be a little intense sometimes. (Especially when I think of people who can’t make a decision so easily — for example, say, immigrant mothers who have to think of their children before throwing caution to the wind and doing what they love. But that’s a question of What do you love more?)

But there are great things to take away from this video, regardless of your career. A few:

  1. Again, figure out what’s most important. Right now? In the future? Pursue that. Protect and secure that. (Victore doesn’t explicitly say this.)

  2. Be kind to your future self. Save $$. Set up your path. It might change, but at least you have some kind of foundation. Save your health, too.

  3. Everybody’s afraid. For me, the question is, But what’s scarier? Think about living in your current circumstances for the rest of your life. If it doesn’t make your skin crawl, then do nothing.

    I graduated with an art degree 2 years ago. I’m now about to go back to school for something that’s A. one of the most difficult things one can do and B. going to take me at least 10 years to complete. I’ll likely be well into my 30’s before I get where I want to be, older than most of the youngsters in Grad programs, and less of a genius than most of them. That’s scary. What about money? What if I fail — how embarrassing. But the thought of not trying is even worse.

  4. Do not leave your education up to other people. It’s up to you to work hard, get scholarships, take the best classes, take extra classes, learn online, etc. etc. etc.

    All my life, whenever I did something other than what people thought I was good at, I got asked the same question: “Why would you choose a photography concentration?” “Why aren’t you an illustration major if you’re so good at it?” “What does that class have to do with art?” “How come you haven’t done any art in a while?”

    Same answer to all: To learn something new. To invest time in something I’m not good at, rather than remaining comfortable and not failing at something I am. Because in the end, that gives me a stronger foundation, more ways of seeing the world, and thus more nodes to connect and build into something that never could’ve existed had I tunneled through on the fast track. Synergy.

  5. You’ll probably “waste” some time. Bite it and work hard. Notice how “10 years” looks like nothing in a biography, but feels like a century when it’s ahead of you?

    Recently, some strangers commented on a photo and caption of “me”: a nameless, context-less image. They said things like “her parents are obviously rich” and my favorite, “I’m envious that she can just do whatever she wants, and never had to work for a few years to support herself” etc. Wow. What a load of bullshit. Few people are that lucky — don’t let glossy success stories allow you to think otherwise. SEE ALSO.

    Victore wouldn’t say this, but sometimes you have to do something you don’t like for some time (work, school, even sell out), to secure a foundation for yourself. Understand this. You can complain, but deep down, understand what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, and have a plan of action.


TL;DR: Happiness doesn’t mean feeling good or smiling all the time.

GoldieBlox: an engineering toy for girls little humans who are OK with pastel colors.

Less than a year ago, Debbie Sterling’s concept of a toy that would teach engineering skills to little girls was nothing more than a prototype on Kickstarter.
Today, GoldieBlox holds the distinction as one of Amazon’s top 100 toys (top 20 as of this writing). The toy, which teaches engineering skills through the adventures of kid inventor Goldie, is available in 600 Toys “R” Us stores, and 400 other toy stores nationwide. 
But it’s not the sales that make Sterling proudest. Instead, it’s the messages from the parents that pour in every day. Stories about little girls that sing songs about building and engineering, or are inspired to build their own toys after playing with GoldieBlox.

GoldieBlox: an engineering toy for girls little humans who are OK with pastel colors.

Less than a year ago, Debbie Sterling’s concept of a toy that would teach engineering skills to little girls was nothing more than a prototype on Kickstarter.

Today, GoldieBlox holds the distinction as one of Amazon’s top 100 toys (top 20 as of this writing). The toy, which teaches engineering skills through the adventures of kid inventor Goldie, is available in 600 Toys “R” Us stores, and 400 other toy stores nationwide. 

But it’s not the sales that make Sterling proudest. Instead, it’s the messages from the parents that pour in every day. Stories about little girls that sing songs about building and engineering, or are inspired to build their own toys after playing with GoldieBlox.

So the problem with word problems is that no-one *really* cares *exactly* how long it takes a bath to overflow - certainly not enough to do complicated algebra.

The problem with relevance is that, let’s face it, this unit is a stepping stone to more advanced mathematics and actually is *not* really relevant in peoples everyday lives.

So … don’t make it relevant: make it interesting. Theme a lesson or two on (for example) a space mission. … Then you can include all the contrived questions you want, and it won’t matter. Why not?

I: Everybody knows that for astronauts - unlike for baths - accuracy matters

II: It might not be relevant to them, but at least they might accept that *somebody* does this stuff

&III: Dealing with space … might actually take their mind off the whole maths thing.

Alex, on Rational Expressions & Equations — Lesson Plan

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Exactly. Alex, (whoever you are) thank you.

MIT edX: Classical Mechanics with Walter Lewin

8.01x is an online version of Classical Mechanics, which is the first of MIT’s introductory physics courses. In addition to the basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinetic gas theory, a variety of other interesting topics are covered, such as resonance phenomena, musical instruments, astronomical phenomena such as binary stars, neutron stars, black holes, stellar collapse, and supernovae. You will also be given a peek into the intriguing world of quantum mechanics.

Starts Sept. 9, 2013.
Register —›

MIT edX: Classical Mechanics with Walter Lewin

8.01x is an online version of Classical Mechanics, which is the first of MIT’s introductory physics courses. In addition to the basic concepts of Newtonian mechanics, fluid mechanics, and kinetic gas theory, a variety of other interesting topics are covered, such as resonance phenomena, musical instruments, astronomical phenomena such as binary stars, neutron stars, black holes, stellar collapse, and supernovae. You will also be given a peek into the intriguing world of quantum mechanics.

Starts Sept. 9, 2013.

Register —›

katisque

dazegetbrighter:

what if rocks are actually soft but just tense up when we touch them?

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I haven’t looked at my dash in a while; I love that this was at the top upon logging in.

It may just be somebody’s “silly” question, and yet it reminds me so much of the questions central to quantum physics — important questions about the most basic elements (that we know of to date) that constitute our being.

Wonderful.

"On August 27, 1783 in Paris, [Benjamin] Franklin witnessed the world’s first hydrogen balloon flight."

"Sir Joseph Banks, a leading botanist and president of the British Royal Society from 1778 to 1820, … corresponded with [Franklin] in Paris. Although ostensibly a man of science, Banks looked at ballooning from a Newtonian worldview, and wrote to Franklin that, “I see an inclination in the more respectable part of the Royal Society to guard against the Ballomania [until] some experiment likely to prove beneficial either to society or science is proposed.

Franklin had told Banks that experimenting with balloons would someday “pave the way to some discoveries in natural philosophy of which at present we have no conception.”

He answered Banks’ objection by writing that “It does not seem to me a good reason to decline prosecuting a new experiment which apparently increases the power of man over matter until we can see to what use that power may be applied. When we have learned to manage it, we may hope some time or other to find uses for it, as men have done for magnetism and electricity, of which the first experiments were mere matters of amusement.

When a spectator at one of the early balloon launchings asked Franklin what this new invention could be used for, Franklin gave his famous answer: “What is the use of a new-born baby?”

— Benjamin Franklin, on the use of hot air balloons. Quotes via The Schiller Institute & Wiki: [87].

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This is a long one, but please try to read. It’s important.
A couple of weeks ago I attended a round table about “Ignorance and Curiosity" — a discussion about how the former fuels the latter. In light of recent political / educational events, the events that transpired couldn’t be more appropriate:
Inevitably the conversation turned toward education, and how (or whether) any teacher can inspire curiosity in their students, despite handling large classes of various types of learners and in the face of budget cuts and systematic constraints.
The very last question of the day was the best — a man asked (and I quote somewhat loosely): “I understand that there’s a fraction of you, of your personality type, who cannot help but be curious and intellectual… but why do you want to expand that fraction? Why do you want others to be like you?"
A great question. One that many people wouldn’t even think to ask. After all, who doesn’t want to live in an intelligent, educated society — the ideal society of the ancient Greek philosophers? (Don’t answer that. It’s incredible, but I could think of a few people, too.) It’s funny that the inquisitor must be a curious man himself, to have challenged them thus.
After some initial difficulty, two of the speakers finally worked it out. Stuart Firestein (Chair of Columbia University’s Department of Biological Sciences) illustrated with the story above (of Ben Franklin and the hot air balloons) and Heather Berlin agreed: the point is hope.
The investigation of our world — science — works by Trial and Error. Especially in the beginnings of such an investigation, one cannot know what will work, what will be important, what it will be used for, how it may change our lives… So many people seem to have too little understanding of this. Unfortunately that’s especially true of those in powerful positions, who have the ability to affect human curiosity, education, progress, livelihood:
Recently, the Head of the US’s House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology, Lamar Smith, has begun preparing a bill to “revise criteria for science funding and research grants”:
According to ScienceInsider, the bill would require the NSF director to certify that every grant met the following conditions:
  • The grant must “advance the national health, prosperity, or welfare, and… secure the national defense by promoting the progress of science”
  • It must also be “the finest quality, groundbreaking, and answer questions or solve problems that are of utmost importance to society at large”
  • The grant should not be “duplicative of other research projects being funded by the Foundation or other Federal science agencies”

How does a person such as Smith — who clearly misunderstands the scientific process, who, by making such requests, denies the fact that “groundbreaking” discoveries take many teams, errors, and a wealth  of time, and that one cannot always be sure which will be “of utmost importance to society at large” — become Head of The House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology?

This is why we want to “expand the fraction” of the curious. Of those who are not simply ignorant, but who are motivated by their own ignorance to continue to be life-long learners, no matter their day-job description, and whether their scope of influence includes a single child or an entire country.

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Images via Wiki & PCA.