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Old June 27 2010, 10:55 PM   #30
flemm
Fleet Captain
 
Re: A description is up for one of the new Starfleet Academy books

Christopher wrote: View Post
Indeed. The way science is taught in our schools is ridiculous. It's really more like science history. Instead of starting with the real fundamentals of physics as we know them today, i.e. quantum mechanics, and showing how everything arises from that, we start by teaching the rough approximations and misconceptions of the past, and then forcing students to unlearn them years later in order to learn the more accurate stuff. And the majority of students never get that far anyway and so never do unlearn the old misconceptions. And so the quantum theory that's been the fundamental basis of modern physics, technology, chemistry, etc. for a century is still seen by most people as an arcane mystery or even an unproven hypothesis.
Is starting with quantum mechanics even possible, as far as the mathematics involved is concerned? I went as far as multi-variable calculus personally, and special relativity is surprisingly simple, but it was only after three semesters of college level physics that we had enough of a fondation to look at the uncertainty principle (right about the time I switched to studying language ).

Learning the math of special relativity flows quite smoothly from a basic knowledge of algebra and the galilean transformations for acceleration, velocity, etc. Doing the earlier approximations first is not an impediment to learning the more precise equations, at least it certainly wasn't in my experience: they are what Einstein modified to come up with his own versions.

There are many problems with our educational system, but is starting with Newtonian physics really one of them? For one thing, it still basically applies to most of daily existence on earth, since the Einsteinian radicals just factor out to approximately 1 over short distances and slow speeds (basically everything we are likely to encounter in every day life). For another, you need the basic building blocks of algebra and calculus to deal with the more complicated mathematics, isn't it like learning the basics of a language before trying to write poetry or an essay?

Beyond that, has anyone yet figured out how to reconcile general relativity with quantum mechanics and come up with a viable GUT or TOE or whatever the catch phrase is these days? If not, then I'm not sure that showing how everything arises from quantum mechanics is even possible at this point.

Daddy Todd wrote: View Post
Christopher wrote: View Post
And so the quantum theory that's been the fundamental basis of modern physics, technology, chemistry, etc. for a century is still seen by most people as an arcane mystery or even an unproven hypothesis.
Yeah, quantum mechanics is just a theory. Like evolution. Or gravity.
Those are all theories, yes, though that doesn't imply that they haven't been verified empirically. Take "gravity" as an example. The Newtonian equation was shown to be inaccurate by Einstein, and even Einstein's general theory of relativity (which, as I recall, expands on the special theory of relativity in order to explain how gravity works) will probably be refined at some point (perhaps to reconcile it with quantum mechanics).

Last edited by flemm; June 27 2010 at 11:07 PM.
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