PHYSICS  -  MATH

Get it!          Use it!





But how?

This section, on color vision, is here to point to several concepts that reach out and tie together many topics that might seem to have little to do with color vision.  This is a multi-dimensional approach to knowledge for use. 

Think of it as a hyperspace web of relationships which through its "hyperlinks" can enhance the likelihood that a concept will get recognized as a clue to solving to some problem.  We get a solution we didn't previosuly recognize as being just what we were looking for.  But never thought to look in that direction.

I have tried versions of this approach in the classroom.  Usually with little apparent success, except when the playing field was radically altered from the traditional teach-learn-test format to self-paced, mastery-oriented, problem-solving, proctored learning.  Then, little glimmers of hope sparkled here and there, and some real, and useful, learning became apparent.  Today, science teaching research is developing  the problem-solving and mastery-orientation aspects and are having considerably greater success than I ever knew.   And today, the Internet is revolutionizing — no, has revolutionized — the way people acquire knowledge.

Why should elementary physics be learned in a classroom, as a flood of confusing words, equations, and mathematical procedures,  then virtually regurgitated on exam papers, to be mercifully swept away as an unpleasant experience, unconnected from the real world?  Mercifully unconnected.  Gone and forgotten.

Why should the textbook then be resold, buried in the attic, or ritualistically burned like the paid-off thirty-year mortgage?

Many physicists carry around a physics "Vade Mecum," a volume of useful concepts, procedures, equations, technical data, references, . . . the sort of things you need to do physics, to use physics.  Vade Mecum means "go with me."  If physics instructors want to convey to their students that physics is useful, and something to be used, they must teach to some sort of vade mecum.  A survey course should train its students to be able to recognize when physics concepts are relevant and how to discover how to apply them.  Physics is so huge that to try to "cover" it in a year of classroom coverage is utterly absurd.  A vade mecum will soon be available to everyone, if it isn't there already waiting to be properly organized: the Internet.

A survey course should show its students the true mystery of physics, which comes from the fact that physics (math, too, much of which grew out of physics) is humankind's deepest explorations into the edges of human comprehension.  That doesn't include suggestions that quantum mechanics and relativity suggest possibilities for precognition, mental spoon bending, astrological prediction, or any of those other unsubstantiated—and very easily imagined—creations of wishful thinking.

The mysteries of physics are simpler. . . and much more difficult to imagine.  Like the six-factor color seen everyday by a bird.    We need to weave multidimensional threads of reasoning in our critical examinations of "pseudoscience." 

This weave is traditionally unraveled, leaving the potential hyperlinks unrealized. (Two dimensional physics always gives its students vastly more difficulty than physics in one dimension.)

The concept of weaving concepts into fabrics of hyperlinks is itself a third dimension to those two of the two graphics (the other graphic).  Imagine other examples of concept-weaving coming up out of the page—and watch for such examples as you browse through this site.  (Three dimensional physics is even more difficult than two: three dimensions takes on rotational motion, which stymies virtually all students—even though it can be handled using easy, simple comparisons with two dimensional concepts.)

Hyperlinked...

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

color

What did the class discover when using the light kit (diffraction grating, filters, etc)?
 

  • Some light is composed of spectral lines (sodium lamp), some is composed of continuous spectra (incandescent lamp), some is a mix (fluorescent lamp).  (This is quantuum mechanics revealing itself to us.)

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  • The yellow filter transmitted no light in the yellow part of the spectrum.  It transmitted a narrow band in the green and a narrow band in the red.

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  • Looking through the darker purple filter we see virtually no color distinctions; but looking through the lighter purple filter, many color distinctions are strikingly enhanced.  (Using the 846 filter, we can, in a sense, expand the dimensionality of our color perception.)

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  • Haidinger's brushes, our weak perception of polarization, can be seen by holding the polarizers in front of our eyes and staring at a brightly lit, uniform light surface (the big projection screen).  (Many animals have excellent polarization perception.)

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  • Light reflecting off non-metallic surfaces is polarized to a degree related to the angle of reflection.  Light reflecting off conducting  surfaces is not polarized by the reflection.  Polarized light reflecting off metallic surfaces remains polarized.  Polarized light reflecting off non-conducting surfaces does not retain its polarization.  (Newton was very uneasy about "action at a distance."  He simply couldn't accept the "logic" of action and reaction force, like that of the force between moon and earth, without something "carrying" that force.  We now know a third inseverable component accompanies the action and reaction forces: the "exchange particle."  Newton was right!  When we look at something, action - reaction pairs of forces exist between our eyes and the object observed.  The photons are the inseverable exchange particles—photons, because these forces are not gravitational, but rather electromagnetic.  The behavior of light reflecting from surfaces is an inextricable element of that interaction.  So, we are an inseverable part of the world we observe, but interpreting just what that means requires many-dimensioned, hyperlinked reasoning and careful avoidance of egocentric and anthropocentric wishful thinking.)