Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Physics: Too Hard for Most of Us. Niemann Physics made Easy

Tags: Physics Made Easy Teaching SATs Legacy Enrollment Ivy Schools IQs

Kawakami: Niemann explains physics with diagrams.

At UCLA Freshman and Sophomore Chemistry and Physics classes were designed to discourage students from continuing their major or rejecting Pre-Med students who wanted to go to Medical school. Classes were taught either with disinterested assistant professors or graduate students who did not know how to teach or even understood the stuff they were teaching. Normally the class average was down in the 30 percentile. Multiple choice tests were used to more easily grade classes with 500 people.

My revenge came when I gave my 3 year old test to my weak in Physics major roommate who could have gotten a perfect score, but purposely missed one question.

Abstract science seems to come more easily to some, but not to most college students. Most rely more on memory rather than actually understanding physics, chemistry, or philosophy which works fairly well, but not in most graduate schools.

I took several graduate courses as a senior and was shocked that the class average was only 35. Even a high school classmate who had superb grades got a lower than usual initial grade. He was bright but did not actually understand the chemistry. I explained the chemistry to him and we both got the top grade in the final exam.

I watch the face of my students to see if they really understood my explanation. I then try to explain the same concept in three or four different ways trying to be as concrete as possible. It works! One of my physics teachers got the Nobel prize for developing the carbon 13 method of dating old artifacts. He was my only good physics teacher at UCLA. My Nobel Laureate thesis professor also taught us to learn as much as possible in our area of research and always balance work and personal activities outside of work.

People assume that the highest IQ scientists are the ones that get the Nobel Prize. That is not so. One biological science Nobel Prize winner's IQ was about 106. In science the Pre-frontal cortical activity is needed for learning and understanding what has gone on before.

Perhaps SAT tests which reflect intelligence and the quality of schools attended should be downgraded for entry into the Ivy League Schools. They should also reduce the influence family ties and upgrade their teachers who do not necessarily have to do great research. Why not create a separate research institute to provide military and government funding.

The quality of our elite pundits who can talk and think well, but seem not understand to what is really happening and the consequences of their support of obviously wrong policies such as going to war in Iraq and even Afghanistan. I could not believe their support for the murders in El Salvador and Nicaragua and much of Latin America. Yes, the most sophisticated propaganda is directed at them. Read Orwell's 1984 and Propaganda by Edward Bernays.

So what if it takes less intelligent students or workers more time for them to learn stuff than the brightest. What is necessary and delineated in the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is that really lots of hard work is necessary before imagination can work well to see new things. People cannot Google Inventions or Genius.

So I always advise young people to have or develop a passion for something that you would be willing to do for free. Make your profession like a hobby. I have too many interests to become great in anything. I went into chemistry because my college aptitude and intelligence tests showed that it would be a good fit. But I still feel that I would have had just as much fun from doing research in how the mind works.

Jim Kawakami, Oct 27, 2010,

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