Is there any way forward for me?

  • Thread starter Cerenkov
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  • #1
Cerenkov
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Hello.

I have no ability to perform anything more than addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Yet, since my teenage years I have been fascinated, enthralled and intrigued by the skies. Astronomy and cosmology have been a decades-long interests of mine. I've read Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and Guth's 'Inflationary Universe' as well as other books by Lawrence Krauss, Michiko Kaku and John Barrow.

Now here's the rub.

It's becoming apparent to me that I may have nowhere to go in this forum. Being unable to do the math and being limited to reading 'pop' science books, it seems that I can't further my understanding of cosmology in this forum unless I ask the right questions. And it seems that I don't have what it takes to ask the right questions. What it takes doesn't come from pop science books. Nor from myself.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

So where can I go from here?

Thanks,

Cerenkov.
 

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  • #2
Beanyboy
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Hello.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

.
Funny that, today I was trying to figure out how to write my "signature" to the messages I write on Physics Forum. I want it to be "I am the patron saint of mediocrity." (Salieri, from Amadeus)

I'm 56, never did excel at Maths, so I had to start over a few years ago. I'm beyond GCSE level now, but not quite at A Level. I started studying in my spare time about 2 years ago for the sheer "pleasure of finding things out". Here's what I've learned about learning. This might help:

1. Previously, the Maths would confuse me and intimidate me. I had no idea. However, now, with what "little" Maths I do have, I find that the Maths illuminates, gives you a deeper understanding and appreciation of the phenomena you're trying to understand. It leverages your comprehension.
2. Start studying the Maths. Focus on consistent improvement; it's the engine that drags everything in its train. You'll find that Maths allows you to calibrate your progress more easily than other subjects do. It's easier to figure out "what is it that I can do/understand today, that I could not do/could not understand, say, a month ago"? Your successes will fuel your motivation, which will in turn fuel your desire to push on.
3. Be patient.
4. Persist.
5. See # 3 above.
6. Finally, perhaps most importantly, ask yourself: "How badly do I want to know and understand this stuff"? The more desperate you are to claw your way out of the ignorance you feel you have, the more likely it is you'll actually learn.

Hope this helps. Good luck.
Beanyboy
 
  • #3
Drakkith
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You could ask something like, "I'm interested in X topic and would like more information. Does anyone have any good suggestions for books or articles on X that don't require knowing the math?"

Then you could ask specific questions about whatever you read.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

The real Sallieri did indeed write beautiful music. Why else would he be hired to make music and to tutor people? Similarly you can learn a great deal about astronomy and cosmology without ever delving into the math. I personally almost never look at the math when reading about something in astronomy.

And tell me this isn't beautiful:
 
  • #4
fresh_42
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I find Wikipedia a good source to get more than only an informal impression of certain subjects. It usually has all fundamental information and always links where to deepen the understanding or to compare what is written. I know that some of us won't agree with me, because if it comes to details, Wikipedia has its limits. However, Wikipedia should at least enable you to pose the right questions, i.e. the right worded questions. The math there varies a lot, but that's what our homework forums are for.

E.g. if you look up "Mercury (planet)" then you will not only find basic data and historic information, but also a lot of other linked subjects. Now if you click all links, you will probably go through a large part of the site without ever coming back, so I would first determine, which "tree" I want to read and then reread the articles bottom up.
 
  • #5
MidgetDwarf
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Hello.

I have no ability to perform anything more than addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Yet, since my teenage years I have been fascinated, enthralled and intrigued by the skies. Astronomy and cosmology have been a decades-long interests of mine. I've read Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and Guth's 'Inflationary Universe' as well as other books by Lawrence Krauss, Michiko Kaku and John Barrow.

Now here's the rub.

It's becoming apparent to me that I may have nowhere to go in this forum. Being unable to do the math and being limited to reading 'pop' science books, it seems that I can't further my understanding of cosmology in this forum unless I ask the right questions. And it seems that I don't have what it takes to ask the right questions. What it takes doesn't come from pop science books. Nor from myself.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

So where can I go from here?

Thanks,

Cerenkov.

If you live in the United States, you can take developmental math courses at the local community college. You can purchase books on elementary mathematics, algebra, geometry, trig, etc., practice for a bit and move up from there...
 
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  • #6
Vanadium 50
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To be honest, I don't think you are going to be happy here, and I don't believe you when you say you "desperately want to understand more about the cosmos".
  1. In this thread your statement is not "here is something I don't know", it is "here is something I can't learn". You're not going to learn about cosmology if you decide from the get-go that you are not going to learn the precursors.
  2. In this other thread, you kept writing a bunch of wrong things, and when this was pointed out to you, you posted a dramatic message saying, among other things "it puts a real dampener on my enthusiasm for science to be told by a somebody that I'm wrong and wrong and wrong again." Well guess what? In science, some things are wrong. And if you can't stand being told that something you think is incorrect, how will you learn?
Your problem is your attitude, not your ability. And someone who truly "desperately want to understand more about the cosmos" would change their attitude. Being told your misconceptions are true is not a path to understanding.
 
  • #7
symbolipoint
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Not sure how far along you are with your education; but you must learn the Mathematics: Algebra 1&2, Trigonometry, at least three semesters Calculus with Analytic Geometry, and maybe a couple more courses of Mathematics; and you also would need to study undergraduate level Physics courses, as from the major field - and maybe some more, if you want to get beyond just undergraduate degree. In case you not prepared currently to get into a university, you could start at a community college.
 
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  • #8
Cerenkov
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Thank you for your replies.

This is for Vanadium 50.

In 1997 I fell 10 feet and almost died. It took three years for me to recover and during that time my marriage failed, I lost my job and my dad died. A lasting effect of the brain trauma I suffered is an atypical endogenous depression. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_depression So when I'm stressed I suffer intense bouts of sadness and distress. It's taken me decades of persistent and dogged effort to bring myself up to the level of understanding I have, when it comes to astronomy and cosmology. That effort consisted of reading what I could understand. The books by Hawking, Guth, Kaku, et al.

So NO, you are wrong, Vanadium 50. My problem isn't one of attitude - it's one of DISability. Traumatically induced disability. I tried to learn French about five years ago but the stress of the classroom sent me into hysterics. The same thing results when I try to learn math. So being told that I'm not trying hard enough feels like a slap in the face, thank you very much.

Yes, I'm hypersensitive to criticism. Why? Because it simply reminds me of what I've lost. It just feels like I'm having nose rubbed into the dang I've gone through. So when someone keeps telling me that I wrong and offers nothing more helpful than that, is it any wonder I'm going to react badly? If you look back through the thread you'll see that I did ask Orodruin if he could change the emphasis of his replies from reactive to proactive. I did ask if he could change my learning experience into something more helpful and positive. What did I get back in exchange? Dead air from him.

You'll also note that kimbyd did make the effort to say more than, 'You are wrong' and 'You are asking the wrong question'.

Guess what, Vanadium 50?
I still do desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and I sincerely hope that you believe me now.

Cerenkov.
 
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  • #9
Vanadium 50
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It's still your attitude. If we can't tell you are wrong when you're wrong, you'll never learn.

Furthermore, if your position is you are physically unable to learn, then sorry, you are physically unable to learn. That includes cosmology as well as math.
 
  • #10
fresh_42
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Thank you for your replies.

This is for Vanadium 50.

In 1997 I fell 10 feet and almost died. It took three years for me to recover and during that time my marriage failed, I lost my job and my dad died. A lasting effect of the brain trauma I suffered is an atypical endogenous depression. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Endogenous_depression So when I'm stressed I suffer intense bouts of sadness and distress. It's taken me decades of persistent and dogged effort to bring myself up to the level of understanding I have, when it comes to astronomy and cosmology. That effort consisted of reading what I could understand. The books by Hawking, Guth, Kaku, et al.

So NO, you are wrong, Vanadium 50. My problem isn't one of attitude - it's one of DISability. Traumatically induced disability. I tried to learn French about five years ago but the stress of the classroom sent me into hysterics. The same thing results when I try to learn math. So being told that I'm not trying hard enough feels like a slap in the face, thank you very much.

Yes, I'm hypersensitive to criticism. Why? Because it simply reminds me of what I've lost. It just feels like I'm having nose rubbed into the **** I've gone through. So when someone keeps telling me that I wrong and offers nothing more helpful than that, is it any wonder I'm going to react badly? If you look back through the thread you'll see that I did ask Orodruin if he could change the emphasis of his replies from reactive to proactive. I did ask if he could change my learning experience into something more helpful and positive. What did I get back in exchange? Dead air from him.

You'll also note that kimbyd did make the effort to say more than, 'You are wrong' and 'You are asking the wrong question'.

Guess what, Vanadium 50?
I still do desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and I sincerely hope that you believe me now.

Cerenkov.
Sorry for that. Keep on trying.

A few tips which might help you:
  • If you have a special problem, usually one with basic math or figures, then use our homework section. Just don't forget to use the (automatically inserted) template and show some effort of your own. "No idea" will not be accepted, because you must have thought and tried something before.

  • Set your threads on "B" if you're not sure you want to discuss the math. It normally means that the expected answers are given on a more basic level. Of course, there are questions which cannot be answered on this level. People often think, that our "B" - "I" - "A" grades refer to the question. I like to think that it refers to the answer! Most questions can be answered on very different levels, so the level is more related to the answer than the question.

  • Have a look on our insight articles. You can find a lot of useful explanations there, which are usually written somewhere between Wikipedia level and textbook level. Some will be an easy read, and other will need a study beforehand. In any case, you can find interesting reads to many subjects. There is even a separate search functionality on the insights tab.

  • The better a question is prepared by telling the background of a) your knowledge b) your own findings c) your expectations, the better the answers will be. Most misunderstandings, included the personal ones come from a lack of information. You don't have to tell your vita over and over again, just what an answer should cover. E.g. as I've read and answered your OP, I had actually no idea, what your expectations were, and so were your answers you received. They varied from: read Wikipedia, over buy standard textbooks, over to "you must learn math" and "we're of no help", which is nonsense. So it was obvious unclear to your readers, where to go to in their answers. And to be honest, it still is.

  • Read Wikipedia in advance. It usually doesn't make sense to repeat what's already written there or can easily be found by a Google search. If someone asked in a thread: (*) "What's a function?" he would risk nasty answers.

  • I know it's difficult, but learn to accept errors. Let me take my example (*) again. Assume I would have also written: "I have a function which maps a number to it's positive and negative root. ..." then chances are high, I get ugly responses, because this isn't a function. Now I have two possibilities: Turn away red headed or faced, or get someone to explain me, why it isn't a function. You will learn by far more out of your failures than of your rights. With one thing V50 was right: science doesn't work this way. Errors are being made, often, and corrected. Most of them by the one who made them himself, but some by others. Is it embarrassing? Maybe, but, hey, nobody here knows you personally and how embarrassing could it be, if someone on the other side of the world, or maybe just the country, get's a laugh on your costs? Take it this way: To make someone smile is a good deed. However, don't take this as an order to start writing nonsense, please! But it will occur. So what? E.g. English isn't my native language and I make many mistakes. If someone corrects me, that's fine, because I can learn from it. Always think: you are still better than they would have been in your shoes!
I hope I haven't hit you by this long post, and that it might help you to get along. In case you want to study something on your own, I have another long post for you. :wink:
 
  • #11
Paul C
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Maths are a high frequency, low intensity aspect of life. They can be tedious more than onerous or ponderous. I'm no maths whiz, but by tackling small challenges at a time I've acquired a better understanding of their fundamentals and have by so doing enriched my appreciation of what you describe as popular science. There's a marvelous quote used by Carlo Rovelli in one of his books, evoking 'wisdom of the ages' in understanding complex material, "Before you divide the notes of a song, be sure you know what can be divided." ~ Sanskrit subhashita
 
  • #12
symbolipoint
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Hello.

I have no ability to perform anything more than addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Yet, since my teenage years I have been fascinated, enthralled and intrigued by the skies. Astronomy and cosmology have been a decades-long interests of mine. I've read Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and Guth's 'Inflationary Universe' as well as other books by Lawrence Krauss, Michiko Kaku and John Barrow.

Now here's the rub.

It's becoming apparent to me that I may have nowhere to go in this forum. Being unable to do the math and being limited to reading 'pop' science books, it seems that I can't further my understanding of cosmology in this forum unless I ask the right questions. And it seems that I don't have what it takes to ask the right questions. What it takes doesn't come from pop science books. Nor from myself.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

So where can I go from here?

Thanks,

Cerenkov.
Cerenkov,
Main reason that some members gave you extremely uncomfortable and disagreeable responses is that your original post said NOTHING to clarify any of your difficulties or deficiencies in Mathematics & Sciences. Only in a much later post, after one of those disagreeable responses did you say why.
 
  • #13
russ_watters
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My problem isn't one of attitude - it's one of DISability....

Yes, I'm hypersensitive to criticism.
It really shouldn't be difficult to see that these two statements contradict each other. You do understand that hypersensitivity to criticism *is* an attitude, right? Do you not understand how it can be an unproductive attitude?

You almost have this issue figured out. If you decide to accept the issue is real, maybe you can fix it. Perhaps by slowing down. One thing you can try is to force yourself to wait 10 minutes - or an hour or a day - before replying to a post that upsets you. The delay will allow the emotional response to fade so that perhaps in the interim you can start processing the answer intellectually instead. That's a technique *everyone* should use (I use it myself).

There is also a hint of conspiracy theory in that thread. It may be a product of the attitude above (distrust of or disrespect for authority) or it may be separate. If it is a separate thing, it may be harder to deal with. But it's part of what caused you to make the simple error in understanding in the first place.
 
  • #14
symbolipoint
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The post #8 indicates brain injury and resulting problems with emotion or self-control. Advice about attitude could be insufficient. Medical help or advice most likely is needed. Psychiatrist or neurologist maybe?
 
  • #15
russ_watters
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The post #8 indicates brain injury and resulting problems with emotion or self-control. Advice about attitude could be insufficient. Medical help or advice most likely is needed. Psychiatrist or neurologist maybe?
I think you may have misread. He doesn't say the problems with emotion and self-control were caused by the brain injury, he said they are caused by his response to the brain injury. A neurologist can't help with that. A psychologist might be in order, though, if he can't work through that himself; I suggest that drugs (a psychiatrist) should not be the first choice when the emotional issue isn't due to a diagnosed disease.
 
  • #16
symbolipoint
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I think you may have misread. He doesn't say the problems with emotion and self-control were caused by the brain injury, he said they are caused by his response to the brain injury. A neurologist can't help with that. A psychologist might be in order, though, if he can't work through that himself; I suggest that drugs (a psychiatrist) should not be the first choice when the emotional issue isn't due to a diagnosed disease.
Maybe yes; Maybe no. Now I include the suggestion, as you add, that he could use psychological advice or treatment or evaluation.
 
  • #17
Phylosopher
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I think the other members gave you good answers (and some good criticism).

Most of those who do not understand, hate. Let your motivation drive you toward knowledge. In my opinion the thread served its purpose for you. You now need to set a goal for yourself, and just do it. If you succeeded or did not succeeded, only time will tell.

Be patient, consistent and persistent (Follow Mr. Beanyboy tips). We will all be happy to see how you evolve with time.

From a technical view point: Do not think over your head, start from the simplest mathematical ideas you are familiar with and build from there. Most importantly, make for yourself a plan and try to follow it. (Look for High, secondary school and Universities curriculum if you want)
 
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  • #18
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I often mention that there's Khan Academy and Mathispower4u.com as sites that can get you going in math. In particular, mathispower4u.com covers from number sense to Calculus, Diff Eqns, Linear Algebra and statistics which covers most of what an undergrad physics major needs to succeed in physics. The videos are short and you can replay them. Try to use them like you were a teacher preparing to teach your class and you need to lay down the math in exactly the same way as the video has done. Its the repetition that brings the understanding but it just takes time, a lot of time.

With respect to pondering the Cosmos, there is Alex Fillipenko who has a series of video lectures on all things astronomy at the Great Courses website. They should keep your interest going without resorting to math.

https://www.thegreatcourses.com/cou...an-introduction-to-astronomy-2nd-edition.html

However, please be aware that you can't learn physics from pop-sci books. You just can't. As a former physics undergrad, we would struggle with trying to resolve what we learned in a pop-sci book with what we were studying and often we just couldn't bridge the gap. In the end, the math gives you the means to understand what you should expect to see happen and not the other way around.

In some ways, Einstein did a great disservice to physics with his Gedanken experiments. It made people believe that they too could do physics in their heads without math. It's often what the pop-sci books emphasize. In reality, when Einstein was doing these thought experiments, he was well versed in Calculus, Diff Eqns and Linear Algebra, as well as many physics concepts of his time and he, relied on the math to verify his thoughts.

Lastly, there are some great youtube channels that give you more insight:
- numberphile
- veritaseum
- physics girl
- 3blue1brown - some truly awesome math videos
- Domain of Science
- minutephysics
- ... and the channels they reference
 
  • #19
Cerenkov
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It's still your attitude. If we can't tell you are wrong when you're wrong, you'll never learn.

So, when speaking to those who don't understand, those who do should do no more than that? Tell them they're wrong?
If that were the case Vanadium 50, then kimbyd shouldn't have gone to the trouble of doing more, should she? The fact that she did eloquently argues against what you've said in this thread. So, it IS possible for those who understand to do more than just telling someone that they're wrong. It's a matter of attitude on the part of the person responding, just as much as it is the person asking the question. It's their attitude, just as much as mine because it takes two to make a proper dialogue. A person with knowledge and expertise can be just as much at fault in their attitude as the person without.


Furthermore, if your position is you are physically unable to learn, then sorry, you are physically unable to learn. That includes cosmology as well as math.

Thank you for empathy on this issue.

Cerenkov.
 
Last edited:
  • #20
Cerenkov
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Cerenkov,
Main reason that some members gave you extremely uncomfortable and disagreeable responses is that your original post said NOTHING to clarify any of your difficulties or deficiencies in Mathematics & Sciences. Only in a much later post, after one of those disagreeable responses did you say why.

Yes, that's right symbolipoint.
The reason for that is one of positive attitude on my part. I try very hard not to be defined solely by what has been taken from me. When meeting a person in a wheelchair it's immediately obvious what kind of challenges they face in their life. But my challenges are hidden from view and cannot be seen by anyone else until I am placed under stress. The disagreeable responses you mentioned placed me under stress and therefore my condition presented itself.

As I've just said to Vanadium 50, the attitude of the person responding to a question is just as important as the attitude of the person asking it.

Cerenkov.
 
  • #21
Cerenkov
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It really shouldn't be difficult to see that these two statements contradict each other. You do understand that hypersensitivity to criticism *is* an attitude, right? Do you not understand how it can be an unproductive attitude?

Russ,
If you read what I've just written to Vanadium 50 and symbolipoint you'll see that I and I alone do not bear the sole responsibility for having an unproductive attitude. Please compare the responses Orodruin and kimbyd gave me in the thread in question and see which ones have a helpful and productive attitude and which ones don't. If you still think that his, "You are wrong" responses are just as helpful and productive as her detailed explanations that directly addressed my various questions, then you and I will just have to disagree on this issue.

Furthermore, I'll re-make the point I made to Vanadium 50 earlier. I tried to engage with Orodruin and asked him to change the nature of his replies to help me out. Did he even have the courtesy to respond to that? No. He happily engaged with kimbyd over a technical matter. Again, if you think that his attitude was just as helpful and productive as hers, then you and I will have disagree on this issue too.


You almost have this issue figured out. If you decide to accept the issue is real, maybe you can fix it. Perhaps by slowing down. One thing you can try is to force yourself to wait 10 minutes - or an hour or a day - before replying to a post that upsets you. The delay will allow the emotional response to fade so that perhaps in the interim you can start processing the answer intellectually instead. That's a technique *everyone* should use (I use it myself).

There is also a hint of conspiracy theory in that thread. It may be a product of the attitude above (distrust of or disrespect for authority) or it may be separate. If it is a separate thing, it may be harder to deal with. But it's part of what caused you to make the simple error in understanding in the first place.

No, sir! Here you are wrong.

Instead of leaving that, as is, I'll go to the trouble of explaining how and why you are wrong. If I were Orodruin I wouldn't go to that trouble, I'd just leave you hanging there, not knowing anything more. That would be unhelpful and unproductive of me, wouldn't you agree? But I won't do that, because you've gone to the trouble of suggesting ways to help me and I'm grateful for that input.

So, here's how it is with me. I am no kind of conspiracy theorist and instead have the greatest of respect and trust for those in position of authority. However, I do believe that those in the position of having great knowledge and understanding also have a great responsibility that goes with that power. They have a responsibility to reach out to those who do not have their skills and talents, when asked to do so. Should the strong require the weak to raise themselves out of their weakness or should the strong use their strength to help raise the weak out of their weakness?

Putting it another way, should the able bodied require the wheelchair-bound to climb the stairs or should the able-bodied use their strength and skills to make it possible for the those in wheelchairs to join them up high and appreciate the view? Shouldn't those who have the smarts devise better and more helpful ways of sharing what they have with those who haven't (but who want to learn) or should they just say, "There it is. Take it or leave it. If you can't take, we won't put ourselves out any further to help you."

As I've said before, an unhelpful attitude need not be held solely by the one asking the questions. If anything, I'd go further than that and say that there is a real imperative on those who have the ability, the knowledge and understanding to utilize their skills and finds ways of sharing these things with those who want to learn. The imperative doesn't lie with those who lack these things and who are asking the questions. How can it? Our position is one not one of ability, knowledge and understanding. How we be expected to meet you on your terms?

Ok, now I'm starting to ramble. Enough.

Thanks,

Cerenkov.
 
  • #22
Drakkith
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Russ,
If you read what I've just written to Vanadium 50 and symbolipoint you'll see that I and I alone do not bear the sole responsibility for having an unproductive attitude. Please compare the responses Orodruin and kimbyd gave me in the thread in question and see which ones have a helpful and productive attitude and which ones don't. If you still think that his, "You are wrong" responses are just as helpful and productive as her detailed explanations that directly addressed my various questions, then you and I will just have to disagree on this issue.

I see neither one as being unproductive or unhelpful. And if the sole complaint comes down to one person providing more perceived help than the other, that's a bit like having two people buy you a ham sandwich and a full meal and then criticizing the person that bought you the sandwich for not buying you more. Despite how you may have felt about it, I'm sure Orodruin thought he had provided a sufficient explanation and intended no insult.

Remember that all we see of each other is the text in everyone's posts, so there is absolutely no way for us to gauge how someone will react to what we've typed before we post it. This being a science forum, there's a fair bit of "This is wrong", "No, that's not quite right", or "You've made a mistake here" that gets thrown around since we deal with factual evidence and math. This absolutely requires that we grow a bit of a thicker skin than you may be used to. Understand that criticism of what you've posted isn't criticism of yourself as a person.

Should the strong require the weak to raise themselves out of their weakness or should the strong use their strength to help raise the weak out of their weakness?

Putting it another way, should the able bodied require the wheelchair-bound to climb the stairs or should the able-bodied use their strength and skills to make it possible for the those in wheelchairs to join them up high and appreciate the view?

These two quotes strike me as false dilemmas (aka false binaries or false dichotomies).

Shouldn't those who have the smarts devise better and more helpful ways of sharing what they have with those who haven't (but who want to learn) or should they just say, "There it is. Take it or leave it. If you can't take, we won't put ourselves out any further to help you."

No one has said anything like that. I believe you'll find a great deal of help forthcoming if you give us more than a dozen or so posts in two threads. In fact, it looks to me like Orodruin himself already helped you to your satisfaction back in Ferbruary in this thread, despite telling you more than once that your understanding was incorrect.
 
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  • #23
Cerenkov
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Thanks for your reply, Drakkith.

I concede your points re the sandwich vs the meal and those false dilemmas. However, in linking to that February thread, you've actually made my case for me. Let's compare Orodruin's replies then to his more recent ones to me.

FEBRUARY THREAD.

"This is not completely correct. In particular, you can have a spatially closed universe that expands forever if there is a sufficient amount of dark energy. Note that what you are shown in those pictures are spatial hypersurfaces, not spacetime itself."

"Only if you try to extrapolate the solution back using known and well established physics do you end up with a "singularity". Most physicists believe that our knowledge of physics breaks down much before that. Inflation is a very popular idea for trying to describe what happened before the standard Big Bang. It is still unverified however."

"They would be infinitely large from the beginning."

"It would flatten also an open universe. The point is that it would make the universe so close to flat that it would be essentially impossible for us to realise that it is not flat."

"Yes. That the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic is the basic assumption behind the FLRW universe. It should therefore come as no surprise that the three geometries that result are homogeneous and isotropic. The only reason the images you find have boundaries is that it is impossible to draw an infinite plane."

"No. The spacetime metric relates to 4-dimensional spacetime. What those images represent are the shapes of the purely spatial hypersurfaces of constant cosmological time. Note that the notion of the curvature of space (not spacetime) depends on the type of foliation of spacetime that you make. See my Insight on coordinate dependent statements in an expanding universe."

LAST WEEK'S THREAD.

"The error bars are multiplied by 400 so that you can see them. There is nobody who has any illusion that all errors are under so much control that you can claim that they actually represent the 400 sigma."

"This is the wrong question to ask. The error bars just give you the error of each data point. You can do the exercise of comparing this with the theoretical prediction by plotting it in the same graph. The point is that you would not see the error bars if they were plotted at 1 sigma, you would just se points on top of the graph, so what they have done is to blow up the 1 sigma error bars by a factor of 400."

"Again, this is the wrong question to ask."

See the difference, Drakkith?
No reference to or link to anything that I can follow up on. Not even a hint of what the right question might be or where I might start looking for it.

Thanks,

Cerenkov.
 
  • #24
Drakkith
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See the difference, Drakkith?
No reference to or link to anything that I can follow up on. Not even a hint of what the right question might be or where I might start looking for it.

There is no 'right' question. Or, rather, there's no single 'right' question. That's why he can't simply provide you with the right question to ask. There are just too many to list. To be honest, I have no idea why this has bothered you so badly. Orodruin answered your question. Could he have written more? Probably. But I could write more in almost all of my posts as well. Again, this feels like the ham sandwich vs the full course meal. You might want the latter, but the person doing the cooking might not have the time or energy to do more than slap some pig and mayo on some bread. Call that unhelpful if you like, but I can't agree with you.

We all volunteer our time here at PF. Instead of getting upset at someone because they said you were wrong and didn't provide enough information to satisfy you, just ask them to elaborate or to give you links to more information.
 
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  • #25
MidgetDwarf
1,289
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Thanks for your reply, Drakkith.

I concede your points re the sandwich vs the meal and those false dilemmas. However, in linking to that February thread, you've actually made my case for me. Let's compare Orodruin's replies then to his more recent ones to me.

FEBRUARY THREAD.

"This is not completely correct. In particular, you can have a spatially closed universe that expands forever if there is a sufficient amount of dark energy. Note that what you are shown in those pictures are spatial hypersurfaces, not spacetime itself."

"Only if you try to extrapolate the solution back using known and well established physics do you end up with a "singularity". Most physicists believe that our knowledge of physics breaks down much before that. Inflation is a very popular idea for trying to describe what happened before the standard Big Bang. It is still unverified however."

"They would be infinitely large from the beginning."

"It would flatten also an open universe. The point is that it would make the universe so close to flat that it would be essentially impossible for us to realise that it is not flat."

"Yes. That the Universe is homogeneous and isotropic is the basic assumption behind the FLRW universe. It should therefore come as no surprise that the three geometries that result are homogeneous and isotropic. The only reason the images you find have boundaries is that it is impossible to draw an infinite plane."

"No. The spacetime metric relates to 4-dimensional spacetime. What those images represent are the shapes of the purely spatial hypersurfaces of constant cosmological time. Note that the notion of the curvature of space (not spacetime) depends on the type of foliation of spacetime that you make. See my Insight on coordinate dependent statements in an expanding universe."



LAST WEEK'S THREAD.

"The error bars are multiplied by 400 so that you can see them. There is nobody who has any illusion that all errors are under so much control that you can claim that they actually represent the 400 sigma."

"This is the wrong question to ask. The error bars just give you the error of each data point. You can do the exercise of comparing this with the theoretical prediction by plotting it in the same graph. The point is that you would not see the error bars if they were plotted at 1 sigma, you would just se points on top of the graph, so what they have done is to blow up the 1 sigma error bars by a factor of 400."

"Again, this is the wrong question to ask."

See the difference, Drakkith?
No reference to or link to anything that I can follow up on. Not even a hint of what the right question might be or where I might start looking for it.

Thanks,

Cerenkov.

The responses were detailed, digestible, and concise. The problem stems from you reading pop-science books and wanting to learn "abstract topics," without doing the actual work. The actual work as I call it, requires some mathematical and physics maturity. You should focus on the basics. Ie. understanding classical mechanics first, before trying to learn more "complex" topics.



Listen carefully to what Feynman says...
 
  • #26
fresh_42
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This thread is obviously not about academic guidance, resp. all parts related to it have been answered on various levels. Not that I could have figured out what it is instead.

Thread closed.
 
  • #27
fresh_42
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Thread reopened on request by the OP.
 
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  • #28
pinball1970
Gold Member
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Hello.

I have no ability to perform anything more than addition, subtraction, multiplication or division. Yet, since my teenage years I have been fascinated, enthralled and intrigued by the skies. Astronomy and cosmology have been a decades-long interests of mine. I've read Hawking's 'A Brief History of Time' and Guth's 'Inflationary Universe' as well as other books by Lawrence Krauss, Michiko Kaku and John Barrow.

Now here's the rub.

It's becoming apparent to me that I may have nowhere to go in this forum. Being unable to do the math and being limited to reading 'pop' science books, it seems that I can't further my understanding of cosmology in this forum unless I ask the right questions. And it seems that I don't have what it takes to ask the right questions. What it takes doesn't come from pop science books. Nor from myself.

So my situation appears to be somewhat like Sallieri's, from the film Amadeus. He desperately wanted to write beautiful music but lacked the ability to do so. In a similar way, I desperately want to understand more about the cosmos and how it works, but lack the ability to do.

So where can I go from here?

Thanks,

Cerenkov.

There are some good youtube classes all free and good fun, I started off with Leonard Susskind/Stanford lectures. There is also Dr physics A who is British and does everything from GCE/GSCE (14-16) A level (18) and some pretty serious stuff at university level. Good luck
 
  • #29
Cerenkov
202
33
AN APOLOGY:

A COOLER HEAD FINALLY PREVAILS

In retrospect, I suppose I should have seen my recent meltdown coming. Or, at least anticipated the possibility of it and taken the necessary steps to avoid it. But I didn’t do either of those things. I therefore offer an unreserved and genuine apology to anyone I’ve offended in the now-closed, ‘Is there any way forward for me?’ thread and in the, ‘How does 400 sigma compare with 5 sigma?’ thread.

Now for an explanation. Before my head injury I was an affable and easy-going team player. But now I’m not. Post-recovery I gradually realized that working with others was impossible for me. Negotiation, compromise or even listening to another person’s point-of-view were basic skills that I seemed to have lost. This necessitated a complete change of career path and I now work alone.

This inability to deal with anything other than my own thoughts and opinions was something I didn’t expect to manifest itself here, in PF. I naively believed that there was sufficient ‘distance’ between the members for me to cope and not get stressed or agitated. Clearly that was not the case and now I’m sorry that I vented my upset here. The lack of control was mine and the fault was mine. There was nothing that any other member did or didn’t do that was responsible for upsetting me. They are blameless.

All I will say, by way of further explanation of my high dudgeon, is that it’s a difficult for a man to be told that he can’t have the thing that he’s wanted for years. Hence the reference to Sallieri in the film, Amadeus. When he realized that his skills fell far short of his desires he took it very badly. In a somewhat similar way, it’s been very, very difficult for me to accept that the pop science books that I’ve relied on up to now won’t help me understand the cosmos in a deeper and more meaningful way. I’ve now faced up to that fact and accepted it.

But I won’t quit trying to improve my understanding of cosmology.

There have been helpful and informative replies from other members and I intend to pursue their ideas and suggestions as soon as I can. Also, by this time next year I will be beginning my retirement. I plan to use my extra free time to explore the possibility of distance learning courses. These should be a ‘safe’ way for me to learn because I will be able to avoid being overwhelmed by the close proximity of other people, while trying to concentrate on what I’m being taught.

A great deal of kindness and helpfulness has been shown to me by the members of PF, even in the face of my emotional tirades. I thank you, one and all for that and would like to restate my unreserved and genuine apology to you.

Orodruin, Vanadium 50, symbolipoint, Russ Watters and Drakkith did not deserve the harsh words I sent their way. I am sorry.

Beanyboy, fresh42, MidgetDwarf, Paul C, Phylosopher, jedishrfu, phinds, PeterDonis, chronos and Kimbyd have all been very supportive and helpful. I thank you.


Cerenkov.
 
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  • #30
megacal
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I have no idea how I found this thread, but it has been very helpful to me,
seeing the interaction between the OP & the responders.

I.e. the aspect of attitude toward each other, how to be prepare
to ask a question, dealing with the answers, and learning from them.

I've taken offense in the past at what seemed terse, dismissive answers.
In fact, I had come to the (wrong) conclusion, "Why do I bother?", and have
avoided coming to PF due to past experiences with those I perceived as
being contentious.
My bad attitude!

I will try to develop a thicker skin, not get defensive, and do research
in advance to ask questions that are worth your time to answer.

I will also go back to my previous posts, and think objectively about my questions,
and the answers. What did I learn, what could I have said (or not)
to communicate with the person who took the time to answer me?

I miss Marcus very much. https://www.physicsforums.com/threads/marcus-has-passed-on.870662/
A great teacher, he set such a wonderful example of attitude.

I need to remember him.

Thank you all.
Sincerely,
Cal
 
  • #31
Dr. Courtney
Education Advisor
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The laws of nature are written in the language of mathematics.

Algebra, geometry, and calculus - mostly at the levels you need to progress in science.

There's an online program called ALEKS that does a great job teaching Algebra 1. Do that. Complete the pie. Use Khan Academy too, if needed.

Learning the language is the first step in your path forward.
 
  • #32
megacal
82
16
Thank you, @Dr.Courtney

would that I had the time again to go farther than I did when I was younger.
At 75 my due date is approaching inexorably, abilities are increasingly decreasing with each moment.
I'm acutely aware of the acceleration. Each day is a gift.

I've been depending on "pop science" books & videos, wiki articles, etc, which to my chagrin,
are apparently not good sources from what I've gleaned recently here by
reading threads by others.

I agree the only way to understand things is a strong foundation in math & physics, and
mine are limited to under grad courses to fulfill a BS in microbiology.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak", and the sands of time are running out.

Currently I'm reading "A Universe from Nothing" by Lawrence Krauss.
Would you or anyone else have an opinion on it's source worthiness?
Or is it just another example of pop science? I don't want to spend more
time with it if it's not based on current physics understanding.

If I should ask that question in a different part of PF, please let me know.
 
  • #33
symbolipoint
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I agree the only way to understand things is a strong foundation in math & physics, and
mine are limited to under grad courses to fulfill a BS in microbiology.
"The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak", and the sands of time are running out.
You describe a pessimistic but maybe realistic future for yourself. In ten more years you'll be 85; still alive or not?
How is your mind? Slipping? Any true signs or evidence of dementia?

If you could return to school, maybe a community college (to start), what kind of student might you be? If you can give the effort to study EVERYDAY, and repeat much of what you read and practice, and if this does not bother you, then maybe you have the benefit of self-discipline which many much younger students still need to learn. Where in Mathematics could you start? Do you understand and have skill with Elementary and Intermediate Algebra? Can you start there or any more advanced? Could you relearn them on your own, or do you need enrollment in those courses? College level Mathematics and Physics starts at College Algebra and Trigonometry, and first continues into "Calculus 1". Then if you are mostly interested in Physics, you would want the typical engineering Physics course series for undergraduates; tough courses, with INITIAL prerequisite of Calculus 1.

You will make no progress if you don't start and try; you would reach maybe age 85, and by then, either you tried and made progress, or did not try nor made any progress,... or maybe something in between. You might reach 85 or not; you might continue living beyond 85. Meanwhile, if you tried, and did study everyday and not afraid of repeated review, did you earn at least B's? Maybe some or many A's? You could have some tutoring in your future, as in YOU BECOME A TUTOR. Then also get some counseling advice about possible "career" planning , since something else could be possible as a job, or some kind of paid service you could do.
 
  • #34
pinball1970
Gold Member
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You describe a pessimistic but maybe realistic future for yourself. In ten more years you'll be 85; still alive or not?
How is your mind? Slipping? Any true signs or evidence of dementia?UOTE]

Some great minds on here
Not the best in terms of the human touch

It's not a criticism as such, if I ever needed a counselor I would employ a theoretical physicist.
 
  • #35
megacal
82
16
@symbolipoint,

thanks for the reply.
You describe a pessimistic but maybe realistic future for yourself. In ten more years you'll be 85; still alive or not?
How is your mind? Slipping? Any true signs or evidence of dementia?
Having trouble with short term memory, but still remember passwords, account numbers,
do my own networks, fix my computers, solve technical issues, have most of my hair, all my teeth. ;)
I doubt I will make it to 80, much less 85.

But it's mostly a question of having available time vs all the things I'm doing & interested in, besides physics/cosmology/quantum mechanics.
Assuming that I even have the intellectual ability to learn the necessary math, I'd have to drop everything to do as you suggest to focus on studying, so that, if I live that long, I can say, "Aha! Now I understand the Friedman equations!!!".

Thankfully I made it to retirement with the love of my life, my wife, Ginger.
We have many interests, e.g. biology, wildlife, general science, together, though physics, & especially the Higgs boson, is not on her bucket list.
One thing I've learned from her is to value life....all life.

My interest in physics has been renewed in the past 5 years, but it's more casual curiosity than a
burning desire, and just don't have the time, energy, or drive to get the necessary math, etc.

We all make choices, and I don't regret mine as I wouldn't be where I am with whom I am if I had
chosen a different path.

I think my best course is to search here at PF for info, mostly listening, and occasionally asking or participating,
hopefully adding, but not arguing.

Thank you for the suggestions on job opportunities, but I wouldn't go back to work for a gazillion x a gazillion dollars or euros. =)

I wish you all well here, and hope you will continue to grow in your understanding of the universe, what it's made of, and continue to help others understand as well.

Live long & prosper. =)

ps- I do regret one thing....choosing "megacal" as a screen name. Not a wise choice.
 
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