Unscientific American | The way we are taught science in school from grade school to college

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HI,

Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific? By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law). I didn't question my teachers as much as I would of liked because they use to always say that things will make sense later on. The reality is that nothing ever came together. I feel like everyone just points you to someone else. I would ask my electrical engineering teacher about amperes law and he would say what I'm asking for is too deep for an electrical engineering course and I will find my answering by taking a physics course. Well, I already took Physics I and II, so I go to my physics professor, and he would say oh you need to take electrodynamics, that's were it make sense.

I think something that is taught in a scientific way is Geometry. We are given axioms that are pretty simple and we prove proportions and then from that we build theorems.

I talked to someone who was doing a ph.d about this and he said that I need to be humble. That I need to study more before I criticize. Let me know what you guys think. I would love to hear your opinions.

Thanks
 
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PeroK
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HI,

Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific? By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law). I didn't question my teachers as much as I would of liked because they use to always say that things will make sense later on. The reality is that nothing ever came together. I feel like everyone just points you to someone else. I would ask my electrical engineering teacher about amperes law and he would say what I'm asking for is too deep for an electrical engineering course and I will find my answering by taking a physics course. Well, I already took Physics I and II, so I go to my physics professor, and he would say oh you need to take electrodynamics, that's were it make sense.

I think something that is taught in a scientific way is Geometry. We are given axioms that are pretty simple and we prove proportions and then from that we build theorems.

I talked to someone who was doing a ph.d about this and he said that I need to be humble. That I need to study more before I criticize. Let me know what you guys think. I would love to hear your opinions.

Thanks

Different subjects have different starting points and different levels of "proof". Mathematics might be the closest to starting from scratch with its axioms, although actually there is a whole subject on the foundations of mathematics. And mathematics isn't as clear cut as you might think.

With physics and chemistry and other sciences you are going to have to accept previous experiments and results. Imagine studying medicine, say, and believing nothing without proof? It would be impossible.

I would say the important thing in physics is to understand the concepts and be able to work with them.

That said, there's a lot of value in questioning things, but you have to strike a balance.
 
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RPinPA
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By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law).

But in a sense that's how science itself works, that scientists may observe an effect and model it with an equation, and only later come up with a theory that explains why that equation is true. An example off the top of my head is Kepler's Laws of planetary motion published in the early 1600s. Kepler did absolutely brilliant work in finding some simple equations that govern the motion of the planets. Newton, many decades later, discovered his own Law of Gravitation and how it predicted Kepler's Laws.

You seem to think that "scientific" means that it is built up axiomatically, that first we should start with, say, models of why protons, neutrons and electrons have the properties they do. Then we should predict how different elements behave when we combine those particles in different numbers. And on upward. But first of all, we don't have the mathematical tools to do all those calculations, and second it doesn't add to our ability to understand how to predict things. It's important to gain deeper understanding and that's certainly one goal of physics, to understand why Kepler's Laws are a consequence of Newton's. But if we want to use Kepler's Laws, we don't have to derive it every time from Newton. They're useful in their own right.

We want (at least) two things out of physics: a deeper understanding of the universe, but also the ability to calculate things. The ability to calculate often means making simplifying approximations that are "good enough". As you advance in physics you should learn both the exact description, which maybe feels more "scientific" to you but which is often almost impossible to calculate with, and the approximations which let you model all kinds of things you might want to calculate. You should learn what the limits of the approximation are and where it came from, and how to handle things when you're out of the range of validity of the approximation. But nevertheless, you'll end up using approximations a lot more often than exact equations.
 
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  • #4
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Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific?
It is more like a shortcut instead. You can be sure (more or less) that somebody did the science, but what you directly get are the results and not the whole road (which had a lot of twists and turns, not really suitable for easy teaching).

I talked to someone who was doing a ph.d about this and he said that I need to be humble. That I need to study more before I criticize.
Well, that's right. But in the same time it does not means that you have to stop asking questions.
 
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  • #5
Borek
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Nothing stops you from doing (at least simple) experiments by yourself, to check if what you were told is true. Trick is, if you were to prove anything from scratch, lifetime won't be enough to get as far as is necessary to understand today's science. "Standing on the shoulder of giants" quote comes to mind.
 
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  • #6
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Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific? By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law).

No. Like Borek said, the amount of knowledge you are to absorb is immense, and if you verified every single thing you were taught then you would be in school forever. One of the key things about modern professional science that is often overlooked and not taught is the trust that scientists must have in each other. They have to trust that other scientists are not, on the whole, incompetent cheating liars and that their research is done skillfully and truthfully. This trust must extend into the teaching world too.

The reality is that nothing ever came together. I feel like everyone just points you to someone else. I would ask my electrical engineering teacher about amperes law and he would say what I'm asking for is too deep for an electrical engineering course and I will find my answering by taking a physics course. Well, I already took Physics I and II, so I go to my physics professor, and he would say oh you need to take electrodynamics, that's were it make sense.

Both of your teachers are correct. The unfortunate reality is that developing a good understanding of the absolute fundamentals of a subject often takes years of intense study at the college level as you take ever more complex classes. The final endpoint in the fundamentals of science is usually a class or two on quantum physics or general relativity, since both of these form the most basic core of our modern scientific understanding of the universe.
 
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  • #7
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Physics isn't axiomatic or even particularly logical. It's mostly an applied science. The main goal is to build machines to do what you want. The Einstein types get the publicity but are relatively rare.

To build those machines you need math to predict what such a machine will do. You can't just build them and hope they work. The math helps you eliminate the no-hope duds.

Sometimes it is possible to derive formulas from simpler things. Sometimes the formulas come from very complicated things that are too hard to explain. Sometimes no one understands what is going on, they just have math that works.
 
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  • #8
russ_watters
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Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific? By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law)...

I talked to someone who was doing a ph.d about this and he said that I need to be humble. That I need to study more before I criticize. Let me know what you guys think. I would love to hear your opinions.
There's a difference between learning...anything...and doing/practicing it professionally. I (my class) was told by a high school history prof that we weren't entitled to an original thought until working on a master's thesis. And the reality is, he was right; until you are a true expert, you don't know enough to challenge or extend the current body of knowledge.

That may not be exactly what you asked, but challenge=verify. Same idea.

So, teachers can provide the how/why if it helps for learning, but otherwise it isn't necessary to go through the history and experimental verification of every theory.

...the time issue others noted is also a good practical issue.
 
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  • #9
nuuskur
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Our mathematics undergrad programme begins with a course on calculus (not analysis) and a sort of transition course that helps to make the jump from high school math (mostly arithmetic) to university level math (writing proofs, among other things). We start by explaining basic tools of propositional calculus, but we don't immediately take them to the world of predicate logic. We explain this so called naive set theory without getting into too much detail about foundational issues, which are done in master level courses. We don't Murder them with axiomatic set theory or model theory, because it's not necessary.

I also had a course on basic physics and likewise, we were not taught the ins and outs of something like Ohm's or Ampere's law, where these had come from and so and so forth, that will be done in more advanced courses.

Nobody says you can't ask for specific literature in which all of these questions are answered. But.. are you prepared to work through such a text by yourself and draw correct conclusions?
 
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  • #10
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HI,

Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific? By unscientific I mean we take things as true without having proof (like ohm's law). I didn't question my teachers as much as I would of liked because they use to always say that things will make sense later on. The reality is that nothing ever came together. I feel like everyone just points you to someone else. I would ask my electrical engineering teacher about amperes law and he would say what I'm asking for is too deep for an electrical engineering course and I will find my answering by taking a physics course. Well, I already took Physics I and II, so I go to my physics professor, and he would say oh you need to take electrodynamics, that's were it make sense.

I think something that is taught in a scientific way is Geometry. We are given axioms that are pretty simple and we prove proportions and then from that we build theorems.

I talked to someone who was doing a ph.d about this and he said that I need to be humble. That I need to study more before I criticize. Let me know what you guys think. I would love to hear your opinions.

Thanks

Do you also need to know how a semiconductor work before using your electronics, or the intricate details of aerodynamics before flying in an airplane, or the interaction of x-ray in your body before you take an x-ray or go through airport scanner?

Your professor is correct. If you want to know more, then go learn it! You'll find that it is a never-ending series of things, because the more you peel it, the more you realize that the subject is deeper and more profound than you think. It is why we have people who specializes in many of these areas.

The world we live in is way more complicated than you appear to think. A simple pendulum alone gets complicated if you go beyond the small angle approximation. A circular current loop has a simple expression for a magnetic field along the axis of the loop, something we do in intro General Physics course. But go off axis and you'll end up with an infinite series and the realm of graduate-level E&M course!

The thing that students like you often forget is that we are trying to introduce to you the principle at that level, and how that principle works. That is the goal. We have to simplify a lot of things just so (i) you get to see how that principle is applied and (ii) how one would solve problems using that principle. If we start exploring the subject matter to its deepest level, you end up with something incomprehensible at your level, and you'll be lost in the complexities and the mathematics. Your sensory overload will become a distraction from understanding even the basic level of the principle!

It is why, when we want to illustrate how Newton's laws work, we use simple situations first of projectile motion moving without air resistance, without considering the curvature of the earth, and the fact that the Earth is spinning. It is not that those factors do not exist (they do, if you go on to take advanced undergraduate classical mechanics). It is just that those are not the goals of teaching Newton's laws at the General Physics level.

The art of teaching is to not be blind to what your students or your audience can comprehend.

Zz.
 
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  • #11
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Read WIDE, really, really W-I-D-E, remember that so very much works on 'degrees of approximation', and apply the appropriate level of theory...

Also, takes but one incontrovertible fact to up-end a paradigm.
( May take a little longer for 'Old Guard' to accept... )

I've had the remarkable fortune to celebrate 'Plate Tectonics', 'Missoula Outflows', quarks, quasars, neutrino-detection, neutrino morphing, gravitational wave detection etc etc etc.

Despite Google Translate, true AI remains, um, twenty-some years away, IMHO, likewise practicable fusion power...

FWIW, mentioning 'Scientific American' still makes me want to weep that magazine discontinued its wondrous 'Amateur Scientist' department. IIRC, many of their 'classic' projects plus much 'Science Fair' stuff are available on a CD-ROM, but not from SA...
 
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Let me try this again. I'll write my number my statements so refute my statement by number that way its easier to not get lost. I see a lot of people saying I'm wrong by not really refuting my statements (its probably my fault for jumping all over)

definition- Please don't hold me too hard on definitions. I only added them to give you an understanding of what those terms mean to me.
Science: Science is really another word for Knowledge or fact.

There is basically two ways to get knowledge, one is from reasoning and observation. This to me is the real science because it allows you to gain more knowledge. This is also the hard one because observations can trick you. For example you could think that the natural state of objects is to come to rest since you see everything slow down. The scientific method is what makes this a science ( a true fact).

The other way to gain knowledge is by just memorizing. For example history, you can memorize names of presidents etc. In my opinion this is what kept people for thousands of years from advancing. People would just memorize things and that was it. The danger with this is way of gaining knowledge is that there is no way critique a statement since basically by definition it's true.

scientific method: a method where a statement is criticized through experimentation, observation, analysis. Basically can your statement hold up in different situations.



Statement 1: The way we are taught science (facts) in school is mostly through the memorization and very little reason and observation (experimentation).
reasoning: This is just a basic fact and I observed. For example we are taught the distance from the moon to the sun, that light takes 8 minutes to get to the earth.
I don't think there really is any room for arguing here.



Statement 2: The problem with the way science is taught is that the whatever the professor (or textbook or scientific authority) says is true until proven guilty.
reasoning: Again this is what I observe. This unacceptable because it's like saying oh you're guilty of murder because the prosecutor is charging you with murder. Good luck on proving you're innocent if that was how courts work. I have asked many professors about Ohm's law and I get the run around. I'm not asking for some geometry type of proof, I'm only asking for some level understanding of how this FUNDAMENTAL law works. Like come on, if you don't know the fundamentals how are you going to know the more detailed things. Actually this is the real question I want you to answer if you want to refute this statement about being professor being right until proven guilty.

I'll write some answers and show my reasoning why they aren't correct.

1. They will say you need to study more because it's actually very complicated. This is really saying I don't know it but I'll make it seem complicated so I don't look stupid.
2. They will say oh I don't know, go learn it. This better but when a professor teaching physics can't even explain a fundamental law of electricity and magnetism were in trouble.
3. They will say Just consider it a fact. Again this is a fundamental law, if it can't be explained then were in big trouble.
 
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  • #13
nuuskur
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I'm slowly working through what you said. Given your disposition with memorising things, would you deem history unimportant? Are you saying history is all about memorising things?

Observation: you are guilty of what you blame the professors of in Statement 2.
 
  • #14
russ_watters
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Let me try this again...

I see a lot of people saying I'm wrong by not really refuting my statements (its probably my fault for jumping all over)
I'll be concise:

You are correct that the teaching of science is unscientific. This is because teaching(learning) is different from doing.

Your three arguments at the end...now you're getting personal. You didn't get the answer you wanted, so instead of accepting that your teachers know better, you assume you must be right and as such, they must have a nefarious motive for declining to do what you want. That's a bad/arrogant attitude.
 
  • #15
With physics and chemistry and other sciences you are going to have to accept previous experiments and results. Imagine studying medicine, say, and believing nothing without proof? It would be impossible.

I'm not saying I won't accept previous experiments.

It is more like a shortcut instead. You can be sure (more or less) that somebody did the science, but what you directly get are the results and not the whole road (which had a lot of twists and turns, not really suitable for easy teaching).

I can be sure that the Earth is flat too according to your logic :)

But in a sense that's how science itself works, that scientists may observe an effect and model it with an equation, and only later come up with a theory that explains why that equation is true. An example off the top of my head is Kepler's Laws of planetary motion published in the early 1600s. Kepler did absolutely brilliant work in finding some simple equations that govern the motion of the planets. Newton, many decades later, discovered his own Law of Gravitation and how it predicted Kepler's Laws.

When I said proof I didn't mean a proof like geometry. I mean evidence. Actually keepers law's are were based on observation (evidence).

Nothing stops you from doing (at least simple) experiments by yourself, to check if what you were told is true. Trick is, if you were to prove anything from scratch, lifetime won't be enough to get as far as is necessary to understand today's science. "Standing on the shoulder of giants" quote comes to mind.

That's now how science works. When you make a statement especially a fundamental law, you show how you concluded that law was true.

No. Like Borek said, the amount of knowledge you are to absorb is immense, and if you verified every single thing you were taught then you would be in school forever. One of the key things about modern professional science that is often overlooked and not taught is the trust that scientists must have in each other. They have to trust that other scientists are not, on the whole, incompetent cheating liars and that their research is done skillfully and truthfully. This trust must extend into the teaching world too.

We can trust that that they are aren't lying, but we need a quality check, like any good factory. If the quality is good then it will seem like doing a quality check is wasting time, but the reality is if you remove that quality check during your line then if you have bad parts they will always get through. This is basically what I see the state of science. A factory line with no quality check. A big no no for anyone working in manufacturing.

There's a difference between learning...anything...and doing/practicing it professionally. I was told by a high school history prof that we weren't entitled to an original thought until working on a master's thesis. And the reality is, he was right; until you are a true expert, you don't know enough to challenge or extend the current body of knowledge.

Again that's like saying to a Jury trust the prosector. You (the Jury) don't have experience in crimes so just trust me (the prosector) and convict that person.

Do you also need to know how a semiconductor work before using your electronics, or the intricate details of aerodynamics before flying in an airplane, or the interaction of x-ray in your body before you take an x-ray or go through airport scanner?

Yeah you really need to learn how semiconductors work if you want to work on electronics because the moment something goes wrong (which it will) then you have no basis to diagnose the problem. Modern electronics is based on semiconductors, that's like a carpenter not knowing what wood is. Not saying you have to be a wood expert but you need to know the fundamental properties.
 
  • #16
russ_watters
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Again that's like saying to a Jury trust the prosector. You (the Jury) don't have experience in crimes so just trust me (the prosector) and convict that person.
It's really not the same situation, and it isn't going to change the issue you're having. You're really not entitled to having your professors prove everything to you. If you want someone to teach you your way, you'll have to hire them yourself and pay by the hour.
We can trust that that they are aren't lying, but we need a quality check, like any good factory. If the quality is good then it will seem like doing a quality check is wasting time, but the reality is if you remove that quality check during your line then if you have bad parts they will always get through. This is basically what I see the state of science. A factory line with no quality check. A big no no for anyone working in manufacturing.
The mistake you are making is you are assuming you are qualified to make that quality check.
 
  • #17
I'm slowly working through what you said. Given your disposition with memorising things, would you deem history unimportant? Are you saying history is all about memorising things?

Observation: you are guilty of what you blame the professors of in Statement 2.

I'm not saying history is unimportant. I'm just saying there really is no way to check facts in history ( sure you have source but its super messy). I'm saying that the way you learn facts in history is by memorizing. You don't observe the actions themselves. In science we can repeat experiments. That's the key difference.

How am I guilty of what I blame the professor of statement 2.

I'll be concise:

You are correct that the teaching of science is unscientific. This is because teaching(learning) is different from doing.

Your three arguments at the end...now you're getting personal. You didn't get the answer you wanted, so instead of accepting that your teachers know better, you assume you must be right and as such, they must have a nefarious motive for declining to do what you want. That's a bad/arrogant attitude.

It's not bad attitude. A key principle is science is the ability to take criticism. I actually like professor and they are really nice people.
 
  • #18
Rive
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I can be sure that the Earth is flat too according to your logic :)
That's just by your logic.
You really need more study and humbleness I'm afraid...
 
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  • #19
russ_watters
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It's not bad attitude. A key principle is science is the ability to take criticism.
From peers. You are not their peer, and assuming you are is a bad attitude and will lead to conflict.
 
  • #20
ZapperZ
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Yeah you really need to learn how semiconductors work if you want to work on electronics because the moment something goes wrong (which it will) then you have no basis to diagnose the problem. Modern electronics is based on semiconductors, that's like a carpenter not knowing what wood is. Not saying you have to be a wood expert but you need to know the fundamental properties.

IF you want to work in electronics. But what about the rest? Do you have to be experts in the medical field as well just to be concerned about your health?

You talked about "scientific" method without even bothering to keep up with the latest RESEARCH IN TEACHING, especially the teaching of science and physics in particular. Are you aware of Eric Mazur's "Peer Instruction", or even the concept of "Studio Physics", etc.. etc. which are now being used in many classrooms? It is as if the whole field of pedagogy and physics education research does not exist. Your lack of knowledge in this area somehow made you think that we are simply using the same old method to teach students.

I teach my students Lenz's law not by telling them what it is. I teach them by giving them a solenoid, a bar magnet, a couple of connecting cables, and a galvanometer. And then I let them "play" and discover for themselves when they can create an induced current, and how they can deduce the direction of the induced current based on how they move the magnet in and out of the solenoid. There was no "rote learning". It was all discovery in the beginning!

And Leon Ledermann, while he was still active in physics education, promoted the idea of Physics First at elementary school whereby students at that age did similar "play-learning" activities.

Just because you were deprived of such methodology does not mean that they do not exist, or they are not being practiced extensively. Look at the APS journal Physical Review Physics Education Journal if you don't believe me.

Zz.
 
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  • #21
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Do you think that the way we are taught science in school from grade school to college is unscientific?
Honestly? No.

It is straight away impossible to learn modern science from scratch, not even a certain branch in a certain field of a certain science. Physics, biology and chemistry teachers do their best to provide evidence by experiments and demonstrations. We also have installed hundreds of museums around the world to display how things work. Since recently we even have access to all fundamental knowledge for free! At some point you have to rely on those who know better, resp. those who found out before. My motto always was, concerning which books I should read: I cannot test them all, but I can learn whom to trust!
Wikipedia said:
In 1159, John wrote in his Metalogicon: "Bernard of Chartres used to compare us to dwarfs perched on the shoulders of giants. He pointed out that we see more and farther than our predecessors, not because we have keener vision or greater height, but because we are lifted up and borne aloft on their gigantic stature."
Tell me what you're interested in and I tell you how far you will get in your lifetime. But don't be too optimistic, my estimation will probably be: not into the second half of last century!
 
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  • #22
nuuskur
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Like come on, if you don't know the fundamentals how are you going to know the more detailed things
It is your incorrect assumption only fundamental things are simple and only those things implied by something fundamental are complicated. Consider the following. Decide upon what you accept a priori.

At what level do you want the explanation of something fundamental in that situation? As you can see, he can make it very involved. Furthermore, it took him some time to learn these things, what makes you think he's obliged or even capable of explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it? (Yes, I know about the Einstein quote about explaining things).

How am I guilty of what I blame the professor of statement 2.
You say the professors ignore your questions or brush them aside, because You think they don't know the answers. What have you been doing with all the advice that has been given to you during this discussion? You brushed it aside. You speak of scientific approaches and yet you fail to back up some very extravagant claims, such as there being no quality check on contemporary science. Why do you think you are competent to make that judgment at all?

Do not presume to think you are a peer of your professor or instructor. As has been said, already, you need to practice being more humble.

Humility ##\neq## being a pushover, just so you know ;)
 
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  • #23
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definition- Please don't hold me too hard on definitions. I only added them to give you an understanding of what those terms mean to me.
Science: Science is really another word for Knowledge or fact.
Not so. By your definition there would be no difference between, say, history and chemistry.

scientific method: a method where a statement is criticized through experimentation, observation, analysis. Basically can your statement hold up in different situations.
I would define Science as a discipline that uses the scientific method. That is, a discipline in which a statement or hypothesis is put forward, together with a conclusion. Others should be able to start with the same hypothesis and reach the same conclusion.
Statement 1: The way we are taught science (facts) in school is mostly through the memorization and very little reason and observation (experimentation).
reasoning: This is just a basic fact and I observed. For example we are taught the distance from the moon to the sun, that light takes 8 minutes to get to the earth.
I don't think there really is any room for arguing here.
I remember a lot of this in the lower grades, but in high school and college chemistry and physics classes, we did experiments such as determining the products of a chemical reaction or measuing things like the acceleration due to gravity of an object sliding down a ramp. In these kinds of experiments there was no memorization of scientific facts. Instead, we were performing experiments aimed at verifying scientific formulas.

I have asked many professors about Ohm's law and I get the run around. I'm not asking for some geometry type of proof, I'm only asking for some level understanding of how this FUNDAMENTAL law works.
Ohm's Law is fairly simple -- the current through two points on a conductor is proportional to the voltage across those points. The law has to do in part with definitions (which are like axioms) such as how current is defined in terms of the flow of electrons and how voltage is defined. You can verify Ohm's law with a piece of copper wire and a battery, and measure the voltage and current with a voltmeter and ammeter.

1. They will say you need to study more because it's actually very complicated. This is really saying I don't know it but I'll make it seem complicated so I don't look stupid.
If you're in an electronics class, and your mathematical background only goes up to algebra and trig, then saying something is "very complicated" is not equivalent to the instructor saying he/she doesn't know. The explanation could very well entail solving a differential equation, which would not yet be among the tools available to the student.
 
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  • #24
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The problem with the way science is taught is that the whatever the professor (or textbook or scientific authority) says is true until proven guilty.
This is absolutely 100% not the problem! The teacher is teaching a class and is not on trial. There is no “proven guilty” involved and such language is unacceptably adversarial!

The problem is not the authority or accuracy of the teacher. The problem is that this method of teaching teaches students the results of the scientific method without teaching them how to do the scientific method. They wind up with knowledge from the past but no skills to gain future scientific knowledge on their own.

What you say is a problem with science education is simply an attitude problem on your part. The teacher is not on trial, nor are you. There are no charges of murder nor any prosecution. It is not the teacher’s job to make a case beyond reasonable doubt, nor are the students a jury. Your attitude towards the classroom is horrible, and your choice of analogy is both inappropriate and telling.
 
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  • #25
rom peers. You are not their peer, and assuming you are is a bad attitude and will lead to conflict.

I'm not buying that. I"m an electrical engineer asking about Ohm's law. I'm well within my field. There is no need accuse people of being bad for asking a simple question. No one is the king of science. Even if a 5 year old asks a ques

IF you want to work in electronics. But what about the rest? Do you have to be experts in the medical field as well just to be concerned about your health?

You talked about "scientific" method without even bothering to keep up with the latest RESEARCH IN TEACHING, especially the teaching of science and physics in particular. Are you aware of Eric Mazur's "Peer Instruction", or even the concept of "Studio Physics", etc.. etc. which are now being used in many classrooms? It is as if the whole field of pedagogy and physics education research does not exist. Your lack of knowledge in this area somehow made you think that we are simply using the same old method to teach students.

Please refute one of my statements before we end up in circles.

Honestly? No.

Thanks :)


It is your incorrect assumption only fundamental things are simple and only those things implied by something fundamental are complicated. Consider the following. Decide upon what you accept a priori.


At what level do you want the explanation of something fundamental in that situation? As you can see, he can make it very involved. Furthermore, it took him some time to learn these things, what makes you think he's obliged or even capable of explaining it to someone who knows nothing about it? (Yes, I know about the Einstein quote about explaining things).

I prefer the quote if you can't explain something then you don't know it (I'm not sure it was Einstein's quote).

You say the professors ignore your questions or brush them aside, because You think they don't know the answers. What have you been doing with all the advice that has been given to you during this discussion? You brushed it aside. You speak of scientific approaches and yet you fail to back up some very extravagant claims, such as there being no quality check on contemporary science. Why do you think you are competent to make that judgment at all?

Do not presume to think you are a peer of your professor or instructor. As has been said, already, you need to practice being more humble.

Humility ≠≠\neq being a pushover, just so you know ;)

I think the professors don't know the answer because they haven't given me an answer.
Saying that I need to be humble is not advice.
I think I'm competent because I'm an electrical engineer and I'm done with going around in circles. I want to go back to basics.
 
  • #26
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if you can't explain something then you don't know it
Maybe, but another explanation is that the person asking the question is not in a position to be able to understand the question.

I think the professors don't know the answer because they haven't given me an answer.
See above.

Saying that I need to be humble is not advice.
Sure it is.
 
  • #27
ZapperZ
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Please refute one of my statements before we end up in circles.

I thought that was what I did!

Please refute MY post and prove to me that you actually are aware of the various pedagogical technique that are being used in physics education.

Zz.
 
  • #28
russ_watters
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I'm not buying that. I"m an electrical engineer asking about Ohm's law. I'm well within my field. There is no need accuse people of being bad for asking a simple question. No one is the king of science. Even if a 5 year old asks a ques
If you were your teachers' peer, you wouldn't need them to be your teacher!
 
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  • #29
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FYI @janda3 questions specifically about Ohm’s law belong in the technical sections of the forum, not here.
 
  • #30
gmax137
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I think some of you are mis-characterizing the OP's point.

To the OP: did/does your science classes include labs and demonstrations? Did you play with a battery and a voltmeter to measure for yourself volts across different resistors? Did you have a lab where you did the Cavendish experiment (lead balls twisting a wire)? Did you drop weights out the second floor window and measure their time to distance? Inclined ramps, air tables, pendula, etc. etc. When I was in high school decades ago, we did all these things and more. If you did not, I can see your point. And the irony: (to me) science is knowledge confirmable by experiment. If I hadn't been given the opportunity to do these simple experiments, I would feel ripped off too. Note, the idea is not that you're going to measure Mg "better" than NIST. Rather you will see for yourself: the wire twists - the dot on the wall moves - the two lead balls really do attract each other!

The good news is, it's not too late. You can do a lot of this stuff with simple cheap materials. Maybe not the Cavendish one, but still...
 
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  • #31
Ohm's Law is fairly simple -- the current through two points on a conductor is proportional to the voltage across those points. The law has to do in part with definitions (which are like axioms) such as how current is defined in terms of the flow of electrons and how voltage is defined. You can verify Ohm's law with a piece of copper wire and a battery, and measure the voltage and current with a voltmeter and ammeter.

But you know you can't use instruments you haven't defined.

Sure it is.

Like I said, science is about criticism. It's not rude to ask.

I thought that was what I did!

Please refute MY post and prove to me that you actually are aware of the various pedagogical technique that are being used in physics education.

My point wasn't about the latest methods being used to teach and the pros and cons of them. My point is that fundamentally the scientific method isn't being used and that people just memorize information.

If you were your teachers' peer, you wouldn't need them to be your teacher!

I'm not a student anymore, I can look them eye to eye.

FYI @janda3 questions specifically about Ohm’s law belong in the technical sections of the forum, not here.

I'm using it to prove a point. I hope that's ok. I'd rather not take this to another thread.
 
  • #32
russ_watters
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I think some of you are mis-characterizing the OP's point.

To the OP: did/does your science classes include labs and demonstrations? Did you play with a battery and a voltmeter to measure for yourself volts across different resistors? Did you have a lab where you did the Cavendish experiment (lead balls twisting a wire)? Did you drop weights out the second floor window and measure their time to distance? Inclined ramps, air tables, pendula, etc. etc. When I was in high school decades ago, we did all these things and more. If you did not, I can see your point.
@ZapperZ described such teaching methods as well, but my recollection was that the experiments were always pretty limited and they dwindled significantly after my sophomore year of college. My core courses (mechanical engineering) included very little in the way of labs. I never used a steam engine or air conditioner in my thermodynamics classes, for example. Never shook anything in my vibrations class or moved any water in my fluids class.

There are practical reasons why this is true; My high school astronomy class included no telescope time, for an obvious reason.

So I don't think anyone meant to downplay the real importance of lab examples, it's just that the student doesn't get to decide what gets demonstrated to them. Also, if the student doesn't get the expected answer, the theory doesn't get questioned, the student's results/procedures do.
 
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  • #33
ZapperZ
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My point wasn't about the latest methods being used to teach and the pros and cons of them. My point is that fundamentally the scientific method isn't being used and that people just memorize information.

Then you've completely missed or purposely ignored my point. The teaching methods I mentioned ARE going away from rote memorization! Did you not even read the example I gave about the lesson on Lenz's law!

If this is how you process information, then no wonder you think the way you do. I give up, because this whole discussion is a waste of time if THAT is the way you read things.

This topic is not scientific. Ironic, isn't it?

Zz.
 
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  • #34
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Ohm's Law is fairly simple -- the current through two points on a conductor is proportional to the voltage across those points. The law has to do in part with definitions (which are like axioms) such as how current is defined in terms of the flow of electrons and how voltage is defined. You can verify Ohm's law with a piece of copper wire and a battery, and measure the voltage and current with a voltmeter and ammeter.

janda3 said:
But you know you can't use instruments you haven't defined.
There were devices in existence well before Georg Ohm came up with the Law named after him. Electroscopes date back to the 1780s and even earlier. In any case, your objection to using commonly available tools to convince yourself of why Ohm's Law is true seems rather weak.

Sure it is.
janda3 said:
Like I said, science is about criticism. It's not rude to ask.
My "Sure it is" comment was a reply to what you said. I.e., that advice to get some humility isn't advice.
My point is that fundamentally the scientific method isn't being used and that people just memorize information.
Perhaps this was your experience, but you are extrapolating from a very small (size 1) set of data. Several people have replied in this thread that their experiences were very different from yours. Your description of the science classes you were in sound a lot like those when I was in junior high, but don't agree at all with the classes I had in high school and college.
 
  • #35
I think some of you are mis-characterizing the OP's point.

To the OP: did/does your science classes include labs and demonstrations? Did you play with a battery and a voltmeter to measure for yourself volts across different resistors? Did you have a lab where you did the Cavendish experiment (lead balls twisting a wire)? Did you drop weights out the second floor window and measure their time to distance? Inclined ramps, air tables, pendula, etc. etc. When I was in high school decades ago, we did all these things and more. If you did not, I can see your point. And the irony: (to me) science is knowledge confirmable by experiment. If I hadn't been given the opportunity to do these simple experiments, I would feel ripped off too. Note, the idea is not that you're going to measure Mg "better" than NIST. Rather you will see for yourself: the wire twists - the dot on the wall moves - the two lead balls really do attract each other!

The good news is, it's not too late. You can do a lot of this stuff with simple cheap materials. Maybe not the Cavendish one, but still...

We did some experiments in physics but not much, actually I did most of my experimenting (lab) in electronics courses. That's when I kind of started to realize that the reason physics was hard was because we didn't really have an understanding of what a voltage or current or resistance was. sure we knew the formula but we had no real understating.

I'm not really arguing for more experiments (although they do help) , I'm just saying that fundamentals are just that fundamentals and you can't progress without having a deep understanding. I get that not everyone has the time to research this stuff, my problem is with academics, why teach me stuff when you don't even teach the fundamentals. why talk about integrals Fourier transforms when we don't even fully grasp an understanding of ohm's law.


Then you've completely missed or purposely ignored my point. The teaching methods I mentioned ARE going away from rote memorization! Did you not even read the example I gave about the lesson on Lenz's law!

If this is how you process information, then no wonder you think the way you do. I give up, because this whole discussion is a waste of time if THAT is the way you read things.

This topic is not scientific. Ironic, isn't it?

Zz.

I didn't miss your point. I'm not saying everything taught in physics is without basis, but after ohm's law then things really start becoming memorize. or at least the fundamentals are memorized. I specially said stick to ohm's law because I don't want to keep going in circles with people.

Actually it's pretty scientific. I gave my statements.
 

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