What's your "master blaster" strategy for solving problems?

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In summary, the conversation discussed a running gag among friends related to solving integration problems, with each person having their own unique "Master Blaster" technique. The conversation then shifted to discussing strategies for tackling physics and math problems, with the guest sharing his four-step approach of articulation, formulation, solution, and presentation.
  • #1
We had a running gag in my tutoring center whenever someone has a problem with integration, we ask them if they've used the "Master Blaster" to solve it. It stems from my friend who, when we were in Calc BC, he would always use RK on an integration problem to see if it would work. We had a conversation about what everyone else' "Master Blaster" was. Mine is meticulously writing every variable down and what I know before I would tackle something. We actually starting compiling serious ways of tackling physics and math problems. We made a handout for our students and they seem to work well with it. I was sort of wondering what the internet has to say about more complicated problems though, since all our students are in middle and high school and I'm going off to college soon. The sad thing about my education currently is that my physics classes I'm in basically only challenge us to do plug and chug and I was wondering how you would tackle a problem where just knowing an equation and solving for a variable won't cut it, like the famous inverted pendulum in oil problem or proving Gauss' law without prior memorization or online/book resources.

In other words, what's your "Master Blaster" PF?
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  • #2
In integration problems I look for the pattern. Like when we see ##x^2+a^2## I will try substituting ##atan\theta##. It comes from practice. I don't know much formulas but for me experience works. After I solved 100-200 problems related to partial fraction method and UV method things became very easy. I don't have the habit of writing down all the variables.
So my technique: Practice.
For physics, I am able to solve irodov's problems in general physics and other high level books because I go by basics. No formulas. Whenever I have a conceptual doubt, I post it in PF.
For physics: Apply basics and one has to be good in basic calculus.
  • #3
[x] Scatter plots and histograms. Don't know what to do with data? Make a scatter plot and/or a histogram and hope something sensible comes out.
Admittedly, this is not exactly the "Master Blaster" in the sense that it solves the problem but more like the hammer in "if your only tool is a hammer everything looks like a nail". But usually, hitting a fish with a hammer still gives some feedback that gets you further, even if it is "hammer does not help you here because ...".
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This is an extremely good question you have asked.

I've been around modeling physical systems for over 50 years now, and I've evolved to a strategy that I always use and I think will be helpful to you. In solving any problem involving a physical or chemical system, I always follow these four steps in order:

1. Articulation
2. Formulation
3. Solution
4. Presentation

Articulation: You need to be able to articulate (in words) the fundamental physical mechanisms that are involved in determining the response of your system. Basically, you have to say in words what is happening physically. If you can't do this, then you will not be able to solve your problem.

Formulation: After you have articulated the physical mechanisms, you need to translate these into the language of mathematics (equations). This means writing down the equations that describe the physical mechanisms mathematically, and that thereby capture the response of your system. Once you have completed this step, the conceptually difficult part is usually over.

Solution: This involves applying what you have learned in mathematics classes to solve the equations.

Presentation: This involves using the results of solving the equations to reach conclusions about the response of your system. The results are usually presented in the form of graphs. You need to be able to explain to others (such as decision makers) concisely, and in simple ways, the important results and conclusions you reached from your analysis. Without doing a good job at this, all the clever work you have done will be worth nothing, and people will end up having a low opinion of you. The importance of communication skills can't be overemphasized.

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1. What does the term "master blaster" mean in regards to problem-solving?

The term "master blaster" refers to a strategy or technique that is highly effective in solving problems. It is often used to describe a method that is especially powerful or efficient in achieving a desired outcome.

2. Can you provide an example of a "master blaster" strategy for problem-solving?

An example of a "master blaster" strategy for problem-solving would be the 5 Whys technique, which involves asking "why" five times to get to the root cause of a problem. This approach is known for being highly effective in uncovering underlying issues and finding solutions.

3. How do you determine which "master blaster" strategy to use for a specific problem?

The best "master blaster" strategy to use for a specific problem depends on the nature of the problem and the resources available. It is important to carefully analyze the problem and consider all possible strategies before choosing the most appropriate one.

4. Are there any downsides to using a "master blaster" strategy when problem-solving?

While "master blaster" strategies can be highly effective, they may not work in every situation. Some problems may require a more complex or tailored approach. Additionally, relying too heavily on one strategy may limit creativity and prevent the exploration of alternative solutions.

5. How can I develop my own "master blaster" strategy for problem-solving?

To develop your own "master blaster" strategy for problem-solving, it is important to continuously learn and gather knowledge from various sources, such as books, articles, and workshops. Additionally, practicing problem-solving regularly and reflecting on your successes and failures can help you refine and improve your own strategy over time.

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