Radiation (was: <Silly>: Help with question about web page

From: Tony Duell <ard_at_p850ug1.demon.co.uk>
Date: Thu Aug 19 18:15:52 2004

> There is an interesting discussion of this phenomena (teaching incorrect=20
> information) in the book "the science of discworld" where it is rather=20
> bluntly entitled "Lies to children". thefreedictionary.com sums this up=20
> quite nicely:
> "A lie-to-children is an expression that describes a form of simplificati=
> on=20
> of material. The universe, so far as we can observe, is extremely=20
> complicated. The first time one explains something to a person (especiall=
> y=20
> a child), one might give an explanation that is simple, concise, or simpl=
> y=20
> "wrong" =97 but in a way that attempts to make the truth more understanda=
> ble.=20
> (Sometimes, an explanation can accompany it, such as "This isn't=20
> technically true, but it's easier to understand.")
> Later on, one can admit that the first explanation was a lie, and replace=
> =20
> it with the truth, or a more sophisticated lie-to-children, which is near=
> er=20
> to the truth. You can continue this process all through a persons' educat=
> ion."

This has never helped me... In fact on several occasions the 'simplified
version' has caused me more confusion.

One classic example is the operation of telephone exchanges. I am
interested in such devices (not for Phreaking, of course, but just
becasue they're complicated electromechanical systems). I read several of
the 'how it works' type books and got nowhere. In fact I was coming to
the conclusion that the telephone exchange was too complicated for me to

Then I got a wonderful two-volume set called 'Telephony'. It contains
complete schematics of real (albeit small) exchanges, and explains what
each relay does, when it pulls in, when it releases, etc. It all made
perfect sense then, and I understood it.

Sure the 1000 pages or so are heavt going, but it was worth it. Reading
the simpler books did me no good at all, and I fail to see how anyone
would beenfit from them.

To get back to schools, I am not moaning about, say, teaching Newtonian
mechanics. I know it's incomplete, and doesn't describe how the universe
hehaves (actually, I suspect that relativistic quantum mechanics is not a
complete description either). But Newtonian mechanics is understandable,
it is self-consistent (it just doesn't 'agree' with the real world), and
it's a perfectly adequate model for normal-sized objects moving at normal
speeds. If I was going to analyse the behaviour of, say, an RK05 head
positioner (to keep this on-topic), then I would use Newtonian mechanics,
and would expect the results to agree to the accuracy I could measure things.

No, I am complaing about things like :

'A compariston is not a measurement' (said to me when I wanted to use a
bridge circuit to measure capacitance). Actually, I'd like to see a
definition of measurement that doesn't involve comparison to a standard.

'A potentiometer-wire voltmeter is better than a DMM because the former
draws no curret at balance'. This is more subtle. While it's true that a
potentiometer-wire voltmeter dwraws no curret at balance, you can never
know it's exactly at balance. You are limited by the sensitivity of the
detector you're using. And when that detector is a moving coil/pointer
(not a mirror) type of meter with a sensitivity of, perhaps, 1uA if
you're lucky, then a 10M ohm DMM actually takes less current from, say, a
Weston standard cell.

> >However, I am also worried that the general public don't want to learn
> >about scientific subjects.
> Most people don't want to learn about anything, unless it has boobs or=20
> kicks footballs... :-S

My experience suggests that people are naturally curious about things,
but that schools are designed to remove that curiosity. Fortunately it
didn't work in my case :-). I learnt almost nothing at school --
everything I now use I taught myself (thankfully, from books that were a
lot more advanced than th eaverage school textbook).

Received on Thu Aug 19 2004 - 18:15:52 BST

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