[Edu-sig] school physics/math courses

Edward Cherlin echerlin at gmail.com
Sat Oct 18 07:03:41 CEST 2008

2008/10/17 michel paul <mpaul213 at gmail.com>:
> "We should abandon the vision that physicists seek an ultimate mathematical
> description of the universe since it is not obvious that it exists.

I disagree with this attitude. We can seek an ultimate mathematical
description, since it is not obvious that it does not exist. We should
also be aware that we do not have one, and have some idea of the range
of validity of our models. This will help us to avoid mathematical
absurdities, particularly the infinities that result from calculations
on unphysical point masses and point charges.

> The job
> of the physicist is that of modeling phenomena within the physical scales of
> observed events.

True much of the time. Another part of the job is to model outside the
scale of the observed, and go make the new observations needed, as in
the case of General Relativity.

> For some systems, the modeling can be done more effectively
> using algorithms."

As a mathematician, I don't know what that means. Every algorithm can
be represented by a system of equations in a number of ways, and every
system of equations can be solved, at least approximately, by various

As a teacher, I know very well what it means. Some representations are
easier to understand, or easier to work with, or easier to learn from.
Various thinkers, including Babbage, Whitehead, and Iverson, have
commented on the effects of the way we represent problems on our
ability to think about them, and not only they but luminaries from
Fibonacci to Einstein have labored to invent or teach new notations
and representations.

> This is very interesting.  Thanks for sending it.
> On Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 7:14 PM, Massimo Di Pierro <mdipierro at cs.depaul.edu>
> wrote:
>> Hi Paul,
>> this is a document I write as a summary of a meeting I attended in 2006 at
>> Argonne National Laboratory about revising the Physics curriculum. If it is
>> of any use you can do anything you want with it.
>> Massimo
>> On Oct 16, 2008, at 5:55 PM, michel paul wrote:
>> This would be a great text for a high school math/CS class:  Math for the
>> Digital Age.
>> - Michel
>> On Thu, Oct 16, 2008 at 4:15 AM, roberto <roberto03 at gmail.com> wrote:
>>> hello
>>> (i am rather new in python ...)
>>> i am about to start a course of physics and math for students aged
>>> 14-17 (high school)
>>> and i am deeply interested in the possibilty of teaching fundamental
>>> concepts of these subjects via teaching programming;
>>> i chose python (i won't change my mind ...)
>>> so i am looking for resources on how to deal with these topics via
>>> this great programming language;
>>> i need some help from you and moreover if you are aware of books
>>> already covering these need
>>> thank you in advance
>>> --
>>> roberto
>>> OS: GNU/Linux, Debian
>>> _______________________________________________
>>> Edu-sig mailing list
>>> Edu-sig at python.org
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