Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Twitter makes for sound bite conversations.

No surprise, but Twitter is good for updates, for pointers, and for questions with simple answers. It is horrible for conversation. Here are specific tweets which require more than 140 characters to reply to.

# Elliot Ronen ElliotRonen

@RichGibson And if I'm teaching Shakespeare? Or music composition? Or political studies? Does no physics make everything I say untrue? 27 minutes ago via TweetDeck in reply to RichGibson

(note on format: this is a tweet from @ElliotRonen, to me)

Elliot, my tweet said "But not knowing basic physics means you can't tell the truth about many things." I am seriously confused that you would interpret 'many things' to mean 'everything.'

I believe that it is possible for a teacher to construct a lesson which is true without knowing any physics. But like in war, no plan survives contact with the students. They ask questions. Further, without any physics you lack the ability to understand the context of a large number of things.

1. Shakespeare - At first I thought Shakespeare was largely 'physics safe,' but then the questions started to bubble up.  Examples: the histories are deeply concerned with war. "Commentators point out that during the course of these conflicts, the cult of militarism changed dramatically and traditional notions of chivalric warfare declined, partly as a result of early modern developments in armaments."

The development of armaments, the conduct of wars, the limitations on travel, why castles were very good defenses and how the development of siege warfare changed that are all questions with a physics component.

2. Music composition - I don't think you can get very far in music composition without using physics.   I have many examples, but I am going to assume that you just misspoke when you included music in your list.

3. Political Studies: The requirement to understand physics in order to understand Political Studies seems, well, self evident.  War, terrorism, nuclear weapons, dirty bombs, the Strategic Defense Initiative, Nuclear winter, civil defense, global warming, scientific policy, 'Winning the Future' - all of these require some understanding of physics.  See Physics for Future Presidents, the popular version, or go to the UC Berkeley course page.