Sunday, May 8, 2011

A lot to say about an uneventful day

So, yesterday was supposed to be the day where I got tons of work done. Instead, as has happened before, my subconscious realized that I don't actually have anything due until Wednesday, so it decided it wasn't going to do any work yet.

As I was trying to focus on reading about this week's physics topic, the many-electron atom including the Central Field Approximation and L-S Coupling, I got distracted by one of my semi-frequent brilliant-but-horribly-flawed ideas (some readers might remember one of my more recent ones, the idea for direct e-democracy). The way I think about these ideas is that on some level they are really good, but, for reasons I accept but don't understand, they really aren't good ideas.

My newest idea is for revolutionizing undergraduate education in physics and, potentially, similar fields like math and chemistry. I will probably write more about this idea later, but the basic premise is that lectures should be replaced by computer-based learning, to some extent controllable by the user. It could be thought of as a digitized textbook, containing all the concepts of the course, but having the audio synced with text and visual explanations like a lecture. If lectures were done properly by professors, my computer solution would not be a significant improvement over the current educational system. As it is though, professors in physics, as well as in math and chemistry, are infamous for doing a poor job explaining concepts in lecture. Sometimes they have accents, sometimes they don't put out lecture notes, sometimes they get sidetracked in lecture, and I could go on for hours. Ultimately, they are limited by both their skill as a lecturer (and most of them don't have any significant formal training in this) and the time they are willing to put into orchestrating a semester or quarter-long course. A digital course could be put together once by several knowledgable people dedicating as much time as it takes to do it perfectly. Then, the course could be reproduced an unlimited number of times at any number of campuses, in any number of homes, in any number of countries, in any number of languages for as many years as the same laws of physics hold true (which is a lot, by all estimates).

That was more than I wanted to write about that today.

I also cooked onion and sweet potato curry with Victor and Heidi. Then we watched Dr. Who. It's another show that they're  really in to, but it was my first time watching. Again, they had to spend a lot of time explaining things to me.

We ended the night with the bop (dance/party thing at Oxford) at Corpus Christi. The theme was Dead and Famous. Victor and I were the print newspaper. We wore newspaper hats on our heads. They looked kind of like pope hats, so we figured we could also be dead, famous popes. Heidi, Molly, and Maricarmen came along too.

The dance was really fun, actually, and I ended up dancing almost the entire time. There was a great mix of top-40 hits and classic/90's songs. It was particularly interesting hearing what the British kids really liked. The night started off with some house music that we weren't in love with. Most of the music didn't differentiate this party from one back in the States. Later in the night were some real gems, though. A song I've heard a few times, "Teenage Dirtbag" by Wheatus, got the whole room singing and cheering. Not to our surprise, "Wannabe" by the Spice Girls was a favorite. "Wonderwall" was a big hit too. The best of all, though, had to be a room packed with 100-200 Oxford students singing "Cotton-Eyed Joe" while imitating stereotypical dances from an American hoedown. They did the whole linking-arms-and-skipping-in-circles thing. It was too hilarious. They didn't even know there were a few Americans in the corner watching incredulously.

Heidi, Molly, and I stuck it out to the end of the dance, about 2.5 hours of dancing. I ended up watching the end of Four Weddings and a Funeral and Love Actually with some people before going to sleep.

And that's all for now. So much for my short post.

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