Pages

Thursday, October 23, 2014

On the Virtue of Putting the Cart before the Horse




You may have seen the above video by "DjSadhu" purporting to show how the motion of the planets would appear if we use a frame of reference with respect to which the sun is moving. If not, I'd encourage you to take a look. It's fascinating.

However, Phil Plait has posted an article on slate.com pointing out that this viral video is in fact scientifically incorrect, where he says:
It seems right, or looks cool, or appeals to some sense of how things should be. But how things should be and how they are don’t always overlap. The Universe is a pretty cool place, and works using a fairly well-regulated set of rules. We call those rules physics, they’re written in the language of math, and trying to understand all that is science.
My first reaction on seeing Phil's article was, "Yes, that makes sense. As he says, 'not everything cool is science...' "

But then I saw a post by a friend of mine, who was a former faculty member (now working in industry), in response to Phil's article. He wrote that Phil was, well, a "killjoy. Perhaps, [a] scientifically accurate killjoy, but still a killjoy. " His point was that the original video, despite its inaccuracies, served to spark the imagination of many people (as of now, that video has received over 2 million hits!) and that Phil could have offered his corrections in a more constructive spirit rather than proclaiming loudly the incorrectness of the original video.

Reflecting on his comments, I think my friend is really on to something.

Just recently some colleagues and I were having an interesting conversation about why college is boring for many students and we figured out that we college faculty may all be killjoys.

Faculty, due to both nature and nurture the most pedantic of creatures, would rather say something careful and provably correct than show something cool of dubious "truthiness". We would rather build up little by little from abstract fundamentals in the vain (often unfulfilled due to lack of time) hope of reaching eventually concepts one can relate to. We are not inclined to let our students encounter something half-baked that they find amazing and thought-provoking, and then work from that spark of excitement towards the truth.

It is worth pausing to think whether our sneering dismissal of imprecise, careless thinking, our endless harping on rigor, our ceaseless skepticism (all qualities that are essential for our work as researchers, the very qualities we are recognized and lauded for by our peers) might sometimes get in the way of creating the best environment for our students to seek the truth on their own.

Now, let me clear, I am not arguing for teaching students cool-but-unscientific lies or even half-truths. If our own hunger for truth and the desire to share that drive with our students did not ultimately motivate us, we would not be in this line of work. But perhaps there is a place for the incorrect, the absurd, if it is cool enough to draw in the students' curiosity and their imagination, and inspire them to proceed further? It could serve as a starting point for a more careful and rigorous investigation.

Sometimes at least, we should place the cart before the horse (or the sun in front of the planets) because that is unusual and striking, enough to make one stop, stare and think.








21 comments:

Packers Movers Ahmedabad said...

Lovely Website, Maintain the fantastic work. Thank you so much!
Local Packers and Movers Ahmedabad list, Cheap Packers Movers Ahmedabad Charges, Affordable, Best Household Shifting Ahmedabad @ Packers and Movers Ahmedabad

Banglore Shifting Solutions said...


I must say you had done a tremendous job,I appreciate all your efforts.Thanks alot for your writings......Waiting for a new . please visit:Packers And Movers Bangalore

Aliabhatt said...

Useful quotes and messages thanks for sharing.
rose day messages
hug day 2017
promise day sms
valentines day messages
Easter wishes
mother's day 2017
Challenge Quotes

244amaze said...

Do lovers actually need a particular day like Valentines day 2017 to articulate their love? Reply differs from person to person but greater part of the mankind locates it an official chance and arrange to declare their love on this day to their adored one by showering them with gifts for example flowers or greeting cards. You may like to know about Happy rose day 2017 and Happy propose day 2017, Happy chocolate day 2017 in Valentine Week.

Madhuri Dixit said...

Great post. you have pointed out some fantastic points . I likewise think this s a very wonderful website.

blouse designs for silk sarees
fake nail designs
bridal blouse designs
golden brocade blouse designs
happy birthday uncle images
http://www.fashioncluba.com/

Mrinal pant said...

happy easter background images
happy easter
happy easter clip art
happy easter bunny coloring pages

Arun Choudhary said...

funny easter quotes 
easter wishes messages
easter bunny images 
easter egg wishes & messeges

Mrinal pant said...

happy mothers day daughter images
mothers day quotes from son
mothers day cartoon pictures
mothers day images

Dooiitt Tube said...

Fancy designer wear our website and resonable price More....
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…..
Eid Mubarak Pics

varun rawat said...

I remember my mother's prayers and they have always followed me. They have clung to me all my life.

Read more quotes at ....http://happyeasterimages2017.com/mothers-day-mothers-day-quotes/

Deep Kumar said...

Valuable post …..Thanks for sharing
Memorial Day
Memorial Day Quotes

BittuSingh said...

Meaningful post …..Thanks for sharing
Memorial Day Messages Quotes
Memorial Day Weekend 2017

Dooiitt Tube said...

Exclusive Collection of Salwar Suit and Many More…
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…
Plz visit:- Bridal sarees

Jitu Vashishtt said...

On our beloved Nation's Independence Day,
Let's remember and salute the souls that went down for the national pride.
Happy 4th of July. 4th of July Quotes Happy 4th of July Images Happy 4th of July Wallpapers 4th of july meme  4th of July Messages Happy 4th of July Pictures

Avaya Duggu said...

Happy Mothers Day Messages
Happy Mothers Day Images
Funny Mothers Day Quotes

emma duggu said...

Thanks for the information about this Really nice Post.
Happy Memorial Day Images
memorial day quotes for soldiers
happy memorial day 2017 images

emma duggu said...

when is memorial day 2017
memorial day quotes for soldiers
memorial day pictures images

avaya duggu said...

Happy Fathers Day 2017 Messages
Fathers Day Messages from Daughter
Happy Fathers Day Quotes Images

avaya duggu said...

Happy Fathers Day 2017
Fathers Day 2017 Date
Father’s Day Gifts from Daughter

Dooiitt Tube said...



Best Outfits For Young ladies,Womens and Girls
We Have Some For You In Your Budget For more…
Plz visit:- Online Shopping Clothes

Shrutika Verma said...

Memorial Day Thank You Quotes
Memorial Day Decor Ideas
Memorial Day Poems Prayers
Happy Memorial Day Wishes