There are certain principles that I have found underpin an astonishing number of our modern systems, and gaining a thorough understanding of a principle like that can enable you to understand or surmise how so many different things work. One of those, which is what we will be discussing today, is the photoelectric effect. It seems like at least once a week I come across some new piece of technology that leverages the photoelectric effect in a completely new or different way, and increasingly I marvel at how such a relatively simple principle underpins so much of our modern world. So let's talk about the photoelectric effect.
Don't worry: this isn't a post in which I rant about the good ol' days, and how the whole world's just about falling apart in this dilapidated modern age (although maybe I should write one, if I can pop off phrases like "dilapidated modern age"). No, this post is about education, and specifically memorization. I don't know about you, but I hated rote memorization in school, and I still do. Give me papers to read on Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle or ask me to be able to explain how a Hall Effect Thruster works and I'll happily dive right in, but ask me to memorize the technical parameters of an aircraft that I'll always be able to simply look up if I need them and there will ensue great wailing and gnashing of teeth. Maybe I'm exaggerating a little, but the point is that I am not, and never have been, fond of rote memorization.
A while back now we posted about 5G technology as part of our efforts to develop educational content here on the site. This post about quantum computing technology and some of the ways in which we can anticipate it being implemented is in the same vein; quantum computing has been increasingly touted as another sort of “miracle” technology about which we hear a great deal of hype, but without a lot of insight into the details. This post will hopefully rectify that a little.
As I was writing several of the scenes in the later episodes of Blood Magic's first season, I was struggling to describe what, exactly, Prime Wezzix and Borivat do all day. Specifically, I had a discussion in episode eight about Merolate's budget. As I was writing it, I was trying to make it realistic, but I found myself wondering what a budget for a nation-state at a level roughly comparable to Italy in the thirteenth or fourteenth century might reasonably include.
This post is primarily intended as an educational one, to discuss some of the terminology and thought-processes involved in materials science, but it was inspired by world-building considerations. As you may recall, if you've been following along with what I've been reading (and my regular book reviews), I recently read a book called The Substance of Civilization, which detailed how the materials to which our species has had access have shaped the course of cultural evolution over the past ten thousand years. It prompted me to think in more detail about choice of materials and construction techniques in world-building.
In my mind, one of the most significant drawbacks of the modern education system is its tendency to silo or stovepipe ideas and topics. Yet as I learned in The Substance of Civilization, it was partially the work of Flemish artists that led to the invention of the movable type printing press...
We've mentioned logical fallacies on the site before. It turns out that the human brain is not the most reliable machine, at least when it comes to being rational/logical. After all, our brains evolved to help us find better food sources and communicate about the dangers (and discomforts) of eating poison ivy or being attacked by saber-toothed tigers, not to help us analyze the finer points of morality or the inner workings of the cosmos. Functionally, they are just constructions of chemical and electrical signals that react to various stimuli.
We've been hearing a lot recently about how we need to "trust the science," and "follow the science." Anyone who does not agree with the science or the above statements tends to be labeled as unintelligent, ignorant, or otherwise mentally backward, perhaps irresponsible. It is one thing for politicians to use such phrases for political leverage and advantage: science has been invoked for political purposes for about as long as science has existed. To me, it is far more dismaying to see people who claim to be scientists themselves undermining the very essence of what science is supposed to be.
I didn't put any really complex thought into deciding what the first educational post was going to be about; I just came across an article that I found interesting, and went from there. In this case, it was an article from NASA about purchasing lunar regolith (yes, NASA.gov is my browser's homepage). There were two, primary dimensions to this article, and they're worth analyzing independently: in-situ resource utilization, and international space law.
Today, we’re going to talk about math. No, don’t stop reading: for one thing, I only said that we’re going to talk about math, not that we’re going to do math, and for another, the whole point of this post is to talk about why it’s important not to allow our own perceptions of our abilities to interfere with our actual capabilities. This post in some ways is a follow-on to my post about the importance of reading, and really both of them could be lumped under the topic of education, but I’m not trying to propose a restructuring of the education system here. Reading and writing, to me, is about conveying information, and math is just another way of doing that. However it is done, mathematically or through words, it’s important that as many of us as possible understand both how to create and consume that information.