lhexa ([personal profile] lhexa) wrote2012-01-20 01:04 pm

(no subject)

Said by Dr. Morrison: "The physics is indeterminate but the math is determinate."

Dr. Morrison asked the class to state the first law of thermodynamics. There were fifty graduate students and zero answers. Fifteen or so seconds passed, tense on our side, amused on his side, before I was finally able to put myself back in that earlier place, and blurt out "The conservation of energy!" On the side of graduate students I take this episode to be more illuminating than humiliating. There is a qualitative difference between a graduate student in physics and an undergraduate student in physics. I assume -- no, I observe -- that there is also a qualitative difference between a graduate student in physics and a professor of physics. What did the class' failure demonstrate? That sometimes, in order to learn the advanced material, one must forget the basics.