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Current Essay Contest

Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Previous Contests

What Is “Fundamental”
October 28, 2017 to January 22, 2018
Sponsored by the Fetzer Franklin Fund and The Peter & Patricia Gruber Foundation

Wandering Towards a Goal
How can mindless mathematical laws give rise to aims and intention?
December 2, 2016 to March 3, 2017
Contest Partner: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Fnd.

Trick or Truth: The Mysterious Connection Between Physics and Mathematics
Contest Partners: Nanotronics Imaging, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, and The John Templeton Foundation
Media Partner: Scientific American


How Should Humanity Steer the Future?
January 9, 2014 - August 31, 2014
Contest Partners: Jaan Tallinn, The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, The John Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

It From Bit or Bit From It
March 25 - June 28, 2013
Contest Partners: The Gruber Foundation, J. Templeton Foundation, and Scientific American

Questioning the Foundations
Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?
May 24 - August 31, 2012
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation, SubMeta, and Scientific American

Is Reality Digital or Analog?
November 2010 - February 2011
Contest Partners: The Peter and Patricia Gruber Foundation and Scientific American

What's Ultimately Possible in Physics?
May - October 2009
Contest Partners: Astrid and Bruce McWilliams

The Nature of Time
August - December 2008

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James Hoover: on 5/29/14 at 18:26pm UTC, wrote Travis, Having had problems with my browser and rating, I am returning to...

KoGuan Leo: on 5/27/14 at 13:00pm UTC, wrote Dear Travis, I share your idea. Your essay is wonderful. I like these...

Peter Jackson: on 5/26/14 at 16:38pm UTC, wrote Travis, That was a truly great essay which was a great relief to read...

Lawrence Crowell: on 5/25/14 at 18:35pm UTC, wrote Travis, In teaching physics I occasionally mention some of these...

Don Limuti: on 5/25/14 at 6:52am UTC, wrote Hi Travis, Your essay which could have been titled "Back to the Future" is...

Georgina Woodward: on 5/25/14 at 6:31am UTC, wrote That anonymous was me, May. 25, 2014 @ 06:28 GMT

Anonymous: on 5/25/14 at 6:28am UTC, wrote Hi Travis, I enjoyed reading your essay. I was subjected to Nuffield...

Travis Norsen: on 5/24/14 at 20:49pm UTC, wrote Thanks Ajay, I will check out your essay! Travis


harry lone: "This article clears my mind. Writer has done great job. Best thing about..." in Baez on Quantum...

harry lone: "Wow. This is some thing very amazing. I was in search of such a beautiful..." in Help Fight Negativity!

Georgina Woodward: "Excluding 'Big crunch' un-creation ending from the eternal category." in The Sudoku Universe, Why...

Phuloo Nikola: "I really appreciate you for this article. It's very useful information...." in The Disintegration of the...

Phuloo Nikola: "Good post. I find out something new and difficult on personal blogs I..." in Koalas, Quantum Mechanics...

Shazi Shiz: "Thanks for your marvelous posting! I quite enjoyed reading it, you happen..." in Out of Plato's Cave?

Shazi Shiz: "I was looking for something like this…I found it quiet interesting,..." in Deferential Geometry

Georgina Woodward: "Joe, sensory products are what is seen. Illumination matters because it..." in The Sudoku Universe, Why...

click titles to read articles

The Complexity Conundrum
Resolving the black hole firewall paradox—by calculating what a real astronaut would compute at the black hole's edge.

Quantum Dream Time
Defining a ‘quantum clock’ and a 'quantum ruler' could help those attempting to unify physics—and solve the mystery of vanishing time.

Our Place in the Multiverse
Calculating the odds that intelligent observers arise in parallel universes—and working out what they might see.

Sounding the Drums to Listen for Gravity’s Effect on Quantum Phenomena
A bench-top experiment could test the notion that gravity breaks delicate quantum superpositions.

Watching the Observers
Accounting for quantum fuzziness could help us measure space and time—and the cosmos—more accurately.

December 12, 2017

CATEGORY: How Should Humanity Steer the Future? Essay Contest (2014) [back]
TOPIC: Back to the Future: Crowdsourcing Innovation by Refocusing Science Education by Travis Ty Norsen [refresh]
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Author Travis Ty Norsen wrote on Apr. 15, 2014 @ 20:31 GMT
Essay Abstract

Traditional science education has an unfortunately dogmatic character: students are taught scientific conclusions, but they learn very little about the chronological steps by which those conclusions were established. In particular, science education does not give future scientists an adequate understanding of the fact that the fundamental scientific principles which support modern technology began life as controversial hypotheses. But if we want a future in which further liberating innovations are the norm, we must find a way to produce scientists and engineers who are comfortable with controversy and have sound judgment about which controversial issues and hypotheses are fruitful to engage with. A natural way to achieve this goal -- and to help science education better capture the true nature of science in the process -- is to refocus science education around historical scientific controversies and their eventual resolutions.

Author Bio

Travis Norsen has taught physics at Marlboro, Smith, and Mount Holyoke Colleges as well as Bridgewater State University. He has a long-standing interest in alternative, especially history-based, science curricula. He also works on foundational questions in quantum theory and has published widely on, for example, Bell's theorem and Bohmian mechanics.

Download Essay PDF File

John Brodix Merryman wrote on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 02:23 GMT

That is a very interesting and informative essay. Though I don't know that it might have better been focused on the contest question of 2012, 'Questioning the Foundations: Which of Our Basic Physical Assumptions Are Wrong?'

Personally I'm not a professional scientist, but have much natural experience with the laws of basic physics. To that end, I keep pointing out in the...

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Wilhelmus de Wilde wrote on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 14:50 GMT
Dear Travis,

Indeed the education of our children is THE important thing for any future , and not only the scientific education, no it begins already when our children are watching television and see what a mess we made of the world.

The parents (if they are aware of what they are watching !!!) could then explain what is behind this mess and how it could have been prevented , so it is the totality of mentality that has to be changed from the short view to the wide view including ALL abilities of humanity, starting indeed with the total change of egoistic economy.

I appreciated your essay and maybe you may be able to read my essay "Steering the Future of Consciousness"[:link] and leave there a post on my thread, eventually when you have an overview of the entrances give me a rating.

best regards


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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:27 GMT
Thanks for your comments. I definitely agree that eduction is "THE" important thing for the future, and that although my essay focused more on what science education at the college (or maybe advanced high school) level should look like, I would apply the same principles all the way back to the beginnings of science education in pre-school and kindergarten: it shouldn't be about memorizing facts, but instead about how things can be figured out. There should be more of an emphasis on puzzles, hypothetical answers/solutions, and the process of finding and creating *evidence*. The driving question should be "How do you know?" rather than "What do you know?"

I'm not sure we agree, though, about the overall state of the world today, which you describe as a "mess". Undoubtedly there are a number of things I'd like to see changed. But overall, the state of the world seems quite good to me, and the trend is in the right direction. All the prophets of doom from Malthus on have been flatly refuted, by human ingenuity and progress. More people live longer and happier and more fulfilling lives today than the prophets would have thought possible in their wildest fantasies (or would they be, for such people, nightmares??). And I see every reason to think this kind of progress will continue... I just want to see it continue faster and better, and I think improving science education is the most effective way to accomplish that.


Eckard Blumschein wrote on Apr. 16, 2014 @ 17:11 GMT
Dear Travis,

While the title was deterring to me, the abstract seems to indicate a truly interesting essay. I personally avoided teaching controversies. A well known expert in physiology of hearing admitted using each year the same questions in exams. This was possible because the correct answers were different ones each year.

I wonder if your readiness to deal with the most decisive question didn't result in your insight that even the seemingly settled one are strictly speaking perhaps rather open. See the references of 2021.



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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:36 GMT
That's a funny story about the exams being the same every year, but with different "correct answers"...

In my opinion, the best kind of exam question is one where there is no single unambiguously "right answer", but instead lots of different valid approaches one could take to make progress. Of course, that's the kind of question that often drives students mad, even if teachers enjoy the show. But I'd say that signals a problem with how we teach science. Of course students don't like these sorts of "ambiguous" exam questions, when what they've been exposed to, what they've come to expect and depend on, through their whole educational lives, is a kind of dogmatic unambiguous (pseudo-) certainty. My vision is of an approach to science education in which these sorts of "ambiguous exam questions" would feel completely normal, proper, unsurprising, and fun to students -- because they've learned, from studying science, that this is how science really works!

As to your last remark, yes. =) There are a number of things that are widely considered as "settled" that I think are, in fact, anything but. The so-called "interpretation of quantum mechanics" (where there is a pretty clear neo-Copenhagen-ish orthodoxy) is the biggest example, as I discuss briefly in my essay.


George Gantz wrote on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 01:53 GMT
Travis -

Thanks for the great essay – all students, and especially science students, would benefit from a good experience of how science had historically evolved from “West” to “East”. One of the concerns with only teaching from the East is that it tends to give a sense of perfection to science – science becomes “dogma” as you put it. More humility would be welcome in science. This is an issue I touch on in my essay, The Tip of the Spear.

I wonder, however, about your theme that what is now West will eventually become East. As you put it, “We should expect all of this, that is, if we can resist the impulse to dismiss the controversy as “metaphysical” or otherwise meaningless and unscientific.” However, some of the frontiers science we are confronting are probing at the issues of what we cannot know. Quantum physics is not the only area dealing with paradox. Mathematics and logic have similar struggles with self-reference. Complexity theory confounds our intuitions about the predictability of nature, and unsolvable problems are a critical limit in computational science. Maybe science students also need a dose of metaphysics?

Many thanks - George

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:46 GMT
Hi George, Thanks for your comments. I will check out your essay, as I'm very interested in others' "outside-the-box" ideas on science education.

I'm 100% in support of the idea that science students should learn some metaphysics. But "metaphysics" is one of those words that can mean a lot of different things, so it's not actually clear to me whether we agree much here or not. For example, I don't have the sense that we are bumping up against some kind of fundamental limits to knowledge (having to do with self-reference paradoxes, or anything else) in the case of quantum mechanics. Instead, to put it bluntly, Bohr sold everybody a bill of goods: it was his wacky (partly metaphysical) ideas that convinced people -- quite wrongly -- that there was something uniquely and desperately paradoxical going on. Part of my motivation for thinking that science education should include more focus on historical controversies is precisely that people who had been educated in that way would be far less likely to just accept Bohr's type of philosophical nonsense as the final word on the subject.

Or, to return to the East/West metaphor that you recalled from my essay, I think Bohr (and Heisenberg and others) put up a sign saying "nothing to see here, turn your car around and return from whence you came" in front of a beautiful, rich, unexplored western territory. I want more students who will see such things and say "forget that", kick the sign down, and go explore.

George Gantz replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 19:14 GMT
Ty -

I agree, in part. Bohr is a good example of running away from something important by slapping on a "metaphysical" band-aid. But I do have the sense that we are, and will continue, bumping into ineluctable limits, for which we need an open metaphysical inquiry. For, example, in my essay I followed the findings of evolutionary, complexity and emergence theories to a conclusion that cooperation is fundamental to survival at all levels in this universe. That is a metaphysical proposition - it is not something that can be proven, but it is "pointed to" by the science. Significantly, it is a conclusion that is also "pointed to" by religious teachings.

Stretching the compass metaphor further, I think it is the case that as we keep exploring to the West, we eventually find ourselves in the East - but this time it is the far East (symbolic of mysticism - the unknowable). There may be wisdom there that transcends that of the East you are referring to.

Cheers - George

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Jonathan J. Dickau wrote on Apr. 17, 2014 @ 03:11 GMT
I enjoyed your essay greatly Travis...

I think you would enjoy mine as well, since I also talk about reforming Education - by focusing on the value of play. There is a lot to be said for teaching Science via the history of scientific controversies, and I would not have believed the linkage was so strong, before reading your essay. You did a masterful job of drawing me in to the story behind some of the developments we have all learned about.

I absolutely agree that teaching any scientific subject as a collection of facts and formulas is a waste of time, because the real practice of a pursuit like Physics involves wrestling with the possible applicability of several competing models - and wanting to know what is behind the observable reality, despite the temptation to just shut up and calculate. I have always been more interested in understanding quantum mechanics' foundations, than how to find solutions to specific equations, for example, but I know there is a place for that too.

I think we need to bring back the Wild West, to use the analogy in your intro, but even moreso; we need to inspire a generation of frontier explorers with ingenuity and innovativeness to spare. We need more adventurers, rather than people who learn a bunch of facts. The most important fact is that Science keeps advancing; it does not remain the same. So you are right to imagine we should teach the contentious and tumultuous birth of scientific knowledge, from a perspective informed by history.

All the Best,


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Turil Sweden Cronburg wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 14:10 GMT
Travis, I agree with your idea of bringing real problems into the way we learn. A while back I got some funding to create an open-ended global (online) school that was sort of an encyclopedia of solutions, wiki-style, where the goal was to have a database of all the categories of things we humans care about, and allow people to share their own solutions for attaining better versions of these things, similar to Instructibles, but truly well organized and open to wiki-editing (and without the corporate/profiteering annoyances). The idea was to use this as a platform for educators and informal learners to research, share, test, and explore a world of ideas. Unfortunately, my funding ran out before anyone ever showed up to contribute (other than me), and I don’t even have enough money to live, myself (so I can’t fund it personally) so it’s a defunct project at the moment. But it was such a glaringly obviously good idea that I imagine that someone else will make it, and make it popular!

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:47 GMT
I hope you're right -- it indeed sounds like the kind of thing that would be a valuable resource.


James Dunn wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 14:59 GMT
Consider creating crowd-sourcing as relativistic social networks based upon enterprise. By creating a business model where a large collection of social groups create a shared sub-group, the potential for diverse opportunities to leverage under-utilized resources becomes feasible.


Interns in Industry Program

Any good intention without a business model is without merit.

By creating a diverse pool of businesses that share a system of common goals, they can both get a return on their investments AND promote diversity in education.

James Dunn

FQXi Submission:

Graduated Certification for Certification of Common Sense

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Joe Fisher wrote on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 16:13 GMT
Dear Mr. Norsen,

Your excellently written essay was one of the most compelling essays of the ones I have read so far, and I do hope that it does well in the competition. May I humbly make a suggestion? Only perfect abstraction is taught in all of academia. Please do not take this as a personal attack upon you because you only teach abstraction perfection. This is how the real Universe is...

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 18, 2014 @ 18:55 GMT
Thanks for your nice comments on my essay. Unfortunately, though, I can't make any sense of your ideas about what is and isn't moving, and how fast. If surfaces travel at a different speed than the sub-surface material, won't the two become separated? And anyway what is the nature of the evidence for this idea that every surface moves at the speed of light? Obviously that's the kind of claim that, on its face, sounds preposterous -- so you would have a significant burden of proof to overcome in arguing for it.

I don't want to discuss this here. Perhaps I will read your submission and comment there. Here I'll just note that this seems like a good example of something that comes up tangentially in my essay: not every alleged controversy is a *legitimate* controversy. One of the values, for students, of being exposed to more examples of (legitimate) historical scientific controversies, is that they'll then be in a better position to recognize the difference between legitimate controversies and pseudo-controversies. I'm always open to new evidence, but it sure seems like the "controversy" about whether (for example) the surface of the table my feet are propped up on right now is (in my frame of reference) at rest, or instead moving at the speed of light, is of the "pseudo-" variety.


Gordon Watson wrote on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 20:13 GMT
Dear Travis,

Nice essay; to which I'll be returning. On a first reading, can see little reason not to be 100% with you!

For now, this question comes to mind: How would that famous Einstein, Podolsky, Rosen (EPR) paper of 1935 be treated under your proposal?

For, in my experience, there still tend to be categories -- like "winners" and "losers" -- in discussions of historical controversies.

And: I suspect that you and I might differ on this one?

Thanks, and best regards; Gordon

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 19, 2014 @ 21:14 GMT
Hi Gordon. Re: EPR, I guess I'd just say that when students learn quantum physics, they should learn about the EPR-Bohr controversy. Of course, some people would say they already learn about that -- by reading the footnote in the textbook where it says (paraphrasing) "Some senile old idiots, like Einstein, couldn't accept the brilliant new theory, but Bohr completely and totally refuted their arguments. Just trust us on this".

I'd say that instead of this kind of absurd indoctrination, students should actually learn what Einstein was really worried about. I don't think education should be in the business of picking winners and losers; it should be in the business of clearly explaining the arguments and evidence on all sides. This would have the effect of leaving people more free to decide on such issues for themselves, which is a good thing -- but of course the important thing is that science is, by definition, evidence- (not authority-) based. So if science is going to be taught scientifically, it simply *has* to be done this way.


Gordon Watson replied on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 00:50 GMT

Re EPR-Bohr, students would learn that Bell wrote (without paraphrasing): "While imagining that I understand the position of Einstein ..., as regards the EPR correlations, I have very little understanding of his principal opponent, Bohr," Bell (2004:155).

And I'm with Bell here, 100%.

But I'm against Bell (100%) when he cites Einstein (from Schilpp 1949) and writes (Bell 2004: 86): "If nature follows quantum mechanics in these correlations, then Einstein's conception of the world is untenable."

So, in developing your (let's say, 100% agreed) proposal; what are you, as Department Head, to do with me: A teacher that takes a strong stand on issues [as above] so that students have a very firm position against which to test and hone their arguments?

PS: Trying to be helpful; is this where you might confront me with some experimental results? If so, which, please? For you have a very enthusiastic teacher on your hands here; one that's keen to learn!


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Georgina Woodward wrote on Apr. 20, 2014 @ 10:38 GMT
Hi Travis,

an interesting approach to the question, limiting the interpretation of it to the teaching /learning of physics. Your's seems to me quite an optimistic and achievable plan. There does also need to be a culture in which it is not considered nutty to find controversy and attempt to resolve it, rather than just accepting what is taught.

Good luck, Georgina

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on Apr. 21, 2014 @ 15:06 GMT
Hi Georgina, thanks for your comments. I definitely attempted to answer the question in a way that was realistic and achievable (and closely related to fqxi's focus areas) as opposed to highly speculative and pie-in-the-sky. It's of course good and important to think outside the box and imagine speculative possibilities. But if we really want to steer the future in a positive direction, it's also pretty important that the steering wheel be something that we can actually grasp and control!

So, yeah, I appreciate your phrase "optimistic and achievable" very much. =)



James Lee Hoover wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 02:33 GMT

I agree that the chronological steps leading to scientific conclusions are quite important and perhaps illuminating for the impressionable science student, but I can't help but feel that failing is more recent in methodology for teaching science. Too much focus of late in American education, beset by competition in global tests, is on teaching to the test. Certainly historical perspective is lost when the emphasis is on scientific conclusion and not the discovery nuance.

By "traditional science education," do you mean a test-based focus? Not dealing with a lot of physics and chemistry in my work, in retirement I have worked on this deficiency by reviewing my understanding of physics and chemistry through "The Great Courses," DVD of instruction which certainly look at steps of discovery concerning relativity, particle physics and such.

The Common Core program pushed by the federal government doesn't have this approach, seeming to push instead testing and privatization of education.

Your essay is well-written and focused on needed "a back to the future" perspective, but I wonder how we accomplish that in the current climate that demonizes public education?


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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on May. 1, 2014 @ 14:30 GMT
Hi Jim, Thanks for your thoughtful comments. I certainly agree that there are more (and arguably bigger) problems in education generally, than just the problem of science being taught too un-historically / too dogmatically. In particular, I agree that all the testing -- and the "teaching to the test" that inevitably results -- is a big problem. You also bring up the private vs. public distinction, but in a way I don't really understand: top down mandates from the government (e.g., "Common Core") seem to me to be an inherent aspect of *public* education. So I'm confused about why you suggest that such things "seem to push ... privatization". I'd actually like to see something much closer to a free market in education, where people could vote with their dollars and legs and innovation and success would win out (instead of being stifled by entrenched and self-serving bureaucracies, unions, etc.). But this is an argument for a different day. =) My goal in this essay was not to try to solve all the world's problems in one fell swoop, because that is frankly pretentious and unrealistic, but instead to point to one thing that I think could realistically be improved in a reasonable amount of time and which would have a significant and positive impact on future generations.



James Lee Hoover replied on May. 29, 2014 @ 18:26 GMT

Having had problems with my browser and rating, I am returning to essays I have read and checking if I rated them. I find that I rated yours on 5/13.

Regarding privatization, I am disturbed that forces with a lot of money are pushing charter schools w/o consulting with parents, like Zuckerburg (Facebook) with several hundred million in Newark and like Gates. They mean well but have prejudice against public education and don't consider higher cost of privatized schools and lack of accountability. That's what I meant.

Have you had the chance to look at my essay:


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Mohammed M. Khalil wrote on May. 1, 2014 @ 15:23 GMT
Hi Travis,

Great essay! I agree with you; science education is very important for the progress of science. In your essay, you raised some interesting reasons for improving education. I like how you linked the history of science with the present and the future.

In my essay Improving Science for a Better Future, I touched upon the importance of improving education to accelerate the progress of science. I would be glad to receive your opinion.

Best regards,


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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on May. 2, 2014 @ 13:32 GMT
Hi Mohammed, I will definitely check out your essay -- I'm very interested in what others have to say about how to improve science education. Thanks for the tip!


Vladimir Rogozhin wrote on May. 12, 2014 @ 21:03 GMT
Dear Travis,

Wonderful deep essay on the very important issue for the future of Humanity! I totally agree with you:

«Science education thus inadvertantly tends to make science appear authoritarian and dogmatic.»

«Why not bring" real science "into the classroom, from the beginning, so that everyone can learn it, benefit from it, and apply it to the puzzles whose resolutions...

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Anonymous wrote on May. 20, 2014 @ 00:03 GMT

Having a master's degree in History of Science, and having taught introductory astrophysics with a strong historical approach over the past 20 years, I found your essay particularly interesting. The two case studies that you present, Ptolemy vs Copernicus and Dalton vs Avogadro, are well chosen, and well explained.

To teach a controversy well, to go beyond just saying "there...

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Member Marc Séguin replied on May. 20, 2014 @ 00:04 GMT
I was de-logged... I wrote the previous post. :)

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on May. 24, 2014 @ 20:48 GMT
Marc, thanks, I enjoyed your essay as well!


Anonymous wrote on May. 23, 2014 @ 14:50 GMT
Hi Travis,

Nice work! The examples were very helpful, and I learned some things about history of science from them.

While I agree that science education and scientific approaches to work are important, I wonder if you could elaborate on why this is among the most important factors in shaping the future? If there were more room in the essay, this is what I'd most have liked to see.

Best of luck,

Daniel Dewey

Crucial Phenomena

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Ajay Bhatla wrote on May. 24, 2014 @ 19:36 GMT

Excellent essay. I am in total agreement that Science Education is the key to humanity's future well-being.

In addition, I think we are like-minded on history. In fact, if you get a chance to read my essay (here) you will see many historical references - Ptolemy, Copernicus also make the same point in my essay: the need to cbe open to new or different thinking".

I totally enjoyed your essay. I look forward to your comments on mine.

-- Ajay

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Author Travis Ty Norsen replied on May. 24, 2014 @ 20:49 GMT
Thanks Ajay, I will check out your essay!


Anonymous wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 06:28 GMT
Hi Travis, I enjoyed reading your essay.

I was subjected to Nuffield physics as a child. Quote: "learning for understanding in a course of practical exploration, leading to class discussion, leading in turn to more experimenting and so on, with a constant interplay between class and teacher, maintained by a sense of purpose and curiosity'. The revisers of the course identified three main...

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Georgina Woodward replied on May. 25, 2014 @ 06:31 GMT
That anonymous was me,

May. 25, 2014 @ 06:28 GMT

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Don Limuti wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 06:52 GMT
Hi Travis,

Your essay which could have been titled "Back to the Future" is excellent. In last years essay I made the case that we got stuck with the uncertainty principle because of an historical accident. Now everyone accepts the uncertainty principle without question. Unraveling this knot will require education that reviews the history of uncertainty. Eventually we may say "Did we really do that!"

High Marks,

Don Limuti

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Lawrence B Crowell wrote on May. 25, 2014 @ 18:35 GMT

In teaching physics I occasionally mention some of these historical elements. I also mention in even elementary courses some of the issues with modern developments. Elementary courses of course cover basic things, which within their domain of observation are battle hardened theories. No matter how advanced physics becomes F = ma will still work with standard problems such as the block on an inclined plane. It sometimes is a little hard to make those topics fresh.

I also in elementary physics give a bit of history about gunpowder and cannons with respect to Galileo's equations of motion. It is sometimes interesting to include aspects of what was happening in society at the time of certain scientific developments.


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Peter Jackson wrote on May. 26, 2014 @ 16:38 GMT

That was a truly great essay which was a great relief to read having long been browbeaten for taking that view of QM by those who insist they 'know' precisely how it works.

I also commend and have long argued similar views to yours on teaching. It was a pleasure and privelege to meet your views on the way past in the 5.9's and have the opportunity to help the essay on it's way up.

I could write at length on QM but instead I just hope you'll carefully read the classical reproduction of it's predictions in my essay, circumventing Bell's theorem by employing a different and 'real' starting assumption, though still satisfying Neils Bohr. For; 'collapse to single states etc' substitute; 'only one hemisphere of a rotating body can be interacted with at a time', and geometric derivation of the cosine distribution on the surface of a Bloch sphere as Malus law.

The subjective classroom experiment in the end notes modelling the process has been reproduced. (I have a 'kit' to do so if you'd like it). The model predicts the anomalous data found by both Aspect and Weihs (see also my last years essay). There was much more which had to be excluded but I hope you may anyway think mine of similar value to yours. I greatly look forward to your comments and advice in any event.

Best wishes.


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KoGuan Leo wrote on May. 27, 2014 @ 13:00 GMT
Dear Travis,

I share your idea. Your essay is wonderful. I like these sentences: "The idea of incorporating historical material and perspectives into the science curriculum – so that students focus more on “interesting puzzles and how they were resolved” and less on “truths to be accepted”"

And, "We should expect all of this, that is, if we can resist the impulse to dismiss the controversy as “metaphysical” or otherwise meaningless and unscientific. Unfortunately, though, the standard pedagogical orthodoxy on this particular controversy remains “shut up and calculate”. [11] Students, that is, are deliberately shielded from the existence of a controversy, and advised against wasting time thinking about it (should they somehow learn of its existence)." Unfortunately Feynman's "shut up and calculate" philosophy has become an orthodox philosophy ironically mocking other new theories as "philosophy".

If you have time please read mine and I advance KQID theory that reveals and explains the what, how and why Existence.

I rated your wisdom essay a ten (10).

I wish you the best,

Leo KoGuan

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