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Author Topic: Were your textbooks wrong?
DoctorWho

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2004 18:13      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I noticed a few things here, and that made me think. It's no wonder the educational system is in such a lousy state. Some of the teachers may be lousy, but the least the text book writers and publisher could do is make sure the books they supply to schools are correct.

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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2004 21:02      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
While some of his points are fair enough, others are just plain nit-picking bastardry.

This guy needs to get a life.


(I know, I know. Pot, kettle .....)

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted May 20, 2004 21:26      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Oh bloody hell. There were a couple things I took immediate exception to. First of all, as the author said, the scientific method as present in K-6 texts is not entirely correct HOWEVER it is not pure bs as the author claims. I work in a lab. I do science for a living, and I DO employ the scientific method. We all do. We havea model we're working with and a question we're asking. These models, aka hypotheses, can be quite complicated but they exist. Without them, our work is meaningless. Second, it's not about doing experiments. It's about making specific observations that test your model/hypothesis. In biochem, we can do this in a very controlled fashion at the bench and we call it an experiment. In paleotonlogy, they dig into the Earth to find their data. The paleontologists know where to look and what they're looking for, just as I, at my benchtop in my comfy lab, know what I'm looking for and how to find it (assuming it's even there to be found). The same goes for astronomers searching the sky. In short, K-6 texts aren't so much wrong in this regard as oversimplified.

quote:
Gases are USUALLY less dense than liquids, although gases under fiercely high pressure can approach the density of liquids, so that's not a good criterion.
Okay, you pressurize a gas enough, it goes to liquid, unless you're past the critical point in which case there's no liquid or gas - just supercritical fluid. Basic physical chemistry. If the author doesn't believe me, he can get a college text and look up a phase diagram.

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nekomatic
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 01:55      Profile for nekomatic     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Coincidentally, I just circulated this to my colleagues (rtf file), which I found here via a link from a recent J. Chem. Ed. article. It's a slightly more considered look at the reality of what working scientists do (or at least, think they do) versus the picture presented in textbooks. I don't think the distinction is mere nitpicking, because it goes to the heart of why so many kids start out liking science (possibly without realising it) and school manages to turn them off it - the reduction of the messy, fun, exciting, frustrating, sociable adventure of scientific investigation to a tedious cut-and-dried one-way street of "hypothesis-experiment-conclusion". The whole process of doing "experiments" in school science is a sham anyway, because the next step for the kids after "conclusion" is invariably "get marked right or wrong". Funnily enough, there's no teacher around to tell me what I'm going to find in the lab today is right or not, still less what it means! [Roll Eyes]

The only listed "misconception" I'd take serious exception to is the one with the balloons - seems to me it shows pretty clearly that if you put more air into a balloon it weighs more, ergo air is not weightless - whether you had to compress the air to get it in the balloon doesn't seem relevant. And on the subject of nit-picking bastardry, the singular of "phenomena" is not "phenomena" [Mad]

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 03:25      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Science is too hard for little kids to understand. Most of it is too complicated for me to understand, and I'm studying for my PhD.
So teach them a simplified syllabus, and don't be an asshole about "the truth."

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 03:34      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Science is too hard for little kids to understand. Most of it is too complicated for me to understand, and I'm studying for my PhD.
So teach them a simplified syllabus, and don't be an asshole about "the truth."

Quite right! Also, the author is neglecting the fact that it can be very instructive to learn the wrong way first - as a later clarification can then arrive with a greater emphasis. What I'm trying to say is that you can get a deeper understanding of a scientific notion by arguing yourself out of a previously-taught falsehood.

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Doco

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 07:01      Profile for Doco   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I think this guy is way off. I agree that the K-6 version of hypothesis-experiment-conclusion is a bit simplified it is essentially correct.

His theory that air is just like "blue powder" and not because of Raleigh Scattering is just f'ing wrong. Air is not just blue. It is essentially transparent - just that it doesn't let all light go through it in a straight line.

He is trying to show the world that textbooks are all wrong and he gets it wrong himself. Not worth listening to him.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 07:41      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Um, so I didn't read the thing about weightless air, but, uh, since air has mass and is subject to the force of gravity, it kinda sorta has to have weight, right?

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DoctorWho

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 08:36      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Xan, he didn't say air was weightless,

quote:
We are not conscious of air's weight because we are immersed within it. In the same way, even a large bag of water seems weightless when it is immersed in a water tank. The bag of water in the tank is supported by buoyancy. In a similar way, buoyancy from the atmosphere makes a bag of air seem weightless when it's surrounded by air. One way to discover the real weight of air would be to take a bag of air into a vacuum chamber. Another way is to weigh a pressurized and an unpressurized football. A cubic meter of air at sea-level pressure and 0C temperature has a mass of 1.2KG. The non-metric rule of thumb says that the air that would fill a bathtub weighs about one pound. Here's a simple way to detect the mass of air even though the air seems weightless: open an umbrella, wiggle it slightly forwards and back, then close it and wiggle it again. When you wiggle it when open, you can feel its increased mass because of the air the umbrella must carry with it. (Ah, but then we must explain the difference between weight and mass!)
He may be making some nit picky points, but isn't science supposed to be a precise discipline? Shouldn't special care be taken phrasing concepts accurately so that when a scientific concept is presented, the presenter is not ambiguous? I know my K-12 science teachers did a horrible job of it. When I got to college, I had to relearn alot of basic concepts. I guess part of it is that scientific understanding changed, but I also think that in some cases the books were flat out wrong.

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DoctorWho

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 08:57      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Doco, he is not entirely wrong about why the sky is blue. Think about it for a moment; the reason we see an object as red or blue or green, is because that object is bouncing that color light into our eye. Well that is what the air is doing, bouncing the blue light into our eye, it just takes a lot of air to do it. Look at a pane of "colorless" glass on its flat side, and then look at it edge on. While it looks clear on the flat side, it looks blue-green on edge. It's the same basic concept. He does even say that the Tyndall effect, and Rayleigh scattering are correct explanations. He just simplified it for a person that doesn't understand the complex physics.

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 08:57      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
Science is not entirely precise, or to put it another way, often variables are ignored. In the umbrella experiment the bloke suggests, the increased resistance felt could be due to the increase of mass from the acceleration on the umbrella using Einsteins theory of general relativity. He has not proved that air has weight. It is impossible to measure every variable in an experiment, which is why a control is always necessary. Most (I want to say all, but I am sure some creative person will prove me wrong) of science is based on models which are approximations. All of the laws of motion taught at schools are Newtonian. This is not an accurate model of what is going on, but you can't teach school kids relativity. Instead, Newtons laws are an acceptable approximation to what is happening on the lab scale.
Most of the explanations this guy "debunks" are like that. No, the world doesn't work exactly like that, but it is a reasonable explanation of the phenomenon. His explanations are also leaving out bits of information, but different bits.

Anyway, I don't think this is a problem with science, or even science teaching. I found that a lot of satisfaction comes from understanding when the rules break down, and why. It is also fun to sneer at people who have a naive view of electrons orbiting a nucleus (for example).

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DoctorWho

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 09:15      Profile for DoctorWho     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
In the umbrella experiment the bloke suggests, the increased resistance felt could be due to the increase of mass from the acceleration on the umbrella using Einsteins theory of general relativity. He has not proved that air has weight.

He didn't say that it proves air has weight, he said it proves air has mass, and he did say that there is a difference between mass and weight.

Further on he gives this experiment
quote:
To better demonstrate the weight of air directly, hook a heavy bottle to a vacuum pump, pump all the air out, seal it, then weigh the bottle. Break the seal and let the air in, then weigh it again. The difference in weight is the weight of the air contained in the bottle. Another: use a balance to compare the weight of two vacuum-containing bottles, then open one of them so it becomes filled with air. The bottles will then weigh differently, and the difference is the true weight of the air in one bottle. Or another: build a balance using upside-down paper bags, then place a candle below one of them, then remove the candle again. That bag rises, indicating that a volume of warm air weighs slightly less than a volume of cool air. (Don't set the bag on fire!!) But note that this candle experiment says nothing simple and direct about the actual weight of a volume of unheated air.
quote:
Anyway, I don't think this is a problem with science, or even science teaching. I found that a lot of satisfaction comes from understanding when the rules break down, and why. It is also fun to sneer at people who have a naive view of electrons orbiting a nucleus (for example).
As the guy says on the same page

quote:
Another example: great discoveries often come about when scientists notice anomalies. Isaac Asimov said it well:

"The most exciting phrase to hear in science, the one that heralds new discoveries, is not 'Eureka!' (I found it!) but 'That's funny...' "



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The Famous Druid

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Icon 1 posted May 21, 2004 15:18      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by CrawGator:
Xan, he didn't say air was weightless,

quote:
Here's a simple way to detect the mass of air even though the air seems weightless: open an umbrella, wiggle it slightly forwards and back, then close it and wiggle it again. When you wiggle it when open, you can feel its increased mass because of the air the umbrella must carry with it.


Ah, but one could argue that the resistance was due to some other force, nothing to do with the mass of air.
Maybe it's an electrical effect that's greater when the umbrella is open, some interaction with the Earths magnetic field perhaps. To eliminate this possibility you'd need to repeat the experiment in a vacuum chamber.

The balloon example is actually a far simpler and less ambiguous demonstration that it's the weight of the air we're measuring.

Moral: If you're going to be a nit-picking bastard, it's very important to be right.

(Crawgator speaking now)

He may be making some nit picky points, but isn't science supposed to be a precise discipline? Shouldn't special care be taken phrasing concepts accurately so that when a scientific concept is presented, the presenter is not ambiguous?


No, Science should be taught as a series of successive approximations, which pretty-much mirrors how it was discovered in the first place.

There are 2 reasons for this, one philosophical, the other practical.

Philosophical: Science is not a collection of facts, it's a process for learning about the Universe. The collection of facts is just the result of a bunch of people doing Science. If you're teaching Science, you should be teaching the process, which usually involves successive approximations.

Practical: Anyone fancy teaching Quantum Mechanics to a room-full of 10 year olds?


I know my K-12 science teachers did a horrible job of it. When I got to college, I had to relearn alot of basic concepts.

Actually, I had to un-learn a lot of what they taught in high-school. All that Newtonian physics, and the Rutherford atom.....

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MrMachineCode
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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2004 09:19      Profile for MrMachineCode     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by spungo:
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Science is too hard for little kids to understand. Most of it is too complicated for me to understand, and I'm studying for my PhD.
So teach them a simplified syllabus, and don't be an asshole about "the truth."

Quite right! Also, the author is neglecting the fact that it can be very instructive to learn the wrong way first - as a later clarification can then arrive with a greater emphasis. What I'm trying to say is that you can get a deeper understanding of a scientific notion by arguing yourself out of a previously-taught falsehood.
[Mad] Are you NUTS??? [Mad] Just as bad habits are hard to drop, it's hard to argue an ignoramus out of a long-held belief that is just plain wrong. Most of these students will now never recognize truth when they hear it, because they will continue to believe the first thing they were taught, whether it was correct or not. How does it help them to learn something that is "easier to learn" but WRONG? When they take a test years later, and can remember all this "easy" stuff but it is not true and they flunk the test, or in real life when they try to apply this "easy to remember" but WRONG 'science' and it doesn't work, how can it possibly in any way have been a help to them? Learning something that's incorrect isn't a preparation for learning the right thing, it's just a case of a teacher wasting everyone's time because she's too lazy to teach the right way.

I had a science teacher one time who decided that the concept of osmosis was "too hard" for junior high students to grasp, so she decided to teach just the opposite to the class so "they could remember it easier." She taught the class to disregard what the science book said and to remember that osmosis causes water to flow OUT of plant roots because the higher concentration of other chemicals in the roots "leaves no room for the water to get in." Only three students argued with her: me, on the grounds that that is just the opposite of what science teaches us, another student argued that the book agreed with me, not the teacher, and a third student on the commonsense line: he was a farmer, and he knew that plants are supposed to absorb water in through their roots. The teacher got more and more flustered and argued with us through the entire class period that osmosis always causes water to flow out of organisms because there "isn't any room left inside for the water with all that other junk inside cells". She was on the point of sending all three of the dissenting students to the principal's office (even though we debated her civilly, it was she who was shouting.) After class was over, the teacher confided in me that, quote, "Oh yes, of course *I* know how osmosis really works, but that's much too hard a concept for those students to understand. I was trying to teach them this way so they would remember it."

The funny part of the story was that the teacher administered a test that came with the book, and since she didn't bother to re-write the test, it was based on the real science from the book, not the simple but wrong explaination she gave. When the test came back graded, the only three people who got the questions on osmosis right were we three dissenters. All of the rest of the class, who had been arguing with us that day that they didn't care what the truth was, they were just going to go along with what the teacher said, got all of the questions on osmosis wrong. So what did it benefit them to learn a falsehood?

I'm sure that to this day, if you ask them about osmosis, they will still give the same, wrong answer. Once you get something into a stupid person's head, it's like embedding it in concrete, you'll never get it out.

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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 22, 2004 09:49      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Are you NUTS??? Just as bad habits are hard to drop, it's hard to argue an ignoramus out of a long-held belief that is just plain wrong
Arguing with dumb people is stupid anyway. There is always the chance that they will drag you down to their level, and beat you with experience.

To clarify my point, people should know approximately how the world functions. If people are taught that atoms have electrons orbiting a nucleus, that is good enough for most peoples needs. If you want to tell "the truth", then you need to use very complicated maths, and use words that you don't get taught in English class. It is impossible to teach this sort of thing to high school kids, and if you don't teach these kids basic ("wrong") science, they will know fsck all about the world. It is better to be half right than to be completely ignorant.

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spungo
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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 02:32      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by MrMachineCode:
quote:
Originally posted by spungo:
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
Science is too hard for little kids to understand. Most of it is too complicated for me to understand, and I'm studying for my PhD.
So teach them a simplified syllabus, and don't be an asshole about "the truth."

Quite right! Also, the author is neglecting the fact that it can be very instructive to learn the wrong way first - as a later clarification can then arrive with a greater emphasis. What I'm trying to say is that you can get a deeper understanding of a scientific notion by arguing yourself out of a previously-taught falsehood.
[Mad] Are you NUTS??? [Mad] Just as bad habits are hard to drop, it's hard to argue an ignoramus out of a long-held belief that is just plain wrong.
I was kind of assuming that the individual in question was normal / reasonably open-minded, and therefore unlikely to stick to a false belief once overwhelming evidence to the contrary had been presented. If this isn't the case, well, then they can get stuffed.

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 09:44      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by littlefish:
[QUOTE] If people are taught that atoms have electrons orbiting a nucleus, that is good enough for most peoples needs. If you want to tell "the truth", then you need to use very complicated maths, and use words that you don't get taught in English class. It is impossible to teach this sort of thing to high school kids, and if you don't teach these kids basic ("wrong") science, they will know fsck all about the world. It is better to be half right than to be completely ignorant.

Yeah, in HS I was taught that electrons have specific orbits and the shape of the orbit depends on the valence shell they're in (p-orbitals are different from s and so on). Only later, when I'd been presented with the Schrodinger equation and given enough to sorta kinda not really grasp it, was I taught that the electron orbitals aren't defined paths at all. They are, quite simply, the places where you are most likely going to find an electron at a given energy level. But try explaining that to a high school junior who's had no calculus and only the most elementary probablility (as in, you have six blue marbles and five red marbles, if you don't put marbles back in the box, how likely are you to pull out five red marbles in a row?).

MrMachineCode - your experience is the fault of your teacher, not the books.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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spungo
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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 12:44      Profile for spungo     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
Yeah, in HS I was taught that electrons have specific orbits and the shape of the orbit depends on the valence shell they're in (p-orbitals are different from s and so on). Only later, when I'd been presented with the Schrodinger equation and given enough to sorta kinda not really grasp it, was I taught that the electron orbitals aren't defined paths at all. They are, quite simply, the places where you are most likely going to find an electron at a given energy level. But try explaining that to a high school junior who's had no calculus and only the most elementary probablility (as in, you have six blue marbles and five red marbles, if you don't put marbles back in the box, how likely are you to pull out five red marbles in a row?).

Thank you. That was precisely the example I wanted to use... but I couldn't be bothered. [Smile]

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 13:44      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I was inspired by fish's comment about the Rutherford atom.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 15:01      Profile for dragonman97   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
BTW, all this has made me wonder - can anyone younger, (or older, with kids in school) tell me what concepts they're teaching (if any) about computers in schools these days? Do they say "Well, they work on zeroes and ones, and that's all I'm going to tell you," or do they give slightly more descriptive ideas. I bet they don't even consider this stuff important enough to teach - *sigh.* I also know they're not going to teach kids about AND/OR/NAND/NOR gates [evil] . People really take computers for granted - and to many, they're just magical boxes that don't work very well oftentimes [Wink] . I was very pleased when one day, Xanthine probably summed up stuff I've pointed out to her, and that she's observed through other means - she said "Computers are stupid;" they do what you tell them to do, nothing more, nothing less (the latter part is paraphrased). This is exactly right, and this is why it takes as much work as it does to get them to do all the amazing things we have them doing. If you're a computer science person, just take a moment right now to think of all the things that are transpiring in the CPU, hardware, and networks to display this very post to you, and run whatever applications you may have running in the background. Is it simple? --In some ways - yes (i.e. compared to stuff in nature). Nonetheless, I find it mindboggling at times.

Oh, and if you're not a computer science person, just hug the next one you see, and thank them for their work [Razz] .

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Xanthine

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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 15:16      Profile for Xanthine     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I amend that. Computers aren't just stupid - they are fscking dumb.

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And it's one, two, three / On the wrong side of the lee / What were you meant for? / What were you meant for?
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littlefish
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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 15:35      Profile for littlefish   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
I did a bit of electronics at school (AS level- got a B). So I understand the basics- what an amplifier does, all the gates, and how they can all be made from NOR's (if I remember rightly). Made a flip flop, basic counter etc. I still don't properly understand how these get put together in a high level system, but I do appreciate the complexity. And if you need a hug Dman, I'm always here! [Wink]
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Icon 1 posted May 23, 2004 15:46      Profile for The Famous Druid     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
I was very pleased when one day, Xanthine probably summed up stuff I've pointed out to her, and that she's observed through other means - she said "Computers are stupid;" they do what you tell them to do, nothing more, nothing less

*sigh*

If only things were that simple. [Frown] [ohwell] [shake head]

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If you watch 'The History Of NASA' backwards, it's about a space agency that has no manned spaceflight capability, then does low-orbit flights, then lands on the Moon.

Posts: 10659 | From: Melbourne, Australia | Registered: Oct 2002  |  IP: Logged
Stibbons
SuperBlabberMouth!
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Icon 7 posted May 24, 2004 02:22      Profile for Stibbons   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by dragonman97:
Oh, and if you're not a computer science person, just hug the next one you see, and thank them for their work [Razz] .

If all goes to plan, i turn into a (quarter of a) computer science person in a few months. Does that mean random people will start hugging me? Would be nice [Wink]
Posts: 1140 | From: UK | Registered: Dec 2003  |  IP: Logged
angryjungman

Solid Nitrozanium SuperFan!
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Icon 1 posted May 24, 2004 06:16      Profile for angryjungman   Author's Homepage     Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post   Reply With Quote 
quote:
Originally posted by Xanthine:
you have six blue marbles and five red marbles, if you don't put marbles back in the box, how likely are you to pull out five red marbles in a row?

p = 0.00216 [evil] [Big Grin]

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Meh.

Posts: 633 | From: princeton, nj | Registered: Nov 2003  |  IP: Logged


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