Posted in Educational Reform, Independent Education, Inspiration, Tips for Students

That’s Just The Way It Is…NOT, Part 3

So many aspects of our modern lives and the way society is structured are taken for granted, and we just assume things are the way they are because they have to be that way. This series of posts looks at a few of the hidden assumptions we commonly make about education.

You Have To Go To College If You Want A Good Job

This conventional wisdom of the baby boom era is erroneous in two ways:

1. It is no longer true that you have to go to college to get a “good job”

and

2. It is no longer true that you have to get a “good job” to have a successful, exciting, satisfying, or rewarding career.

“What do you want to do?” is no longer synonymous with “What job do you want to have?”, but can more and more be answered quite literally:

“I want to go on adventures”

“I want to write”

“I want to make art”

“I want to help people discover themselves”

“I want to photograph wildlife”

“I want to heal people”

“I want to make people laugh”

“I want to create companies”

“I want to teach”

Any of these or countless similar aspirations can indeed form the foundation of a successful career.  Just as the huge lumbering dinosaurs were replaced by small, nimble, and adaptable mammals as environmental conditions changed, the changing technological environment and the resultant diffusion of the means of economic productivity is causing the huge, monolithic organization to become extinct, quickly to be replaced by tiny start-ups and independent solo operators.

These days you can be a freelance just-about-anything, and the opportunities to create a totally new career from scratch are only limited by the restrictions on the human imagination.  From 16-year-old sailors circumnavigating the globe, to 17-year-old nuclear physicists, to whole families bicycling around the world, more and more lifestyle pioneers are showing us all that life can be about so much more than getting a “good job” – if you want it to be.

Posted in Books, Physics

Feynman On Memorization

Excerpted from Feynman’s Tips on Physics, by Richard P. Feynman:

It will not do to memorize the formulas, and to say to yourself, “I know all the formulas; all I gotta do is figure out how to put ’em in the problem!”

Now, you may succeed with this for a while, and the more you work on memorizing the formulas, the longer you’ll go on with this method – but it doesn’t work in the end.

You might say, “I’m not gonna believe him, because I’ve always been successful: that’s the way I’ve always done it; I’m always gonna do it that way.”

You are not always going to do it that way: you’re going to flunk – not this year, not next year, but eventually, when you get your job, or something – you’re going to lose along the line somewhere, because physics is an enormously extended thing: there are millions of formulas! It’s impossible to remember all the formulas – it’s impossible!

And the great thing that you’re ignoring, the powerful machine that you’re not using, is this: suppose Figure 1 – 19 is a map of all the physics formulas, all the relations in physics. (It should have more than two dimensions, but let’s suppose it’s like that.)


Now, suppose that something happened to your mind, that somehow all the material in some region was erased, and there was a little spot of missing goo in there. The relations of nature are so nice that it is possible, by logic, to “triangulate” from what is known to what’s in the hole. (See Fig. 1-20.)

And you can re-create the things that you’ve forgotten perpetually – if you don’t forget too much, and if you know enough. In other words, there comes a time – which you haven’t quite got to, yet – where you’ll know so many things that as you forget them, you can reconstruct them from the pieces that you can still remember. It is therefore of first-rate importance that you know how to “triangulate” – that is, to know how to figure something out from what you already know. It is absolutely necessary. You might say, “Ah, I don’t care; I’m a goodmemorizer! In fact, I took a course in memory!”

That still doesn’t work! Because the real utility of physicists – both to discover new laws of nature, and to develop new things in industry, and so on – is not to talk about what’s already known, but to do something new – and so they triangulate out from the known things: they make a “triangulation” that no one has ever made before. (See Fig. 1-21.)

In order to learn how to do that, you’ve got to forget the memorizing of formulas, and to try to learn to understand the interrelationships of nature. That’s very much more difficult at the beginning, but it’s the only successful way.

Posted in Inspiration, Online Tutoring, Tips for Students

How Tutoring Can Help With Physics

German-born theoretical physicist Albert Einstein.

“The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.” — Albert Einstein

All of us are intuitive physicists, and all of us use physics on a daily basis. Physical reasoning is involved in everything from how we move our bodies, to how we interact with the world, to the countless transfers of energy that we witness and participate in every day. How is it possible for a person’s body and nervous system to understand how to balance on two legs while walking across the floor, toss a wad of paper into a trash can across the room, catch a thrown set of keys from five paces, and control a massive vehicle moving at freeway speeds, yet not have the innate capacity to refine these types of processes into a systematic form of thinking? It is not. If you have the capacity to think and move, you have the capacity to understand and speak the language of physics.

If you are feeling left behind in physics class, the problem is not your lack of ability. The problem is that your natural interest in the subject has been negated by unpleasant past experiences and/or the subject has not been presented for you in a way that is in alignment with the way you naturally process information. The solution: a caring, attentive tutor who can relate to your frustrations while working with your natural mental process of physical reasoning to help you refine and systematize it. Problem solved.