Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Out On A Quantum Limb

Barbara: I was never a very science-y, math-y type of person. In fact, in my last years of high school, I scraped by in Chemistry, never took Physics, and completely flunked Math. I know, I know, if I’d had the right teacher or the right method, I might have grasped one or all of these. Believe me when I say it’s one of my life-regrets that I didn’t. Oh, to be mathematically savvy—and more importantly, to believe yourself so!!

So imagine how surprised I was (and still am) when I got an email from a friend the other day asking if I wanted to go with her to an 8-week course on, wait, how did she put it? … Oh yeah, like this: “It is about quantum physics + the metaphysical implications of the findings of theoretical physics.” Officially titled Philosophy and Quantum Physics. I could barely understand my friend’s sentence, never mind understand a course like this, never mind understand why I wanted to take it with every fibre of my being.

Here are some of the other pithy tidbits designed to seduce a plebe like me: The wave particle duality - what is the ultimate reality behind light and matter?
· The Heisenberg uncertainty principle - the consciousness of the observer seems to intrude into the physical world. What does it mean?
· The Schrödinger wave equation - What is its significance?
· Quantum Entanglement - the ultimate connectedness of all matter.

I’m sure there are many of you reading this who can not only get it all, but can argue, delve, debate, trumpet, agree and disagree. But I am not one of you. And yet, last night I took my (as it turned out unnecessary) notebook (okay, unnecessary in that this was designed to be a sit-in-a-circle-and contribute kind of course) and my meek little mind to this actually very comfortable and intimate classroom. There I found myself amidst other curious beings of various aptitudes and began an adventure that I am thrilled and excited to be part of.

I haven’t knowingly been hungering for classes or lessons, although I do remember bemoaning on these very pages that I envied the lesson-takers (thanks, Deb, for that unwitting shot in the arm). And here, a mere week later, the universe has seen fit to offer me a mind-shifting microcosm. And I have seen fit to jump in with both my ears and mind open. Woo-hoo!

I’ll see you on the other side of the Quantum Leap (or, if they make their case, now–– because now and then is all happening at the same time).

DebThe closest I come to understanding what you're talking about is loving the show Quantum Leap with Scott Bakula. I understood every single word of that show, so, ummmm, just sayin’ I think I would be top of the class!

Barb, I am so so proud and happy for you. Learning! And learning impressive stuff. You have inspired me right back! I may just go out and become an astronaut. Can’t wait to hear more on these very pages!!!! Wait. Is Scott teaching it by any chance ‘cause...

37 comments:

  1. I think this is a fantastic idea, Barb! It sounds like a great opportunity to learn something new and interesting (albiet, I am not a science and math person). I think it is great that you are taking this chance to learn. I too crave knowledge and look for any and all opportunities to learn and understand a new topic, idea, subject, etc. Have fun! :)

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    1. This is what I'm most anticipating: learning and broadening. Even if I don't get it all.

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    2. Exactly.
      "The purpose of education is to replace an empty mind with an open one."

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  2. Ooo, I'll go if Scott is teaching too!

    What a fun opportunity you have. I love science, but without any mind for math, studying science was never an option. If I had the math ability and knew what in the world my high school chemistry teacher was talking about, I would have loved to do geology or astronomy.

    Still, it's fun to learn and the enjoyment should never end. My grandmother is 87. She loves taking community classes. Last year she took a current events class. Two years ago she took a class where they read and discussed many Sherlock Holmes books. You're never too old to learn something new. Have fun in physics!

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    1. Yeah, I'd be down with Scott too (so watched that show!) I hope to be like your grandmother, Molly, out there learning as long as I can. (and PS I was always interested in archeology, so...)

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  3. Good for you, Barb!!!! :)

    Physics is something WAY over my head, even though this is coming from me the biology major! I hope that you enjoy learning something new (and difficult, from my understanding)

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    1. Well, with the right teacher, maybe it won't be way over our heads. I'll keep you posted.

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  4. Great you said Schrodinger now all I can think of is Schrodingers cat.

    Good for you Barb for keeping an open mind and giving it a shot.
    I've been thinking about doing a few courses myself lately but I just don't see how in the world I'd fit it in. I barely find time to shower these days never mind trying to take classes. Anything to do with math probably wouldn't be my first choice however. I passed grade 12 physics by the skin of my teeth seriously I think my official grade was 50R as in R for rounded-up. Math makes me go all buggy eyed.
    Deb loved Quantum Leap! In fact thanks to my hubby a collector of all things sci-fi we have the full series. I must say though that the effects look pretty darn corny if you watch it now.

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    1. It's funny, Erin, how time (and so life) opens up once those kids are grown. Stuff I would never have done before suddenly seem a piece of cake now (even energy-wise, normally I'd be catatonic in the evening, but now there's just that much less to ORGANIZE) I haven't watched Quantum Leap in, well, since it came out!

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    2. lol me too.... i immediately remembered Sheldon :D

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  5. Like you I sucked at science and math. Unlike you if anyone suggested that I attend a quantum physics course I would suggest that they take a long walk off a short pier.

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    1. Yeah, but I bet there's something unexpected that could come up that might entice you to grab your buddy off that pier...

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  6. oh wow, I don't have a clue what you are talking about. the only thing I was ever good at in school was algebra, drama, astronomy and english.great job for you Barb. And Deb I,think,it would be cool to be an astronaut. it would be so cool to float around In space.

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    1. I don't know, Lydsie, that's a pretty impressive list! I mean, algebra. Bravo. (yes, to dream of space :) )

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  7. I would so not take this class. But I will be thrilled to learn all about it from you. Reminds me of the time I tried to take a course in meditation. I feel asleep every time and after a few sessions called it quits. I could do that in my own bed. Have fun. I showed great aptitude in math and science but never really got into either. I could have been a doctor.......

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    1. So funny, Madge! And I'll keep you posted on what I think might be of interest. We'll see!

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  8. Wow Barb....I am so happy for you !!! Quantum physics is very intriguing....
    and lol Deb "is Scott teaching it by any chance." ......wow that was---IS HE ??? ;)

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    1. Only in my mind ... but maybe that's the same thing ;)

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    2. ohh.....MY GIRL IS LEARNING !!!!! I feel so proud :D

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  9. I think one of the most powerful moments I had as a teacher was realizing that sometimes, there's no preparation for a concept - you just have to throw students in to the deep end and then help them learn how to tread water. After that, I frequently tossed freshmen the "hardest" of the French philosophers, because why not? And best of all, at the end of the term, they always knew the material - and I had also always learned something from them.

    It really made me rethink my entire pedagogical approach, and these days, if I hear someone saying that they don't understand X or are not good at Y, my impulse is to throw them into the nearest "deep end" of the topic. :-)

    I look forward to hearing more about what you're learning in the class - quantum mechanics is FASCINATING!

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    1. Actually, I LOVE this. Don't let people talk themselves out of things, just go for it, or 'throw them in the deep end". Yes. love it.

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  10. I'm with Deb on this. I have no idea what that sentence meant. Barb, I applaud your determination to get through it, or at least get what you can from it.

    My mind has never been math/numbers oriented. I did okay in Physics and math in high school, but once I hit college, whole different situation. I had to take Chem I twice, ("in the final analysis" is all I remember from the first round. That's ALL the professor ever said.) I passed college Physics because the final exam was essay-style. I can WRITE about just about anything, so thank god that was the case. I passed Biochemistry because the scale brought me up to a D.

    Suffice it to say, I wouldn't do well in Quantum Physics. I'd much rather take a course I wouldn't be as frustrated trying to understand. I did a lot better in the Liberal Arts classes. So of course, I majored in Microbiology. I ended up going back to school for that, but it was a specific course based on hospital lab work. I did fantastic on that, and was able to work in the field for 15 years before having to give up that job due to my health issues.

    Go for it, Barb. Go for it and have fun with it.

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    1. I have no doubt you'd have them running in quantum circles in no time if you were with me, Dawn! I will have fun, I just quantum know it, thanks!

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  11. Sharon(GAFIATed) ReineFebruary 1, 2012 at 1:55 PM

    Scott Bakula!! I go back to "Romance/Romance" w him - pre Quantum Leap ( clue: i am not young) He was on Men of a Certain Age- did that get renewed?
    Most of what I've learned about Physics since high school has been either practical applications or through following up on "The Big Bang Theory" episode titles. ( their consultant has a bloggy thing where he explains the science stuff of the shows) Good on ya Barb!
    I didn't contribute to the Yearning topic but here is a quote from Leslie Fish's song "Hope Eyrie"
    "We know well what Life can tell
    If you would not perish then grow!"
    ........
    And the Old Earth smiles at her childrens reach,
    The wave that carried us up the beach,
    To reach for the shining sun"
    Keep GROWING!!

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    1. Ohhhh, that is so lovely. Thanks Sharon. I didn't know BBT had its own geek-blog. Should check it out.

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  12. Okay, I admit it. I watch The Big Bang Theory. I heard about some of those things. I know Schrödinger has a very famous cat that is both alive and dead at the same time. But, that's about it.

    I'm married to a mathematician (please don't hold it against me!). When he was writing his Masters' thesis, he asked me to read it - especially the apology and introduction - to see if I understand it. I'm not into the heavy-duty math like my husband. So, I read the apology and introduction. I understood the first few pages of it (which shocked me).

    Please note: just because my husband can do Math doesn't mean he can do Arithmetic. A Canadian, Russian, Jew and Arab (all mathematicians) walk into an Indian restaurant to have a meal. After the meal, they receive their check. All their meals were on one check they couldn't figure out how to divide it four ways...

    Anyway ... Barb. Good Luck with the class. Even if you don't take any physics content out of the class, you rediscovered your love of learning (and that's always cool). And, that's what I love about being a note-taker at the post-secondary level. I learn about stuff. Will I ever use it? Probably not. I don't see myself as a contestant on Jeopardy. But, I'm addicted to learning (and I never know what Odin will be deeply interested in next).

    [On a completely different note, I lost my job because I was on probation, and I missed too many days because I was sick - not surprised. So, I'm lounging around (trying not to fall into a depression over this), working on getting well, and going back to note taking for a while, and then will try again to look for full-time employment.]

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    1. Jo, that's funny about the math versus arithmetic business. I would never have thought that.

      And I am so very sorry about the job. I know you were worried, but I also remember you saying, "Well, then it wasn't meant to be", and I hope you can live in that head space for most of this. I am sure sure sure you will land on your feet -- you have too many awesome skills. But get better first!!

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    2. Sorry to hear that Jo! Get better, soon! *hugs*

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    3. Barb, as my husband keeps telling me, arithmetic is a field of mathematics, but it's not one he focused his math studies on set theory (which is "taking a bunch of things and putting them in a line"). Granted, right now he's a Math tutor at the University, so he's become a bit knowledgeable in various areas...

      Barb - you're right. I do have that in my head (re: ex-job). I just working on building that bridge and getting over it. I just need to focus on getting over my pneumonia, and getting rested up. The note taking isn't very demanding, and I have the added bonus of being able to focus on Odin as needed (January was a good month for him - for the most part). It's Shopping for High Schools season, and Odin has agreed with the school I picked (for the best programming for him) because it has a Model UN. LOL.. :)

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    4. You see? I love that your time (although sadly missing the nice work and infused with icky illness) is needed on that other important gig. Well, 2 other important gigs: you and Odin! xo

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  13. Holy Molecule!
    I had had Physics (even took an Astronomy course), but I've always struggled with it (although I enjoyed Maths).

    Right now, I couldn't care less about numbers, formulas and stuff. Next week I have an exam in Computer Science (Java Programming and Databases), and I don't understand anything (Databases is ok, but Java? Help me!). I just hope I pass it.
    I feel soooo stupid. :/
    I'm good at website encoding (HTML, XML), but programming...is so difficult.

    Anyway...

    I like it, when complicated theories and concepts are explained in a simple and graphic way. Like, when you can try stuff out in museums (anyone knows the "German Museum" in Munich? There you can experience Physics, it's awesome!).
    And I think it's really interesting to discuss about things, even philosophize (is that a word?) about them. It's really fascinating what people can discover.

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    1. Ooh, sounds like you're into lots of interesting stuff, even if you don't love all of it. Some of the elements you clicked with must have surprised you???

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  14. Looking forward to your report, Barb, it sounds fascinating ... more like the things discussed in the amazing The Holographic Universe than any schoolbookish math or science ... maybe it all boils down to how these things are presented.

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  15. @Becki, I too had an astronomy course. Too much math (I DESPISE math. I've concluded that you have to have a certain brain for it and I deeply appreciate and respect those certain brains, but I sure as heck am NOT one of them).

    But you give me a lab, a protocol, and some stuff to make, I'm good! :)

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    1. I don't remember much. :D
      But it wasn't too bad.

      I enjoyed watching the stars. We once went out on a field (it was a coooold night), and I could see the rings of Saturn, which was sooo amazing!

      Everybody has different talents! =)

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  16. Bravo, Barb.
    I love how giddy with excitement you are about your classes.
    Those are way beyond my math skills.
    Call me when they start up a Quantum Margarita course.
    We can sip Rita's and discuss the Quantum Entanglement of tortilla chips and
    The Frazier uncertainty principle of who gets the last Nacho. ;)
    HUGS,
    Karen

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