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(Gawker)   Ivy-league physics professor starts class by stripping while showing footage of Hitler and 9/11. Then it gets weird (with video)   (gawker.com) divider line 28
    More: Strange, physics, Hitler, Ivy League, quantum physics, footage, professors  
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17835 clicks; posted to Main » on 19 Feb 2013 at 1:27 AM (1 year ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2013-02-19 12:15:03 AM
6 votes:

GAT_00: According to QM, there is a non-zero chance that you can run full speed into a door and go straight through it as if it didn't exist.  It is unlikely, but given enough attempts you should be able to accomplish it.


No, that's like saying that Thermodynamics says there is a small but nonzero chance that the Earth will decide to impart enough kinetic energy to you to launch you into space, highly unlikely, but possible, and still within the classical conception of the Universe.

No, QM says that if you run at the wall enough times you will appear on the other side of the wall because you really were there all along and that makes no sense, and is completely incapable of being explained classically.
2013-02-19 07:49:59 AM
4 votes:

PunGent: Good post, but I'd make one refinement: "the earth is round" was the "original none of this makes sense" for the average layman.


Actually we've known the earth is round for over 2000 years. The whole thing with Columbus *WASN'T* that they thought the earth was flat. That's a popular myth-they'd known since the greeks it was round. Hell, the greeks calculated the circumfurence using shadows and were only a couple hundred miles off, if I remember right!

No, the thing with Columbus was he felt the greeks were wrong, and the circumfurence was MUCH smaller, so he could totally sail around the world. People wouldn't fund him not because they were convinced he'd fall off the face of the earth, but because they were pretty sure he was just going to die out in the ocean. And if America hadn't been in the way, he kind of would have.
2013-02-19 04:37:37 AM
2 votes:
Man, and my students thought I was a less than usually boring lecturer just because I tend to curse like a sailor every time I stop paying attention to something I've prepared in advance.

This guy really goes all out.

nmrsnr: No, QM says that if you run at the wall enough times you will appear on the other side of the wall because you really were there all along and that makes no sense, and is completely incapable of being explained classically.


Actually, QM pretty much says this doesn't happen, as on macro scales the math collapses into Newtonian mechanics.

There's really nothing that odd about it, things pretty much always behave somewhat differently in different length and time regimes than in ours.  Even in classical mechanics initial approximations such as, say, newton's theory of projectile impact depth will be turned weird if you do something smartass like fire your projectile in an incompressible fluid, and the theory of gravitational acceleration goes right to shiat if you test it in a fluid of sufficient density and viscosity for resistance to be a major factor.  everything's an approximation for its regime, ain't no total rules for all situations unless you want to burn up a lot of goddamned chalk on that chalk-board.

//Fluid dynamics was the original "goddammit, none of this makes any sense" example of science being weird for the layman.  That doesn't actually mean it doesn't make any sense if you're used to it.  For bonus points, the Bessel functions you see all the time in the basic description of the H atom in intro QM?  Original developed to solve a fluids problem.

//Not that QM, or fluid dynamics for that matter, isn't cool as all hell.  Its reputation for being a mind-fark is kinda undeserved grandstanding by science students that want to feel special rather than something truly beyond the grasp of mere mortals, though.  I mean, the math can be a pain to the average english major, but a bit of pounding and you can get the core concepts in there as easy as any other specialized academic subject.
2013-02-19 02:42:35 AM
2 votes:

Triumph: poot_rootbeer: Triumph: What are the odds that guy has a dungeon?

A dungeon?  In Manhattan?  On a Columbia faculty salary?

First, who says he lives in Manhattan? Second, Columbia ranks second in average salary just barely behind Harvard. LINK
If he's tenured, he's prolly pulling down over 200k, much more if he wrote a textbook.


Don't get misled by those salary figures. The only ones that are pulling in over $200K are at the Business School and Law School, with maybe a few at the Med School. Profs in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences will be tenured for 20 years before they hit $160K or so. Besides, he probably does live in faculty housing in Manhattan (heavily subsidized).

This class is a bit of a clusterfark - I know, having taught its seminar sections for a couple of semesters. All freshmen in Columbia College are required to take this some time in their first year. 500 kids at a time pile into this lecture once a week, and then attend a seminar section (led by one of a bevy of instructors) with about 20-25 students later in the week. In principle, the class is meant to introduce everyone to the cutting edge of science in an effort to teach them about how science is done. In practice, they kids who are really keen on science tend to be bored, and the ones who came to Columbia for the liberal arts tend to wail and gnash their teeth.

/css
2013-02-19 01:01:35 AM
2 votes:
"In order to learn quantum mechanics, you have to strip til you're raw, erase all the garbage from your brain, and start over again. Um, quantum mechanics... Nothing you have learned in your life til now does in any way help prepare you for this, because everything you do in your everyday life is totally opposite to what you're going to learn in quantum mechanics. And so I've been tasked with the impossible challenge of having to teach you quantum mechanics in one hour, what basically the most brilliant minds, Einstein and so on, couldn't figure out working on it their whole lives. So that's actually a bit of a big goal for today. Um, nevertheless you have to get undergraduate degrees here at Columbia, and you have to pass quantum mechanics in order to get that degree. So it's probably worth looking into this a little bit."

That's what the guy says after his weird brain palate cleansing opener, but to be honest, at the point where he stripped to his underwear, put on a black hoodie, and started walking back and forth across the stage, I would have assumed he was going to pull out an assault rifle and start shooting indiscriminately into the crowd. The kids are laughing about it, but it seriously looked like he was going to commit mass murder.
2013-02-19 12:38:12 AM
2 votes:

nmrsnr: But that message only gets across if the professor says that's the point (or if you are already familiar with QM in some way) otherwise they just think you're a crazy person.


Meh, my QM teacher opened his two-class series by saying that he wanted to teach a subject students wanted to learn.  QM is hard, and it's mathematical.  It's like being a five year old asking your parents "why, Daddy?" and they say "just do it!".

How can you learn QM in an auditorium-style classroom, though?  MIT is OK, Princeton used to be OK for physics.  Any class where you have giggling girls recording the wrong way on iPhones is not an environment where you'll be learning anything about QM.
2013-02-19 12:11:11 AM
2 votes:

Philbb: nmrsnr: The only way that makes sense as an introduction to QM is if he had immediately afterwards said "Confused? Vaguely frightened? Welcome to the standard state of mind one feels when studying Quantum Mechanics." Otherwise, WTF?

That's pretty much what I got from it. "Nothing you've seen or heard so far makes any sense at all in the world that you have always known. Quantum Mechanics is like that."


But that message only gets across if the professor says that's the point (or if you are already familiar with QM in some way) otherwise they just think you're a crazy person.

Also, he could have just as easily spliced together clips of Yo Gabba Gabba and Psycho (or American Psycho if you really wanted disturbing), he didn't have to go with 9/11 and Hitler, which might have come across as offensive.
2013-02-18 11:59:11 PM
2 votes:
The audio of the girl is really annoying.
2013-02-18 11:58:49 PM
2 votes:
I'm sure he had a point, but I doubt it made any difference.  I think introductory professors just get bored.
2013-02-18 11:58:23 PM
2 votes:
The only way that makes sense as an introduction to QM is if he had immediately afterwards said "Confused? Vaguely frightened? Welcome to the standard state of mind one feels when studying Quantum Mechanics." Otherwise, WTF?
2013-02-19 10:44:03 AM
1 votes:

PsiChick: /And I'm pretty sure that, if according to QM there is a non-zero chance you can walk through a solid object, either there's a undiscovered law lurking in there or someone fundamentally misunderstood what they were talking about.


Nah, just admitting there's limit between where simple concepts like "solid" suddenly become extremely complex.  Most of everything is nothing, defined by energy push and pulling on the tiny tiny tiny bits of something we perceive as reality.  The closer you look, the more nothing you find in the something.  When you get small enough, you call it "force" and try and explain where it's coming from, outside of the Universe.
2013-02-19 08:28:18 AM
1 votes:

Jim_Callahan: There's really nothing that odd about it, things pretty much always behave somewhat differently in different length and time regimes than in ours.


I'm not going to argue with you too much, since you're basically right, I would, however, say that there is a fundamental difference between emergent mindfarks like fluid dynamics and fundamental mindfarks like QM. While there are plenty of regimes that are counter-intuitive to everyday experience, on a fundamental level they still treat objects classically, i.e. little ballistic objects hitting each other, conservation of mass and energy are strictly enforced, and if you really, really wanted to, you could come up with the same bizarre outcome from first principles (in theory, since computationally it'd take damn near forever).

QM on the other hand is different, it's bizarre and counter-intuitive, and it also says that "nothing I do can be explained classically" objects aren't well behaved ballistic objects hitting each other, they are everywhere at once until they decide they are actually somewhere (forgive the anthropomorphism, they don't decide anything, but I don't want to go into a discussion of what or how observation works). Mass-energy is only conserved in the long run, and no matter how much you try, there is no way you can describe QM using classical principles. So while I would say that yes, there are plenty of regimes in physics that are alien to ours, I would still argue that QM is fundamentally different, and therefor more astoundingly confusing.
2013-02-19 07:47:39 AM
1 votes:

liam76: I took some very in depth (for undergraduate) QM classes. I think our teacher made it easier by not playing up how "crazy" it was, but by explaining that on a small enough scale how we think the world works is incorrect.


*nod*  That's basically part of my 8th grade science lesson on what theories really are. I don't get into details, of course, but I do a 5 minute history jog from Greek/Roman mythology to Quantum Mechanics, pointing out how each subsequent model progressively explain extreme data better than previous models do, but tend to be far more complicated, too. Newtonian being a good balance between usefulness and simplicity for most everyday applications. Blah blah, etc.
2013-02-19 07:33:15 AM
1 votes:

Jim_Callahan: Actually, QM pretty much says this doesn't happen, as on macro scales the math collapses into Newtonian mechanics.


This.

I was studying nuclear engineering for two years before some shennanigans I was involved in got me concerned abotu a job with a securtiy clearance, so I switched to mechanical engineering.  I took some very in depth (for undergraduate) QM classes.  I think our teacher made it easier by not playing up how "crazy" it was, but by explaining that on a small enough scale how we think the world works is incorrect.
2013-02-19 07:06:30 AM
1 votes:
My bachelors thesis was on an experiment he was also a member of, and we have a paper together http://prl.aps.org/abstract/PRL/v95/i8/e081601.

He's always been a little bit weird (not that I'm any less weird, I guess it comes with the territory). Also, his wife was, at one point, one of his students, and he at least always used to have a gaggle of female students hanging around (which, considering at the time he was a professor at Caltech, probably meant all the female students on campus).

/CSB
2013-02-19 06:21:00 AM
1 votes:
gerbilpox:Amy Mainzer

i115.photobucket.com

I'd love to conduct a short but in-depth study of kinetic motion with her culminating in a demonstration of the principles of ballistics on her stomach.
2013-02-19 05:21:51 AM
1 votes:

daniellynn's real dad: Oddly enough, this is not dissimilar to my Quantum Physics professor's last lecture. He got naked, started yelling at walls, then ran into every other occupied lecture theatre before being lead away.

/not an Ivy League school
//still CSB


Look - if I spent any appreciable amount of my life attempting to explain this incomprehensible nonsense to bored teenagers who were thinking about their genitals the entire time, I'd go nuts too.
2013-02-19 03:00:33 AM
1 votes:
Meh. Amateur.

i.imgur.com
2013-02-19 01:52:37 AM
1 votes:

bighairyguy: A combination of strangeness and charm.


that post is top
2013-02-19 01:50:22 AM
1 votes:
A combination of strangeness and charm.
2013-02-19 01:40:31 AM
1 votes:
Tenure. It is like pulling the pin on the hand grenade of eccentricities and lobbing it into the light of day.
2013-02-19 01:37:08 AM
1 votes:
Meh. I've seen this episode...

Link

/Bazinga
2013-02-19 01:33:07 AM
1 votes:
What probably really happened is the professor stood up and said, "Welcome to Interpretive Art 101!" and then looked at the podium, back at the room full of VERY confused students, and said, "Uh, this is Room 1247, right?"
2013-02-19 01:13:11 AM
1 votes:

GAT_00: According to QM, there is a non-zero chance that you can run full speed into a door and go straight through it as if it didn't exist. It is unlikely, but given enough attempts you should be able to accomplish it.




i.imgur.com

R.I.P. "MORE THAN A FEELING"

2013-02-19 12:09:38 AM
1 votes:
Is this... going to be on the test?
2013-02-19 12:08:56 AM
1 votes:

Philbb: nmrsnr: The only way that makes sense as an introduction to QM is if he had immediately afterwards said "Confused? Vaguely frightened? Welcome to the standard state of mind one feels when studying Quantum Mechanics." Otherwise, WTF?

That's pretty much what I got from it. "Nothing you've seen or heard so far makes any sense at all in the world that you have always known. Quantum Mechanics is like that."


If QM makes sense to you, then something is wrong with you.

According to QM, there is a non-zero chance that you can run full speed into a door and go straight through it as if it didn't exist.  It is unlikely, but given enough attempts you should be able to accomplish it.
2013-02-19 12:03:08 AM
1 votes:
"I am so confused."

I think this was his entire point.  Quantum Mechanics works incredibly well as a system of predicting measurements.  But nobody understands it. Ignore those string theorists.
2013-02-19 12:01:06 AM
1 votes:

nmrsnr: The only way that makes sense as an introduction to QM is if he had immediately afterwards said "Confused? Vaguely frightened? Welcome to the standard state of mind one feels when studying Quantum Mechanics." Otherwise, WTF?


That's pretty much what I got from it. "Nothing you've seen or heard so far makes any sense at all in the world that you have always known. Quantum Mechanics is like that."
 
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