Even though I am a writer of stories, I’m fascinated by the idea of thinking like a physicist. The way a physicist tackles a problem seems remarkably like the way an original story is constructed; first there’s a question, then an exploratory phase. Eventually, the problem is stripped down to the purest essence until a pattern emerges. You experiment again and again until you have enough data that you can draw a conclusion, make a statement, or derive a premise. I’ll explore this physics/storytelling connection later when I have more time. In the meantime, take a look at this: “How to Study Physics” by Seville Chapman, copyrighted in 1949, is a fascinating primer on how to be a scientist. It is broad-minded, friendly, with a tight style. Check it:
It is astonishing how few students actually can do arithmetic properly, i.e., accurately with moderate speed. You should be able to multiply 8,642 × 9,753 and get 84,285,426; without making a mistake; and you should be able to do it within two minutes. You are not good at arithmetic unless you can do it in one minute. (Some modern electronic calculating machines can do it in less than a thousandth of a second!) For most students, three to six honest hours of mathematical review represents an adequate brush-up; some students may need a dozen or more hours of practice, especially in arithmetic, high school algebra, geometry, and perhaps trigonometry. It is a delusion to blame physics for being difficult when you don’t know your math.
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