The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Thursday, Debtember 23, 2004

Learning physics the hard way

“I am simply interested in seeing how well my students have absorbed the concepts of the laws of thermodynamics, potential versus kinetic energy, and so forth,” said Gaston at the press conference. “Regurgitating parts of a textbook on an exam is fine, but demonstrating applied knowledge is another matter entirely.”

A typical Gaston exam question involves asking students to choose between catching a small metal box filled with 20 pounds of lead dropped from a height of 1 foot, or the same metal box stuffed with 20 pounds of feathers dropped from the roof of an 8-story building. Each year, about five students try to catch the feather-filled box and end up in the emergency room with concussions.

“I still think it was a trick,” glowered Marvin Stoddmeyer, a student who chose the feathers and failed the final exam, breaking his collarbone in the process. “Gaston said something about momentum and kinetic versus potential energy or something during the year—yadda yadda yadda. But at no point did he specifically warn us not to try to catch a 20 pound object dropped from an 8-story building. That's deception, man.”

Via Joanne Jacobs, Physics Teacher Earns Praise, Criticism for “Applied” Exams

I can bet that Marvin Stoddmeyer will never forget the difference between potential and kinetic energy after this. Nothing quite like learning physics in an applied setting.

I wonder if Spring will me to teach The Kids “Applied Physics” like this?

Hmmmm …

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