A question before the physics: I hear Hillary Clinton is being considered for a position as Secretary of State. Let’s say this is true. Why would a senator want to take that job? It’s a temporary position. Eight years max, not much longer than a single term in the senate. Four years if the president doesn’t get re-elected. In the senate you set your own views and political objectives. In a cabinet position you work under the orders and at the pleasure of the president. If you disagree with the president, too bad for you. Both your ideals and your reputation are largely at the mercy of the policy he chooses to set. And once it’s done you don’t have your old senate job waiting for you. A new incumbent will have been sitting in your seat for years and incumbent senators are notoriously hard to dislodge.
So I could be wrong, but it seems like the cabinet is a step down from the senate. Why would anyone want it?
Anyway: physics. Now as this week is the last week of my teaching Physics 201 this semester, I think it’s appropriate to quote this post from blogger Rachel Lucas, who is taking a chemistry class this semester at her university. She’s 36, and does not have a lot of patience for ignorance. I don’t blame her.
Lab partner: “Well now we must make the solutions stronger to test higher concentration.”
Me: “We can’t make them stronger, they’re from stock solution.”
LP: “So we just add more!”
Me: “That won’t make the concentration go up.”
LP: “Yes it will, we just add more!”
Me: “THAT WON’T INCREASE THE CONCENTRATION.”
LP: “Yes it will! If you add more to what is here, there will BE MORE.”
Me: “More volume! Not higher concentration!”
Ah Rachel, I know how you feel. Physics 201 labs are blisteringly easy so there’s not so much that I see that’s as bad as that. Still, sometimes you get questions which test your faith in humanity. I have a lot of patience though.
In fact, when grading exams with other TAs, sometimes we see things that we think should almost be worth negative points. Take this particular mathematical manipulation, which I’ve seen more than once. Usually on tests that end up with very low numbers written on the front. They take the left side, “cancel” the m, and get the thing on the right:
I can’t complain though. Most of my students are very good, and I wish them all the best on the upcoming final. Having stuck it out this long and being the ones who didn’t drop, they’ve done a pretty good job.
As a veteran of many a physics test, I can say that there is absolutely nothing that will help you more than getting out your books and doing the problems until you drop. Then do it again the next day. Lather, rinse, repeat until exam day. If you don’t know how to do a problem, keep working on it until you figure it out. If you can’t, ask someone. Friends, TAs, and professors (in that order!). I don’t think any of my students read this, but it’s good advice for anyone in a physics class. Good luck!