The Quantum Pontiff

I grew up in the middle of nowhere. I read all, and I mean all, of the science and math books in my local library (and nearly all of the Scientific American magazines as well.) Because this was before the internet was ubiquitous these were the only resources I had. These days I often wonder how my life would have been different if I would have had access to open courses like the one described in this article.

There is one part of me that thinks this will change the entire landscape of learning for rural kids. On the other hand, by not having total access to the entire world of knowledge, I was forced to read and re-read the few books I did have. Luckily these were broad enough to give me at least some preparation for my undergraduate days (and led to some strange things like learning hyperbolic trig before regular trig from a first edition of Tayor and Wheeler’s “Spacetime Physics.”) But certainly I would have really dug the lectures described in the above article, and perhaps I would be able to even keep up with all the crazy smart people who are hear at this conference.

Comments

  1. #1 Jud
    December 21, 2007

    I wonder if rural kids may have more time and patience for these sorts of resources, vs. suburban kids whose every “leisure” moment now seems to involve one or more of advance planning, long drives, expensive equipment….

    I’m very intrigued by the Lewin lectures and other OCW offerings, but so far haven’t managed to find/prioritize free time to take advantage of any of them. You?

  2. #2 Dave Bacon
    December 22, 2007

    free time to take advantage of any of them. You?

    Free. Time. Those words can be used in the same sentence? :)

  3. #3 Phil Warnell
    December 26, 2007

    Dave,

    I believe it has more to do with the seeker, rather then the access. I had a similar journey to my own modest understanding of science as you. That was through the library of a small town in Atlantic Canada, with the reading of all the science books for young people they had and the entire Time-Life series on science. This was long before the age of personal computers. I believe if you looked around in that library you frequented, I’ll bet you found that often you were the only young person in the place. I’ll also bet that for the most part, you didn’t find many of your peers who you could share your seal for the subject with. I submit that although the Professors online lectures are of high quality, they in the end won’t serve to produce many more science enthusiasts, let along Einsteins. The one exception to this would be of course in the developing and third world nations. The way that the internet does serve a wonderful purpose in this regard is to provide a global place in which all we science nerds can find each other to share this interest of the few. This library is thus more gratifying then that place we visited so often a long time ago.

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