Natalie Solent

Politics, news, libertarianism, Science Fiction, religion, sewing. You got a problem, bud? I like sewing.

E-mail: nataliesolent-at-aol-dot-com (I assume it's OK to quote senders by name.)

Back to main blog

RSS thingy

Jane's Blogosphere: blogtrack for Natalie Solent.


( 'Nother Solent is this blog's good twin. Same words, searchable archives, RSS feed. Provided by a benefactor, to whom thanks.
I also sometimes write for Samizdata and Biased BBC.)

The Old Comrades:

November 2001 December 2001 January 2002 February 2002 March 2002 April 2002 May 2002 June 2002 July 2002 August 2002 September 2002 October 2002 November 2002 December 2002 January 2003 February 2003 March 2003 April 2003 May 2003 June 2003 July 2003 August 2003 September 2003 October 2003 November 2003 December 2003 January 2004 February 2004 March 2004 April 2004 May 2004 June 2004 July 2004 August 2004 September 2004 October 2004 November 2004 December 2004 January 2005 February 2005 March 2005 April 2005 May 2005 June 2005 July 2005 August 2005 September 2005 October 2005 November 2005 December 2005 January 2006 February 2006 March 2006 April 2006 May 2006 June 2006 July 2006 August 2006 September 2006 October 2006 November 2006 December 2006 January 2007 February 2007 March 2007 April 2007 May 2007 June 2007 August 2007 October 2007 February 2008 April 2008 May 2008 June 2008 July 2008 September 2008 October 2008 November 2008 December 2008 January 2009 March 2009 May 2009 June 2009 July 2009 August 2009 October 2009 January 2010 March 2010 May 2010 June 2010 July 2010 August 2010 September 2010 October 2010 November 2010 December 2010 January 2011 February 2011 April 2011 June 2011 August 2011 September 2011 October 2011 November 2011 January 2012 February 2012 March 2012 April 2012 May 2012 June 2012 July 2012 August 2012 September 2012 October 2012 November 2012 December 2012 January 2013 February 2013 March 2013 April 2013 May 2013 June 2013 July 2013 August 2013 September 2013 October 2013 November 2013

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Friday, June 08, 2007
Qu'est-ce qui gravite autour de la Terre? Keiran Healy of Crooked Timber and his commenters have lots of snarky fun with two surveys about the percentages of Americans who do not approve of inter-racial dating (17%) and who did not know or accept that the Sun goes round the Earth (26%). He writes,
There was a degree of understandable concern about the remaining 17 percent, but (some people said) it’s only been forty years since Loving vs Virginia. And, as it turns out, it could be worse. The idea that the Earth orbits the Sun has had rather longer to catch on, but my colleague Omar Lizardo over at OrgTheory brings us new data from this year’s General Social Survey on the popularity of that idea. It turns out that almost three quarters of Americans now subscribe to the Galilean view. Click through to Omar’s post for data on the percentage of Heliocentric-Positive Americans who think the Earth takes a year to orbit the sun, as opposed to a day, a month, or some other time period.
I argued that it is ignorance rather than adherence to religious teaching that fuels the heliocentric view. An earlier commenter, Quo Vadis, pointed out this painful clip from the French version of Who Wants To Be A Millionaire that shows it's not just the Americans who have trouble with the solar system. Note that it was not just the hapless contestant who got it wrong but a majority of the audience. And 2% thought it was Mars.

British readers, do not feel superior just yet. Michael Jennings sent me this link:

A physics teacher begs for his subject back

The thing that attracts pupils to physics is its precision. Here, at last, is a discipline that gives real answers that apply to the physical world. But that precision is now gone. Calculations — the very soul of physics — are absent from the new GCSE. Physics is a subject unpolluted by a torrent of malleable words, but now everything must be described in words.

In this course, pupils debate topics like global warming and nuclear power. Debate drives science, but pupils do not learn meaningful information about the topics they debate. Scientific argument is based on quantifiable evidence. The person with the better evidence, not the better rhetoric or talking points, wins. But my pupils now discuss the benefits and drawbacks of nuclear power plants, without any real understanding of how they work or what radiation is.

I want to teach my subject, to pass on my love of physics to those few who would appreciate it. But I can’t. There is nothing to love in the new course. I see no reason that anyone taking this new GCSE would want to pursue the subject. This is the death of physics.


My complaints about the new syllabus fall into four categories: the vague, the stupid, the political, and the non-science.

I only wish the problem were as new and as limited (i.e. to the AQA examination board) as he implies.

My memories of my time as a teacher are beginning to go as fuzzy as a modern physics specification, that being the re-branded name for "syllabus" in this bright new day, but I think one of my pupils once argued that we shouldn't have nuclear power because the atoms might escape. I didn't give him zero marks, either. He was doing better than many.