All entries for Wednesday 18 May 2005

May 18, 2005

The Moron

The Moron is the fundamental particle of Stupidity. Every "intelligent" creature, or body is born with a large number of Morons. However, the Stupidity of the body can be reduced, by a process known as Proper Education, until it passes the Intelligence Threshold, where the wavefunction of the Moron is smaller than hbar/2. At this point the body's Stupidity is no longer noticable, except in situations described by the Theory of Special Stupidity, for example when the body consumes large quantities of alcohol.

If the body is never provided with a Proper Education, its number of Morons stays fairly constant – Morons are stable particles and will not decay spontaneously. In this case, the body generates a Stupidity Field, whose strength is proportional to 1 / r2. As a result, and other body brought into close contact with the Stupid Body is highly likely to have its own Stupidity increased temporarily. This explains the saying

Never argue with an idiot. He will bring you down to his level and beat you with experience

As the Stupidity Field is proportional to 1 / r2, all Stupid Bodies increase the Stupidity of the whole universe. The Field strength can be attenuated by enclosing the Body in a padded, soundproof cell lined with 1 metre of lead, and throwing away the key. However, a far better solution is to throw the Stupid Body into an infinite potential well, and forget about it.

The education system is a big pile of rubbish


No, but seriously. How and why should exams determine how "intelligent" or good at a subject we are. Exams teach you nothing. Learning for exams is a process of peaking at the right time, short-term memory-wise, and then forgetting everything the day after the exam (or in some cases the moment you leave the hall). As someone with a pretty decent short-term memory, I benefit from this system rather nicely, but it is ridiculously flawed. I will leave this university after 3 years with a degree in physics, but with approximately the same amount of knowledge as I had at A level.

Now before this moves on to a rant about how I would never have applied for physics if I knew it was going to be mosty dry, seemingly abstract applied maths (oops, too late) let me pull back. This doesn't apply just to our course, it applies to everyone (at least, everyone doing science – not so sure about arts students). Whatever you are studying now, think back to what you were doing at A level. I can almost guarentee that you will be able to remember quite a lot of what you studied then, with a little thought and maybe a brief glance over your notes. Not so any more. A prime example of this is the Solid State Physics I exam we poor physicists took in April. Two weeks later whilst revising another module there was some overlap, but none of us (out of about 5 students, all good candidates for 2:1 or better) could remember a simple derivation we had learned by heart for the exam. Revision provides you with no long term knowledge.

So what would be better? What would make that piece of paper you receive at the end of it all worth more, or at least more representative of your ability? I would say that it is obvious – continuous assessment throughout the year – small assignments every week or two. It would encourage us to study more during the first two terms of the year, from which we could gain longer-lasting knowledge than that achieved by cramming the night before an exam. Sure, keep exams. It's a reasonable way to make sure that someone hasn't simply been leeching the work of his or her peers throughout the year, but I would suggest that they should be worth no more than 50% of every module.

Ok, so uni learning is supposed to be independent, but motivation can be hard to come by when you have no reason to work for most of the year. Give us that reason and we will become much more productive (well, most of us). We may moan about it at the time, but we'll be a lot better prepared when the exams roll around. In our first year we had a module called Physics Problems – 6 CATs (standard size phyiscs course), 100% assessed. Problem sheets were provided by every module and a certain number had to be completed each week to get the credit. Similarly, a portion of our maths module that year was obtained from problem questions. Why does that not continue throughout the degree? Why isn't it worth more?

The current education system basically teaches us one thing, providing we survive it – how to cope with the stress caused exams. It's that or go insane. Our degree certificates are symbolic not of our successful pursuit of knowledge or enlightenment, but rather of our ability to survive in a system centred around reducing us to burned out, twitching, and occasionally dribbling zombies once a year, every year, for the duration of our course.

Because it needs to be said

Writing about web page

This is the website of the afforementioned Dave (Star Wars fanboy, see last post), current Production Lord of the Warwick Boar, as well as Games Editor. While I do not have particularly strong feelings about consoles, as I've never owned one and the only serious time I've spent using one is the XBox (his) currently sitting 10cm away from me – the evil genius has lent it to me to corrupt me and distract me from revision (as I think I have already said). Oh wait – that isn't a sentence, I'll try again. While I do not have particularly strong feelings about consoles, I completely agree with his point. A website who I read daily and whose judgement I usually trust (Eurogamer) has been extremely one-sided in its E3 coverage. Maybe they really think that the Xbox 360 cannot compete with the PS3, and maybe Microsoft are a bunch of rhetoric-spouting bores, but I can't help feeling that David is going to be proved at least a little bit right in this case.

Oh, and he thinks he's "too cool to blog", so posting a link to him here will a) annoy him and b)..erm..annoy him. I had something else there but it disappeared :-S

Anyway. Yeh. Back to Computer Graphics revision. Yay.

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