Shortland OUT; Numb3rs IN

Written By : FijiSun Newsroom. Having written an article the previous time, I was wondering as to what was remaining to be written by me in this issue, but you
24 Jun 2008 12:00

image Written By : FijiSun Newsroom. Having written an article the previous time, I was wondering as to what was remaining to be written by me in this issue, but you know Physics is one subject where discussion and exchange of ideas virtually never ends. For those of you who missed my earlier article or you just probably want to have a copy of it, head on to http://skullersab.fizwig.com/fps/article1 where I’ve managed to upload it. Also, this article can be found at http://skullersab.fizwig.com/fps/article2.
Some people have this misconception in their mind that only a few people can be good in Physics, people who are smart and practice physics A LOT.
Quite a few people may despise me for saying this but excelling in a field is different from being good at it and being good at something definitely doesn’t have to be dependent on mental factors. It’s rather the environmental factors such as exposure, resources, friends (people around you do influence the things you do, want to do and end up doing, trust me on this one!), etc.
Elaborating more on that ‘exposure’ factor, lately I have been hooked on to a T.V. series named ‘NUMB3RS’. I know there are quite a few of you who were/are CSI addicts and this series has its backbone in crime investigation as well (FBI Cases, to be more specific).
The interesting part about it is not the crime itself, but the way it is solved. No, it’s not using RPG’s or Rocket Launchers or entering a room full of suspects with your M16’s blazing in both hands, it’s using Mathematics/Physics. It may seem hilarious or even unbelievable at first, but once you watch one episode you’re bound to get addicted and I’m willing to bet my PC on that one (O.K. probably not the PC, but you get the idea). Imagine finding the projectile motion equation for a bullet that was used for an assassination and using that equation to find the exact position of the sniper who fired it and you’ll have a feel of what this whole series is about. It’s a clear cut example of how maths/physics concepts can be demonstrated in real life which makes the subject that extra more interesting. And for those of you who say, “I bet they made up all those equations and concepts that they use in those situations”, let me remind you that ALL mathematics/physics used in the series has been verified by critics as CORRECT. This is an answer for all those of you who think along the lines of “how is maths/physics going to help us save someone’s lives in the future?” The Applied Mathematics professor in the series saves/helps save lives every day with deep level concepts of calculus and probability. I’m sure by now I’ve got most of you either very excited about the series or very ridiculed at it, not to mention that I feel pity for the latter.
Coming to the ‘resources’ part. I have seen students, virtually running after past years’ exam papers like they were leaves of gold, and I yet have to figure out the logical reason for that. I know that many questions from such papers tend to be repeated, have a similar format and also a similar difficulty but that does not stand false for questions that are there in the textbooks either.
But the advantage of questions in the textbooks is that they have been answered correctly (at least for the most part) and that the answer is usually provided at the back of the book. Comparing this point with questions in the exam paper, I would say that there is no positive way of finding out the correct answer to those.
Some might say answering the question from the papers itself is good revision since it gives you a ‘feel’ of how to go about doing that question.
The disadvantage to that is, in case your method applied to do the question has been wrong in the first place, you are going to make the same mistake in the exam considering you had no way to actually confirm your answer. Getting your hands on a copy of the examiner’s report might solve the issue, but it’s not like everyone manages to get their hands on it considering some schools treat them like confidential bank account data. I am not discouraging students to totally stop practicing questions from past exam papers, all I am suggesting is that why not go for something more reliable and better in terms of resource than to try your luck with chance. In fact, nothing can justify against the feeling a student gets when he/she works out a problem and looks at the back of the textbook to find out that the answers match.
Heck, even I succumb to that feeling all the time.
Finally, although a bit contradictory to my earlier statement, I would like to say that the best way to become the best in one of the best subjects in the world is to try your best to practice as many questions from your textbooks as possible and don’t give up unless you match your answer with the one at the back, or until you can prove that the one at the back is wrong (very rare though, I have seen students propose that an answer at the back of the book was wrong whereas actually the question was slightly complex and needed a different approach to get the correct answer). And if you think you have been grounded for watching too much of T.V. by your parents, get a copy of the three seasons (and a currently broadcasting season 4) of ‘NUMB3RS’ and tell them that you’re ‘understanding by seeing’ your subjects 😉

Abhineet Gupta
Head Boy
Form 701
Labasa College

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