Thursday, May 24, 2007

White and Nerdy

A colleague sent me this very funny video. The Schrödinger equation appears in the last minute or so. If you look carefully, you can see that they equation is incorrect - it uses Planck's constant h instead of h bar; that is h / 2 pi.

That reminds me of a story my thesis advisor - a Cal Tech alum - told me about his physics prof, the extraordinary Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, whom I had the pleasure to meet and hear speak several times.

Everyone knows what it is like to have a nitpicker in class.
  • "Shouldn't that be log base 10?"
  • "Is there an apostrophe in D'Alembertian?"
  • "I think that should be a minus sign."
Well, Feynmann's intro physics class DID have a nitpicker, one who was prolific and vociferous. His corrections - delivered with the precision of a surgeon's scalpel and the tact of an IRS agent - clearly took their toll on the patience of both the instructor and the students, turning the class into a daily Inquisition.

And inevitably, one day late in the term, the bough broke. After spending some time discussing a calculated cross-section, Monsieur Ergoteur interrupted with "Didn't you miss a factor of 2 pi?", at which point Poor Richard lept onto his desk and yelled "Fuck the 2 pi!"

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