Friday, December 19, 2008

Don't end up like me; take online nanotech courses


Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands is offering two new nanoscience courses on its OpenCourseWare site: Advanced Solid State Physics and Quantum Information Processing.

While I am certain my readers can take advantage of these free online courses, it all sounds too difficult for an undereducated writer like me.

Just this morning, I learned that I left my kids' lunchboxes at their preschool and I had failed to properly read a bottle of baby soap, mistaking it for baby lotion -- thus drying out my two young sons' skin even more during this cold winter.

Quantum information processing? I'd be happy with any information processing in my 43-year-old, ancient senile brain.

Nanotech for undergrads
High School Nails Nano
Penn State's Little Recruiting Video

1 comment:

Robin St. John said...

Thanks so much for this link. I'm a huge fan of this sort of thing. I have picked up quite a bit from iTunes University classes on rheology and Java programming that come from MIT and Harvard and Michigan Tech.

I'm 44, so I can feel your pain. It is increasingly obvious that I am not as mentally spry as I was 20 years ago. However, it really is like muscle training. And selective unwillingness to bother with details.

I'm a materials chemist, PhD, and post doc in SS physics. My schedule did not leave much room for pure math or deep physics that underpins a lot of what I do. I am not equipped at this stage to do homework like I did as an undergrad and graduate student.

So I cheat. It is far more important that I know what the math means than that I can do it by hand. There is a lot of open source stuff (Octave, SciLab, Sage) that will do the heavy lifting for me. So I use it. Can I invert a matrix? With a gun to my head, maybe. But I know several software packages that will do it for me.

To some extent, we are at a crossroads in scientific education. There was a day when a watchmaker had to file out ever gear by hand. Later, machines could do it for him. Later still, there were no gears. I would want people familiar with the meaning of math, and to shed a tiny bit of blood to get how it is done. But to be a useful tool no longer requires the somewhat weird tendency to like doing it.