physics, chemistry, and rhetoric

(1 comment)
November 23, 2007
For a while my Gtalk status was "pi^2=~10". Which is true, pi times itself is roughly ten. But of course I was probably hoping someone would ask what that was all about, and JZ obliged. This was my response.
it comes from a physics class
walking us through a problem, the teacher rhetorically asked permission to replace pi^2 with 10
we were aghast, because in most of the problems, you keep the pi in there and it cancels out later
and also it seemed like a crude approximation
but he showed us that since we use "10" for the force of gravity instead of the more typically correct 9.8, just because it makes the math easier, that pi^2 was even closer to ten than that
Mr. Reno was one of those "been around the block" science teachers and I admired how obviously (in restrospect) he was totally prepared for our objection, even though he played it innocent.

Similarly Mr. Von Banken, our chemistry teacher, would develop a reputation for entertaining demos in class, often explosive (but fun with liquid nitrogen, from shattering things to sending a little puddle of flaming liquid natural gas across the highway floor was memorable too) and had his class management well in hand as well:
"Blow something up, Von!" we'd cry.
[Von pulls out and inflates balloon]
"OK, I blew something up. Now can we go on?"
"No! Make something explode!"
[Von pops balloon]
"OK, now can we go on?"
Good teachers. I was blessed with a high school that, while struggling in a lot of ways, had made in an effort to keep a top-notch "honors" track.

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