Favorite NON-fiction ?

Sat Feb 1 10:37:37 PST 2003

On Tue, Jan 28, 2003 at 08:19:04PM -0600, Ruhlen, Rachel Louise (UMC-Student)

> The short answer is I'm involved in her education and she's involved in my
> work. She's got an awesome women scientist role-model: myself. :)


> experiments on mice in space. (I secretly hope she'll go into physics
> because I loved physics in college and nearly changed my major from biology

I have this idea that physics is the ideal "undecided" major, and that at an
least partial physics major is ideal background for anyone.  As a major,
you've got enough math to move up into a math major if you suddenly want to,
and more math than everyone else -- so you can barge into another field
without being intimidated by their math techniques, and may even get to tell
them what they're doing wrong.  And unlike the math majors you do get the
training in experiment and scientific method, plus tying the math to
fundamental real world stuff to help put other science in a framework.

I don't have scientific evidence to back this up :) just gut prejudice and
anecdotes.  I went from physics to geology to planetary science, but at
Caltech, where everyone _does_ get the equivalent of a partial physics major.
And then some of the Caltech bio types I knew went to grad school elsewhere
and would show horror at the bad statistical techniques there.  I heard of
some environmental scientists, maybe? who'd been a physicist first, and made a
lot of progress simply in being more mathematical and rigorous in his models
than his predecessors.  And the geology department at Caltech seemed to prefer
taking grad students who'd been physics or chemistry majors elsewhere, because
they thought it was easier to bring those people up to speed in geology than
to take other school's rockhounds and make up for their lack of math and

I admit there's a part of me that regrets not having a 'real' sounding major.
Planetary science, and I'm in grad school for computer and cognitive science.
If it has to call itself a science is it really science? :)

It's not _just_ physics; my ideal core curriculum would include introductions
to cell and evolutionary biology and to astronomy and geology.  And Caltech's
core has actually moved that way since I left.  But the math and physics
grounding feels essential to me, somehow.

Of course, my life has been such that I got to view calculus as basic math,
properly possessed by anyone around me.  Yes, this attitude leads to problems
as I meet more people...

> and she's really good at math. She likes to show me her science experiments

Make sure later school doesn't change that!  One thing to look out for in a
couple of years is whether the school's going too slow.  Nothing like covering
arithmetic from 1st to 5th grade to squelch an interest in higher math.

-xx- Damien X-)