...Prove Their Worth...

"Problems worthy of attack
prove their worth
by hitting back." - Piet Hein

A kind of running diary and rambling pieces on my struggles with assorted books, classes, and other things, as they happen. You must be pretty bored to be reading this...

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Today's physics class was fun, in a roller coaster-of-death sort of way. The professor who teaches our class is out of town this week, and asked a postdoc of his to substitute for him. The professor is a fantastic teacher. This postdoc was ... well meaning, clearly personable, and will probably make a good teacher eventually.

The trouble started in the first minute of class, where he announced that today we will be solving the Poisson equation, which is fine, and that we'll be using Green's functions to do so, which would have been fine if we'd known what those were. Then he gave a five second definition of Green's functions, and started using them. After people, including me, started wailing for mercy, he revealed that he had been under the impression that this was a graduate class, which it ain't. Or perhaps it was a joke, and he has a very sustained, deadpan sense of humor. I dunno.

In any case, I got entirely lost about ten minutes in, and stayed lost till the end of lecture. I suspect I was not alone, though there were some people who claimed that they followed things ok. Perhaps they weren't lying ;).

In any case, when I got home, I hit the books, specifically Redheffer's Differential Equations and googled 'till I dropped, and just got more confused. At which point I gave up, and started some serious studying for tomorrow's Japanese oral. Then, while Commanding All that I Surveyed upon the White Throne of Power, lighting struck, as usual. That is, I now think I understand why the hell Mr. Postdoc did what he did. I don't quite understand how he did what he did, however. So far as I could tell while taking a dump, there was a way more direct/intuitive way to get the solution, instead of ending up with complex integrations and rather horrific algebra. But probably I just don't actually understand it enough - I doubt he'd have gone through that much trouble if it didn't have a point.

I'll write up the plan of attack for the problem as I now understand it, to organize my thoughts, and then I'll ask if I'm right or wrong at the beginning of class on Thursday, setting myself up to look like a complete 'tard. Since I'm probably wrong.


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