[Beowulf] Re: A start in Parallel Programming?

Peter St. John peter.st.john at gmail.com
Wed Mar 14 14:37:59 PDT 2007

On 3/14/07, Robert G. Brown <rgb at phy.duke.edu> wrote:
> On Wed, 14 Mar 2007, Peter St. John wrote:
> > What General Physics I teaches about wiring would not be adequate to
> work as
> > an electrician in home construction, but it's adequate to do the bench
> > experiments that illustrate the concepts. There are many purposes under
> the
> > sun.
> I'd take issue with this.  It is ALMOST adequate to work on home
> electricity, at least if you have a good teacher.  It is certainly
> adequate to cover the basic physics that underlies e.g. becoming a
> journeyman electrician ...

I didn't mean to suggest that Gen Physics 1 would not be a good start for
Certified Electrical Contractors, although, come to think of it, most of
them would be burdened by the calculus prerequesite, and the material on
Special Relavivity. I just meant that isn't the purpose of the course and
you aren't optimized for it, although I'm sure lots of physics majors become
very useful electrical technicians, just as many become great programmers
and some even become borderline acceptable mathematicians :-)

 I even try to tell them
> why one puts a lamp switch on the HOT line going into the lamp, not the
> NEUTRAL line coming out of it, and why Ground Fault Breakers Are Good.

I had to think about  that. The possibiltiy of something (say, a human
being) inadvertently completing the circuit if the switch is on the
downstream side, is an avoidable hazard, is that it? I'm sure that's a
mistake I could have made if (Heaven Forbid) I wired something myself. I"m
sure it's a mistake that a Journeyman Electrician would not make. I suspect
you produce better electricians than did the course I took (at a different
school, actually; I took it in the summer to save year-course slots during
the school year).

I'm totally in favor of universities teaching "practical" things, but it
should be in the context of the desired outcome. Most engineering students
get to build stuff, right? Carlitz taught me, mainly by example, the
significance of doing arithmetic manually; it's good for most of us to get
our hands dirty, in some sense, at some point, but you'd rather use the
desktop calculator to do arithmetic, than me, and you'd rather use a
certified electrical contractor to wire your house, than me, too :-)


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