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 Reflections on my life....havenplace.co.uk

Why do I Tutor Phyiscs?



By Phil Marks

My first experience of cars was at the age of 4, when I would pass tools to my Dad who was working under his milk van. My Mum used to stand me in the kitchen sink and wash me down with grease remover.

 

Since I can remember, I have been interested in how things work, and in the earth and universe. That led me naturally into physics, bridging the gap between maths and engineering. I guess I could have been an engineer, but with an interest in maths I leaned towards the ideas side. Nevertheless, I maintained an interest in cars and when I was in university I did at one time have my car engine on the desk in my room. The cleaning lady was not impressed!

 

To me, physics is the most fundamental of the physical sciences. Maths provides the toolset and engineering provides the structures and devices we use. Think of the man-made physical world as a building, built by engineers. Physics provides the bricks and maths the cement.

 

Almost everyone has some ability at maths, but many hear the word and freeze. I found my limits in maths when a lecturer was explaining how a moving, changing weather system generates waves on the sea. I realised then that I had reached my limit in maths, but that didn’t limit my understanding of the weather and sea.

 

A good teacher should be able to excite your interest in a subject and provide simple explanations of complex physical events, without letting the mathematical equations get in the way. Good physicists can reduce a complex situation to a simple question or visualization which gives an insight into the problem. Probably the best known example is Einstein’s ‘Gedank’ – that is ‘Thought’ - experiment, where he imagined himself sitting on a light wave. This helped him develop his Special Theory of Relativity. When his theory was published in 1905, very few physicists could understand it, but today it is accessible to all students of physics and fans of Startrek!

 

So, my approach is to try to use analogies and simple explanations to illustrate complex phenomena, and generate enthusiasm in my students. After all, learning is much easier when you are interested and enthusiastic.

My first experience of cars was at the age of 4, when I would pass tools to my Dad who was working under his milk van. My Mum used to stand me in the kitchen sink and wash me down with grease remover.

 

Since I can remember, I have been interested in how things work, and in the earth and universe. That led me naturally into physics, bridging the gap between maths and engineering. I guess I could have been an engineer, but with an interest in maths I leaned towards the ideas side. Nevertheless, I maintained an interest in cars and when I was in university I did at one time have my car engine on the desk in my room. The cleaning lady was not impressed!

 

To me, physics is the most fundamental of the physical sciences. Maths provides the toolset and engineering provides the structures and devices we use. Think of the man-made physical world as a building, built by engineers. Physics provides the bricks and maths the cement.

 

Almost everyone has some ability at maths, but many hear the word and freeze. I found my limits in maths when a lecturer was explaining how a moving, changing weather system generates waves on the sea. I realised then that I had reached my limit in maths, but that didn’t limit my understanding of the weather and sea.

 

A good teacher should be able to excite your interest in a subject and provide simple explanations of complex physical events, without letting the mathematical equations get in the way. Good physicists can reduce a complex situation to a simple question or visualization which gives an insight into the problem. Probably the best known example is Einstein’s ‘Gedank’ – that is ‘Thought’ - experiment, where he imagined himself sitting on a light wave. This helped him develop his Special Theory of Relativity. When his theory was published in 1905, very few physicists could understand it, but today it is accessible to all students of physics and fans of Startrek!

 

So, my approach is to try to use analogies and simple explanations to illustrate complex phenomena, and generate enthusiasm in my students. After all, learning is much easier when you are interested and enthusiastic.

 

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© 2010 Phil Marks. All rights reserved

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