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SilasBarta comments on Understanding your understanding - Less Wrong

69 Post author: SilasBarta 22 March 2010 10:33PM

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Comment author: SilasBarta 23 March 2010 05:49:46PM *  6 points [-]

Do you remember what insight helped you to overcome these questions? My experience with Level 1 -> Level 2 transitions is that I somehow mysteriously got used to the phenomenon, without knowing exactly how that happened. Also, I am not sure how could I explain the Doppler effect to somebody at Level 1, or answer questions such as the ones above. It seems that explanations reliably work up to Level 1 only.

I don't remember when I finally got a "Level 2" answer, but to move someone else in that direction, I would explain it this way: First, make sure they understand what's actually happening in a compression wave in air. Help visualize it with a slinky if necessary. Then say,

"The sensation of sound comes from when your ears recognize a quick sequence of compressed-air, less-compressed-air, compressed-air, less-compressed-air, etc. And the rate at which this sequence cycles determines the pitch you hear, with quicker cycling meaning a higher pitch.

"If the source of the sound isn't just standing still, but moving toward you, then each compression it makes of the air happens at a point where it is closer to you that it was before, so that bit of compressed air hits you sooner than otherwise. So as the compressed/less-compressed groups reach you, they cycle through faster, which you experience as a higher pitch, for the same reason you'd experience anything as a higher pitch."

(Someone let me know if I'm seriously off; it's been a while.)

Comment author: srjskam 15 June 2010 09:17:16PM 3 points [-]

My first instinct would have been something like that, but on second thought, I'd start with a example of a boat moving in water and the waves it makes, maybe drawing a picture and ask them to visualize it. This is admittedly very crude and inaccurate, but gives a good overview of the phenomenon. After that I'd elaborate on the differences of surface waves vs. pressure waves, wavelength & frequency and anatomy of hearing etc.

Generally speaking (and not directed against anything anyone has said): give the explainee an intuitive framework to hang details on, don't pour a litany of seemingly unconnected facts. Just make sure he doesn't confuse the crude framework for the actual phenomenon.

(...And more generally: of course, the best would be to explain in a mode that is natural for the individual... for me (and, I assume, quite a few others) it's visuality & real-world analogies.)

(And hello, everyone. First post.)

Comment author: SilasBarta 15 June 2010 09:22:28PM 1 point [-]

Welcome to Less Wrong! Feel free to introduce yourself on that thread. Here's the rest of RobinZ's newcomer welcome package.

And thanks for the reply to my article and comment. I hope to have an article about how to explain up soon, which will expand on the ideas here (this thread and the article).