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CAE_Jones comments on Guessing the Teacher's Password - Less Wrong

62 Post author: Eliezer_Yudkowsky 22 August 2007 03:40AM

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Comment author: CAE_Jones 30 January 2013 03:55:55AM 0 points [-]

This reminds me of an exchange from when I was in highschool physics, talking with someone a year ahead of me who was a freshman in college physics.

I've tried looking for the original conversation, but we apparently talked about Batman, asteroids and boats too much for Google to find it.

Basically, I posted a problem from my Physics homework in which we had to determine what would happen if Batman jumped off a bridge into a passing boat, in which a criminal was making an escape (or committing a crime, or some such thing).

He complained that the only problems he got were random asteroid collisions in the middle of Nowhere, Space.

There was another that was descriptive rather than involving solving an equation, asking to explain what was wrong in the situation where Superman, hovering in an alley, reaches down to grab a fleeing criminal, without moving in any other way. (Conservation of momentum, and all that). He attended a certain prestigeous engineering university in the American Midwest, and I was at my state's Math and Science school (Juniors/seniors, science fair was a big deal taking up a year and then some, and I didn't have to go through a horrible chain of time-consuming prerequesits to get into most of the classes I wanted to take).

We both bailed on math and physics around the same time, after Calculus 2. And lab reports in college physics proved a huge obstacle (if the overwhelming ugh fields around academic writing weren't enough, the fact that we were mostly just letting a cart roll down a slope, and writing about it in the context of the phenomenon of the week made my only interest in pointing out sources of error rather than treating it as an actual experiment).

I then proceeded to sit in a building for the next five years and fail roughly one class every other semester for three of those years, and still don't have the piece of paper saying I can speak French. Looking for the above-mentioned conversation did bring up posts where I could actually speak math, though, making me wonder how things would have gone had I found Overcoming Bias / LessWrong in 2007 or 2008. (Perhaps I would have been less prone to go off on wild tangents complaining about my life? Hmm...)

Comment author: Jiro 28 December 2015 01:31:38AM 0 points [-]

(Response to old post.)

If you're postulating anything like most people's ideas of Superman, you're already saying "ignore conservation of momentum", because inherent in the concept is that he flies around in arbitrary ways without having to push on anything. In other words, by the way you phrased the problem, you just asked the student to ignore the very thing you're asking the problem about. This won't turn out well.