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Should more math and equations be used in the popular press?

raque (457836) writes | about a year ago

1

raque (457836) writes "The NYTimes (standard disclaimers apply) published two OP-EDs in their Philosophy section (first here second here), The Stone, discussing how Heisenberg's Uncertainty principle is abused. The second is a followup to the first. The author struggled to make clear his point and left the impression he was creating a strawman argument. In his followup he said that he was avoiding equations due to his writing for a general audience. I replied to both articles as Rtbinc, in the second I put up the following comment:

One of the issues is that Dr Callendar has is a fear of Math and equations in popular reading. A lot of other people are afraid of these few very pretty symbols. Lets do an experiment and see if using some equations and symbols drives readers into fits of terror and prevents their understanding as they cower shivering under their chairs.

The below is from Heinz Pagels in the Cosmic Code (available on Kindle from Amazon and Nook from B&N for about 10 bucks). It shows up on Google books too. Go look, it's fun.

One part of the Uncertainty Principal is (p)x(q)h – where p and q (the is pronounced delta, e.g., delta-p) are the sums of all of the uncertainties — or differences — in a huge pile of measurements of the position and velocity of some particle we're measuring – and h is the tiny, but still not zero, number called the Plank constant. The mathematical symbols haven't changed meaning, so if h ain't zero, neither p or q can be either. We can be as precise as we like, until we hit the Plank Constant. This is not some mathematical oddity, it is how the universe operates. That is weird, and that is one example of quantum weirdness.

The question for the experiment is: Would Dr Callendar have done better to use the equation in the first article instead of metaphors from TV and Movies? Or, did they so frighten you that you need a good stiff brandy and a foot rub.

So I'm asking the same question to everyone on Slashdot. Would Dr Callendar been better off just diving in and dealing with Heisenberg and quantum mechanics using the tools that were developed for it."
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He'd have been better off... (1)

Deadstick (535032) | about a year ago | (#44416081)

...not comparing numbers to lumber.

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