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Doing something I should have done a long time ago... - John [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]
John

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Doing something I should have done a long time ago... [Apr. 4th, 2013|12:00 pm]
John
I've picked up a Freshman Physics text book and am working through the chapters.

Startling self-revelation: I've somehow reached a stage in my life where I simply did not have a scientific calculator.

How did that happen? In high school, I spent a fair amount of money on a good scientific calculator, and afterward, thought it was cool that I'd never be without one again. But then, life happened, my last one got broken, but I found a calculator (left over "take this if you want it" office supplies), and put it away, feeling proud that I had one once again, and never realized it was a *financial calculator*. (Obviously, I use calc.exe if I just need to check my figures - or Excel if it's complicated.)

Thankfully, with an Android tablet, one can quickly find a free or low priced calculator app, and I have one once again.

And now I'm getting frustrated by significant figures....

No, seriously. I thought I knew how they worked, but I think I'm messing something up, because somewhere along the line, I'm getting answers that are just barely different when I work a vector problem two ways (graphically - adding head to tail - and component-wise, converting everything to unit vectors). There's no way that I'm doing something seriously wrong when I get one answer to be 90.3 and another to be 90.1, and the angles match to the correct number of figures, but that difference screams "rounding error" and I'm not sure where it's creeping in. Sigh. Why does it matter if my technique is probably good? Because I want to do these *right*. Like, if I tell you your SQL Server's disks are overloaded, I can explain precisely why, and any SQL expert will agree with me. I want to do these problems so any physics major would agree with me.

This kind of perfectionism can be dangerous - it sometimes leads me to stop doing something because I know I can't do it "right". (If I was learning to play an instrument, or to knit, that would be easier to deal with - those things take practice to learn. But this isn't that kind of thing. Either the numbers are right, or they're not.) Worse, it can sometimes lead me to scorn the attitude that it matters. "Eh. I *got* 90.3; I must have done the problem *right*."


But I also know that if I can understand the "why" of something, it'll take root in my brain and I'll find myself drawing conclusions without even being aware of it.

So I'm momentarily frustrated, but for its frustration, it *is* a bit of fun. I'm doing something that requires some thinking, some re-learning, and where I don't know exactly how things are going to turn out. I think that's helping with depression.

Not that I'd recommend Freshman Physics for antidepressant qualities if you didn't major in mathematics, so that you have absolutely no fear of calculus, trig, or geometry.
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