Complex Systems #171

One of the joys of the holidays and the University turning off the heating and locking us out, is that it provides time to catch up on things: papers, refereeing, recommendation letters, grading, syllabi, proposals, all the stuff one can rarely get to during actual working semester hours.
And, sometimes, there is time for real life: casual reading, family, catching up online...

One of the ye olde blog things I like to look over occasionally is Scott Aaronson's shtetl-optimized, for the latest on P!=NP news, or polemic on quantum computing.

This time, what caught my eye was his take on the Walter Lewin Incident at MIT, and given the paucity of information, I was very interested in his take.

Thus, I came upon Comment #171 in which Scott bares his soul and is flamed to pieces.
Better late than never, as they say.

Now, I didn't go to "high school" in the US, though thanks to John Waters movies, Simple Minds and Fast Times at Fairmont High, not to mention Heathers, and the legendary Real Genius, I got most of the memetic messages. I think.
That, and the fact that 1/4 of my class in grad school were MIT undergrads.
So, Ouch, d00d!

Which lead to Nerd Entitlement Alliance and thence to The English Lit Strikes Back (huh? I thought being able to parse writing was something English Lit majors could do... - I mean, I thought Scott could have gone a bit meta, and maybe appreciated that asymmetric risk, false signalling and classical game theory were relevant here, but that was just a lazy kick to the goolies, and not well aimed at that. Oh, and having to get past P!=NP makes for much more rational commentariat).

So, I got some figurative popcorn, and kept reading:

Solving Boolean Satisfiability on Human Circuits was interesting;

I had come across Preeya Phadnis' Walter Lewin, the art of teaching, and physics’ gender problem before but failed to bookmark it.
The take on Walter Lewin was interesting, but my primary interest in the article is on the issue of physics pedagogy - and what I think is missing there is a misunderstanding of (one of) the actual learning objectives of the MIT classes, but maybe more on that later.

Which took me back to Scott's What I believe, which you should probably read, if you got this far.

Which brought me to Scott Alexander's (aka @slatestarcodex ) polemic Untitled which is long.
And in turn lead to Radicalizing the Romanceless (ibid) which I somehow feel I ought to read someday.

This is all rather sad, but interesting to see aired out on the Internet rather than at 2 am in the basement at the Caltech Coffee Shop, or its east coast equivalent.
My better half recapitulated all the arguments and added some better ones (for both "sides") in a quick hour or so precis, having heard it before, somehow, but she spoke too fast for me to capture here in the margins.
Made some very good points though.

If you feel like it.
If you have the emotional energy.
With all, they're real people with real feelings.

Listen to Uncle Billy folks.


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Welcome back to blogging. I have gone to HS here in the US (not elementary school, though). From Aaronson's comment #171, it seems that feminist literature is dangerous to the impressionable and sensitive human male's mind. It is so bad that it almost gave him suicidal thoughts for having normal, male thought patterns.

By Supernaut (not verified) on 07 Jan 2015 #permalink

Thnx. I'm actually in the camp that think Scott misattributes a little, but the issue of effect of dogma on "scrupulous" personalities with overliteral social sensibilities is interesting.

The level of viciousness in the net.discourse is shocking. I understand the dynamics, and where it came from, but am disappointed in some of the participants and instigators.