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the dictionary of

‘A little less daunting’ approach in education reminds me of the following story:

A child tells its parent that the teacher taught them in school to divide two fractions by dividing the numerator by the numerator and the denominator by the denominator. The parent rushes to school and confronts the teacher:

"How can you teach your students that fractions are divided by dividing the numerator by the numerator and the denominator by the denominator?!"

The teacher replies: "Oh, I know that's not correct, but it's easier for the children to remember that way."

By now most of us are aware of the enormous amount of garbage exposed on Internet. Is this the price for ‘true democracy’ of ‘unlimited’ information? How can we protect ourselves on a subject we are not knowledgeable enough to separate a gem from the rubbish? Would a categorization of the sources on a particular subject (i.e. reviewing, sort of) help? By Consumer Reports ?

Two days ago I stumbled on the dictionary of; the figure on the left is composed, for the citation purposes, from several of their pages. Let me comment just on two of their dictionary entries, ‘mass’ and ‘melting point’.

Mass is not ‘a measurement ([sic], measure) of the quantity of matter’; mass is a physical quantity introduced into our description of Nature to measure inertia and as a source and subject of the gravitational field. What is then meaning of ‘mass is not affected by gravity’ and ‘regardless of the gravitational force applied to it’? Mass (as a measure of inertia) is not constant; however, at events well below the speed of light, mass could be considered constant for all practical purposes in our everyday life. It is in these conditions that we use mass to measure the amount of substance, and we do so by comparing masses in Earth’s gravitational field !

Melting point is not ‘a point at which...’, it is ‘a temperature at which...’. Melting is a temperature related phenomenon, yet temperature is not mentioned in the text on the left. Maybe ‘pure substance’ does not melt when ‘approaching’ something large than point? Does ‘un-pure substance’ melt at all?

The irony of the above described ‘information democracy’ is that advertises itself as an educational site. It is their mission!

Here is an educational assignment: explain to someone who is ‘mass’ educated at why light from another star is curved around our Sun. Did you say "not to high school student"? OK, then explain to a high school student how we are able in our everyday life on Earth's surface to compare (weigh) masses while 'mass is not affected by gravity' !

Dinner is on them (if you are not already fed up with them).

Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity; and I'm not sure about the universe.(Albert Einstein [NW02])


Krešimir J. Adamić