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Comments on the experimental requirements April 23, 2009

Posted by keithkchan in Philosophy.
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I haven’t updated this blog for some time. Today I had some discussions with my Mr Payam and Mr Mincer. I feel that I have pretty strong opinion that I want to blog about.

In our department, we have a rather perversive requirement — students have to fulfill some experimental requirement by either taking the experiment courses or doing an experimental project with a faculty member. This requirement has caused a lot of trouble for some of us. This is particularly bad for the theoretical students since most theorists don’t like doing experiments. I think I am a theorist but not a highbrow one, so I think I can give “relatively balanced” opinion.

The argument for the existence of this experimental requirement is that the department expects the graduates to know how real experiments are done, and give the students a chance to discover their potential in doing experiments.

Everyone enters the graduate school have already known the importance of experiments of physics. After all physics is an experimental science. We agree. Doing good experiments are hard. Need a lot of creative designs and careful planing, and a lot of practical skills. We agree that experimentalists are not stupid. When we apply for graduate school most of us already have well defined field of interests, taking the experimental course is not going to change anything. OK, doing experimental project may be able to shift their interest. But then the whole idea of having this requirements is to let the experimentalists to have more students. After all the lab can take up a lot of students, many of the lab procedures are tedious and labour-intensive.

So far I have been suffering a lot from from this requirements. Due some misguided thoughts, I tried to do a project with some guy in astronomy. After some time, it became so technical, time-consuming and more importantly boring, I quited the project. From that experience, I guess the most important thing I learn is that astronomy is boring.

My friend Mr Payam took the experiment course. He spent a lot of time doing those experiments and writing lab report, so it messed up his research.

I think this requirements should not exist at all. I have complained about to some people, but they insist on keeping it. Apparently, I am not the only one have this opinion. According to Mr Mincer, some theorists hold the same viewpoint as mine. Unfortunately, experimentalists and theorists can only agree that they disagree.

I certainly agree the importance of experiment to physics, but I disagree that theorists should be afflicted with the pains that the experimentalists suffer.

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