How is energy a wave?”
The question may seem unimportant, but you should not forget the significance of what this question is asking, and how you can answer it. In the last few years, many people who’ve never been to a university have been interested in physics. This is a natural impulse, given that some of the first students who went to university were probably inspired by science fiction.
But when we come to physics, most of them go to a few universities, have a few years of classes, then come out, and find they can’t do anything. They can only go to a few physics conferences, then they can no longer do physics. Now, we want them to go to physics conferences. We want them to read physics books. We don’t want them to have any other interest, and we also don’t want them reading physics books. They’re all supposed to be learning physics, so we need to encourage them, to make it a better education for them.
Now there’s another question, and it’s this question: How should it be that people study physics? That’s a really important question. And in general, I think there’s a lot to be gained by having a more realistic conception of what physics is, what it does. We don’t need an educational philosophy that insists on “The way schools are doing it, that’s not going to work”. It’s a real problem. We do need more realism in how we teach it.
If I was a physicist, and I was taught I need to be able to describe the waves at any time in time and time and space, and the properties of that wave, and the way that they come from the origin, then that would be very limiting. I’d have to describe this, you know, the history of my universe, the creation of everything, and all those sort of things; so that’s the first thing the teacher would ask me is “Can you describe it?” And I don’t think there’s much I could get away with describing.
The second thing they would ask was how can I come to a solution that’s not completely dependent on how I describe it? How can I come up with an answer about this wave that can be applied to all situations and all times and all places? Which comes into being? That’s the most radical thing in physics that I have to explain to my students, and that’s what it is: they’re going to have to ask that question.
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