Will a Female Physicist Succeed Where Einstein Failed?

While not strictly an educational issue, this link leads to one of the most fascinating articles that I have read in a long time.  It is about a female physicist named Cohl Furey who is using the hierarchy of number systems (real numbers, complex numbers, quaternions, octonions) to try to explain the fundamental properties of nature.  While this line of investigation may not pan out ultimately, it is extremely interesting and the additional background material linked to from the article is also fascinating.  One can skim some of the details, but it is worth reading in its entirety to get the flavor of modern research into the mysteries of the universe.

Developing the kind of passion with which Dr. Furey pursues her research should be our goal in education.

Since I have a Ph.D., I have often been asked why, after finishing my tech career, I wanted to teach high school instead of college.  Here is an excerpt from the article above that explains why:

Furey, who is 39, said she was first drawn to physics at a specific moment in high school, in British Columbia. Her teacher told the class that only four fundamental forces underlie all the world’s complexity — and, furthermore, that physicists since the 1970s had been trying to unify all of them within a single theoretical structure. “That was just the most beautiful thing I ever heard,” she told me, steely-eyed. She had a similar feeling a few years later, as an undergraduate at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, upon learning about the four division algebras. One such number system, or infinitely many, would seem reasonable. “But four?” she recalls thinking. “How peculiar.”

A good high school teacher has the ability to “launch a thousand ships” to quote Homer. Sad that we are turning our educational system into a standardized test taking machine for college competition…

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

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