Student blog post by Matthew Raymond
On Tuesday this week, physicist Chris Ferry Ph.D talked to Year 9 about the use of mathematics in problem solving, and how we could build mathematical skills through determination and practice. To make his point, he referenced the time-independent Schrödinger equation, a partial differential equation describing the wave function of a single particle moving in an electrical field. He described the equality in polar coordinates:
The above may seem unintelligible, but consider another equality,
4 x 4 = 16
You’ve hopefully used this statement hundreds of times in your mathematical education, to the point where you can instantly recall it from memory. What makes the four times tables different from Schrödinger’s equation? Practically nothing. I assure you, if you practiced quantum mechanics like you did times tables, you’d be able to recall field theory much faster than common arithmetic.
Dr Ferrie made the point that those who practice a subject create the impression they have a kind of superior intelligence. For example. if I asked someone who’d never been exposed to any kind symbolic mathematics what either of the two equalities above represent, I couldn’t possibly hope they’d explain it to me, regardless of how much natural intellect they had. The natural implication is obvious, to understand mathematics, and any other subject, all we have to do is practice!
In summary, Dr Ferry illustrated the importance of practice and how that practice manifests in success. A hugely important message sprinkled in quantum mechanics! What more could we ask for?