Inspired Learning from, “The Clockwork Universe”

The Clockwork Universe
ePub First Edition 2011
By Edward Dolnick
ISBN: 9780062042262

I recently read this fine book on my new cool iPad2 device. That device makes reading easier than I previously thought. A reading style is subjective, therefore I leave further assessment of  a style to the reader of this message.

I found the book fascinating, exposing me to new understanding of how people thought about “science” in the 16th and 17th centuries. It was different than how we view it today in the western world. Science today is to expand the understanding of the reality around us. Science then was for the most part, a quest to understand the Mind of God.

Some of the chapters speak to the issues that Issaac Newton and Gottfried Leibniz faced in studying motion and their independent invention of Calculus to reach an understanding of those studies.

I was following along in the text when I came across the time they were starting to figure out how to calculate the slope of the tangent to a point on a curve. The term limits was introduced and I stopped reading to go and search to find an explanation of the limits concept.

I started my search at iTunesU, a marvelous place to learn at one’s own leisure. I previously used that resource for other short lectures on higher education topics. In a short time I discovered a series on Calculus presented by MIT Professor Herb Gloss in 1970. He is an excellent teacher!

Over the next few days I sequentially watched Prof. Gross’ lectures 1 through 9 then skipped to watching lecture 13 alone. I wasn’t trying to become a Calculus expert, but I understood those ten lectures completely because of Prof. Gross clear style of presenting the material.

I learned far more than the concept of limits. I could relate his presentations back to my Advanced Algebra, Advanced Trigonometry, and Analytic Geometry course at Triton College in 1983. I had a great teacher for that course back then too.

I never thought about the tangent to a point on a curve as deeply as I did while pursuing Prof. Gross’ lectures. I can now relate to Derivatives and Higher Order Derivatives, especially the latter in how they may better locate the position of tangency to a point on a curve. To explore such revelations for yourself on a Mac you can use the Grapher application. There are also online chart programs that may be helpful too.

Edward Dolnick’s book was great all by itself as a learning experience. The detour I took by learning more Calculus was an added benefit. Sometimes reading allows us to expand our minds more than we think we might when we open that book to begin. This book did that for me.

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About Don Larson

Using computer technology since June 1980.
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