New York Times Related to Term Paper

  • Length: 10 pages
  • Sources: 5
  • Subject: Astronomy
  • Type: Term Paper
  • Paper: #82935315

Excerpt from Term Paper : extremely violent version of dark energy blew it up a fraction of a second after time began..." (Overbye, 2007). This would have the result of smoothing and stretching space and hiding other areas and galaxies from out sight.

4. Free Will: Now You Have it, Now You Don't by Dennis Overbye

Published: January 2, 2007

This article deals with the time-honored and complex debate about human free will and if free will is a construct of the imagination or an actual human reality. The author draws on sources and arguments from many disciplines to deal with this issue, including science and physics.

The argument against the idealistic and philosophical view of free will as an innate quality of human existence is that free will in fact is an illusion and that human life is in reality predetermined by physical as well as genetic and social aspects that we are often not even aware of. This more deterministic view has been prevalent in the sciences for many years.

As the author points out, the question of free will and the acceptance of the above view of free will is a prospect that plunges us into despair and nihilism at the thought that life has no real meaning, but is mainly a "knee-jerk" response to different stimulation and circumstances. Another even more alarming view that is posited by Mark Hallett, a researcher with the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, is that free will is only a perception and that it does not exist in reality but only in the feeling that we have of freedom.

Other scientists also add to this gloomy view of free will and state that in every physical system that has been investigated it has been concluded that the driving force is entirely deterministic or random; which again indicates that free will is at best an illusion, which is only perceived as being real.

However, this view is countered to a certain extent by some modern physicists, who state that free will must exist, as it is a prerequisite for the creation of theories and the innovation of experimentation. The article notes that this view is particularly prevalent in the field of quantum mechanics. The author refers to the statement by Anton Zeilinger, a quantum physicist at the University of Vienna, who said that quantum randomness was "not a proof, just a hint, telling us we have free will" (Overbye, "Free Will," 2007),

However, the article also describes a variety of experiments that tended to show that conscious actions, and by implication free will, is problematized by the unconscious mind. Interestingly, the author notes that conscious will and actions are often seen as a "drag" on creative activity. The example is given of a writer who writes more creatively in a state of trance, rather than when he or she is conscious of the writing process.

This leads to other scientific views of free will that see this aspect as the part of the mind that censors and vetoes our actions and allows some to take place and not others. This is of course the moral aspect of free will and one scientist is cited as arguing that there is no real conflict between the material world and determinism and free will in this regard.

A it is precisely our immersion in causality and the material world that frees us. Evolution, history and culture, he explains, have endowed us with feedback systems that give us the unique ability to reflect and think things over and to imagine the future. Free will and determinism can co-exist

Overbye, "Free Will," 2007)

This view in turn leads to more complex theories that are aligned to modern quantum physics. The author turns to a discussion of levels of complexity in systems of physics and to non-dualistic views of what constitutes free will. This perspective also deals with the view that, " all is physics" and that what is referred to as free will is actually the outcome of various systems determining human life which offer certain choices and "futures."

While the article ends inconclusively, there is the suggestion that a more non-dualistic approach is needed in order to understand free will. There is also the suggestion gleaned from the work of physicists that a state can be reached in the understanding of systems where a new order of non-dualistic apperception can be attained. In other words, what is possibly being suggested in this article is that the prevalent dualistic mode of thought that is also evident in the sciences is not adequate to understand a concept such as free will and that another order of thought and complexity is needed to deal with the subject.

5. Using the 'Beauties of Physics' to Conquer Science Illiteracy by CLAUDIA DREIFUS. Published: July 17, 2007.

Eric Mazur, the Gordon McKay Professor of Applied Physics at Harvard, is a teacher who has a passion for physics that he attempts to convey in innovative ways to the students. The author, through an interview in question and answer format, explores Mazur's views and the way that he engages students to learn and experience the beauty of physics.

Central to this teaching method is the focus on argumentation, discussion and student involvement. This differs from the older "distant" view of learning where the student learnt mainly through rote memory and repetition. Mazur's emphasis and method is rather to encourage the student to experience and learn about the beauty of physics in an active and interactive way.

The article also emphasizes the view that this change in teaching physics is seen to be necessary and that it is an approach that should be adopted to increase interest in the subject. This is a change from a reliance on memory and repetition to a form of learning that is much more adventurous and challenging. In addiction to this Mazur emphasizes a through understanding, rather then just a memorization, of the basic concept and principles that are the foundations of physics. These are taught and understood in such a way as to provide a firm grounding in the discipline that is so necessary for research and experimentation later on.

The article also notes the importance that chance and serendipity play in the understanding of the nature of physics. As an example, of this Mazur refers to the chance discovery of black silicon. This chance discovery led to the patenting of a new substance that is used in the sensor and communications industry today. In essence, the point that he makes or illustrates through this example in this interview, is that physics is not a subject that depends on rote and meaningless repetition but rather is a subject that is alive and exciting. The emphasis is placed on a perception of physics where discovery, chance and learning go hand in hand - and that this is the way that the science should be taught.

Eric Mazur notes that his early education in Holland was typified by this type of rote memorization and he states of this period that he often felt like abandoning physics for something more creative and innovative, like art.

However, he later discovered the beauty and the creative excitement of the subject, particularly in laboratory work and experiments.

Central to his teaching methods is that science and physics should be taught in a way that relates to and has something to say about real life, which the student can relate to. Therefore, to add to or improve the learning environment he encourages he students to read the text before the lecture - a method that is not often used in the teaching of physics. In line with this approach is the focus on groups and group work; where marks are allocated because of group work and discussions. In other words, all of these aspects and methods are intended to work towards a more open and student - centered approach to the teaching of the discipline. This more open approach, which emphasizes argument and discussion rather than rote learning, is also emphasized by his decision to allow students to take books into the examination room. This again refers to his emphasis on understanding central concepts and their applications rather than memory and repetition. Eric Mazur has also been cited as Harvard's most innovative teacher.


Collision Course for Physics (editorial) (May 17, 2007) New York Times.

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Dreifus C. (July 17, 2007) Using the 'Beauties of Physics' to Conquer Science

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Overbye D. (June 5, 2007) the Universe, Expanding Beyond All Understanding.

New York Times. Retrieved 23 October, 2007, at

Overbye D. (January 2, 2007) Free Will: Now You Have it, Now You Don't by Dennis. New York Times. Retrieved 23 October, 2007, at

Markoff J. (August 31, 2007) I.B.M. Researchers Advancing Computer. New York Times.. Retrieved 23 October, 2007,…

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