Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Physics and surfing

I've read a couple of articles recently about physics and surfing. One was in the Financial Times, about Garrett Lisi, who lives and surfs and thinks about the universe in Maui. Love this:

When I was about 16, I found out that the abstract mathematics I was learning in school actually describes how the physical universe operates. It was like stumbling on the existence of true magic in the world.
I made a movie at USC called Chasing Patterns that is about a young man discovering the beauty of math in patterns in nature, so I totally grok this idea.

On this side of the Pacific, the LA Times has a story about a class at UC San Diego that combines surfing and physics. The students attache equipment to their boards that measure various things in the ocean, and they study the physics of surfing - how waves form, that kind of thing - in the classroom.

I'm a big fan of this for a couple of reasons. First, I am a strong proponent of just about any kind of teaching that takes place outside of the classroom. I think schools in this country at all levels should do more to get students away from desks and chalkboards. That, after all, is where they are going to spend most of the rest of their lives. Also, I am an equally strong proponent of anything that combines theory and practice, particularly real-world experience. When I was a philosophy major, "real world experience" consisted of typing up papers.

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