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October 30, 2020


Strange women in ponds distributing swords could hardly give us someone worse than we have....

That clip is hilarious. Going back and watching some Monty Python isn't the worst idea I've come across for getting through the next few days.

A slightly unusual request from my side. Coming Monday I have to attend the first session of a course in chemistry didactics and we got an advance task to ask people in our social environment what assumptions/prejudices people have about chemistry at school and chemistry teachers.
Unfortunately, I essentially lack such a social environment even absent Corona (I could as well be a hermit). Could anyone of you here maybe give a short feedback on the topic? Thank you.

Hartmut, I'd obviously say nerdy, often oblivious to danger, enjoy seeing things change, which usually means blowing things up. You may want to hit a few youtube videos, I suppose this Mr Bean one might be of interest

The Holy Grail is my favourite of their films, and probably of all their work. It is full of wonderful bits, of which this is one of the best. Watching it in the next few days is an excellent idea!

But Janie, be warned: there's a ton of silliness in HG, and I seem to remember when somebody linked to the French knights that silliness was not your bag...

Let's not go to Camelot. It's a silly place.

Hartmut -- my take on chemistry when I was in college was that there were a lot about patterns in it -- and I loved (and love) thinking about patterns. And there was a lot of memorizing, and when I was young I was very, very good at memorizing.

So when I was a freshman in college I did better in my chemistry class than I did in physics, and my TA encouraged me to continue. But I persisted in insisting that I loved physics more, and wanted to be an astronomer. (I became a computer nerd instead.) I loved *the idea* of physics -- of figuring out stuff about black holes and quasars and the Big Bang. Physics seemed to be all about grand, universal laws while chemistry seemed to be kind of random.

Even though I did better in my chemistry course work than in physics, I persisted for a while with physics, and abandoned checmistry after the one required course.

Now I look back, and when I feel like wallowing in regrets I think: if I had studied chemistry, I might have had a good basis for studying genetics, and wouldn't that have been cool over the past fifty years!

:-) Good luck on Monday.

(Oh, as to chemistry teachers: I didn't have any stereotyped ideas about them, from what I remember. My professor was of course remote, but my TA (grad student Teaching Assistant for my small group) was encouraging and accessible. So no mad scientist stereotypes for me.

So many typos...sorry. Hopefully the gist is clear.

Hartmut, I had no adverse stereotypes about Chemistry types, and in fact at my very academic boarding school the only teacher with a doctorate was the Chemistry teacher, and she seemed fine. But I did notice that friends of mine while at Oxford did have some sort of prejudice against Chemists, thinking them earnest and nerdy (and there may have been a class element too, snobbery was more rampant in those days, and it's possible that more scientists came from a varied class background than PPE, History and English students).

Sean Connery RIP

Sean Connery and fiddle music -- the only way I have ever been able to account for my love of Ireland and Irish music is that I saw Darby O'Gill and the Little People at a formative age (9).


what assumptions/prejudices people have about chemistry at school and chemistry teachers.

I'd expect that chemists, whether teachers or otherwise, would be strong on precision and measurement.

I think that Walt White from Breaking Bad captures either extreme of the secondary Chem teacher. Walt in the first couple episodes is the nerdy and slightly on the spectrum side of the stereotype and Heisenberg is the mad scientist end.

Mr. Bartz was neither of these, though. He was a cranky gnome with a caustic sense of humor. He'd forbid notes during exams but left a big periodic table up on the wall without mentioning it to the class. Those of us who got the magic of that had all the notes we needed right there, those who didn't get it were left to muddle through on their own.

My chemistry teacher was the nicest man - I didn't have the slightest clue or interest and we both knew it, but nevertheless I tried to be constructive in class with my limited means and he rewarded me with decent grades. I think he also had a bit of a crush on me.

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