Saturday, November 03, 2007

Ask A Physicist

Yesterday after work The Topologist was looking for information. He asked, "You were a physics minor, right?" I said yes (even though I'm not sure if my minor was ever officially recorded on my transcript). He then asked me about the practical meaning of the moment of inertia. He's teaching it right now as an application in his calculus class (Still More Real Calculus for Engineers), but he wasn't sure of the practical meaning of what was being calculated.

I had to explain to him that I never took a real physics course that covered that, and I gave my intuitive best guess about what it meant.

If it were easier to talk to strangers, he could have solved this problem fairly easily. The second floor of the math building is infested with physicists. All he'd need to do is to pick any stranger on the second floor who is older than undergraduate age and ask, "Are you a physicist?" The answer would almost certainly be yes. And he could have found a better interpretation than mine about moment of inertia.