I didn’t come up with that title. That’s the title of a lab report turned in by a disgruntled physics major after the obligatory upper-division laboratory. It’s kinda famous in the physics circuit. Read it. It’s funny.
Check this shit out (Fig. 1). That’s bonafide, 100%-real data, my friends. I took it myself over the course of two weeks. And this was not a leisurely two weeks, either; I busted my ass day and night in order to provide you with nothing but the best data possible. Now, let’s look a bit more closely at this data, remembering that it is absolutely first-rate. Do you see the exponential dependence? I sure don’t. I see a bunch of crap.
Christ, this was such a waste of my time.
I just sent this link to some of my colleagues who are starting to discuss upper-division labs at the university. What do we want students to get out of them? What are our goals? I love the above lab report (have you not read it yet? Go read it! It’s short) in part because it seems to sing the truth of what’s broken in a lot of these labs. We give students shoddy equipment and ask them to go and confirm something that we’ve known to be true for over 100 years. They write it up. It’s just as cookbook as when we ask elementary students to measure the temperature of boiling water. But don’t we expect more from students at this level? Shouldn’t they be able to apply critical thinking skills and do true inquiry science by the time they’ve undergone hundreds of hours of instruction in physics (or any science)? Shouldn’t they have a working thermos?