Scientific Thinking

We live in an exciting time!

Science is part of our culture more today than ever before. Black holes, rocketry, and quantum computing are all fields of advanced science that have made their way onto YouTube, the news, and pop culture. But if you want to learn more about science than you can get from a news clipping, the last thousand years of scientific ideas stand between you and mastery.

The puzzles in this course will start to bridge that gap. You'll develop physical insight while you play. From gears to electric circuits to laser tag, you'll find scientific principles where you least expect them.

Nature is a Puzzle


We've all had one of those satisfying "Aha!" moments while poring over a crossword, finding the right arrangement of Sudoku numbers, or considering the logical plights of knights and knaves.

Puzzles present a challenge for your brain — they all have a simple structure and a clear set of rules for solving them. But in this course, we won't be solving puzzles involving general knowledge, simple arithmetic, or logical contradictions.

We will be tackling puzzles in the natural world.

Nature is a Puzzle


You can't enjoy a puzzle unless you know its rules. Similarly, you can't really appreciate the world around you until you understand the rules of nature. The physical sciences are the study of these rules, whether it is in the form of chemistry, biology, or physics.

In particular, physics is more than just a part of the physical sciences. Unlike the others, it explains the basic building blocks of the natural world: matter in motion, forces, energy, heat, light, and time.
Everything follows these same rules — the world is beautifully connected by the laws of physics that you'll find in this course.

Nature is a Puzzle


Physics and engineering are often said to be about precision and mathematics, but here we will dispense with both these tenets in search of something else: physical insight.

While mathematical analysis can explain the exact range of a 500 kPa\SI{500}{\kilo \pascal} firehose at a 3030 ^\circ angle, the precision gained by specifying all the variables pays a steep price in generality.

Answering simple questions can become hard when you become reliant on mathematics: What happens to the range of the firehose when it doubles in length? What about when it is raised to the top of a ladder?

Nature is a Puzzle


On a journey to physical insight, we'll need to start from scratch.

When you approach an unfamiliar physics problem, you want to first learn the main ideas and the important rules at play: "What is pressure, and does it change with the length and height of the fire hose?" Only by answering these questions can you make new predictions about the physics at play.

Nature is a Puzzle


You might be surprised to learn that a fire hose can be made as long as you'd like, without any drop in pressure.^* But for every meter you raise the fire hose, the pressure of the water and its range will dwindle.

These ideas and rules structure your understanding of the problem. Precision isn't important, and neither is mathematics. It's easier to refine this intuitive understanding than it is to create the fully formed mathematical analysis. This course will show you how to build insight and understanding first so you don't end up getting lost in number-crunching.

^*As long as the water flows frictionlessly. In extremely long hoses, friction may have a noticeable effect on the pressure.

Nature is a Puzzle


The thinking involved in solving puzzles is a unique blend of following rules with imaginative association. Only by combining both can you see a pattern or a twist that the puzzle conceals. If all goes well, you're able to use that hidden insight to form new information and ideas.

The process will be exactly the same with physics: we'll bring the rules, you bring the imagination.

Nature is a Puzzle


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