12 December 2008

This morning in physics...

Immediately following my previous blog post I saw this commercial. I mentioned to @mishelleyb that I found it interesting that there was no data given in the commercial. I found it remarkable that BK is so bold as to expect us to "swallow the Elephant whole". Burger King expects us to buy into the idea that 31 seconds of information is enough evidence to show that the Whopper "tastes" bettter than the Big Mac. My bias against the Big Mac notwithstanding, there is just not enough information in this short commercial to settle the issue. Besides, how do you measure taste anyway? BK's use of the commercial as a good argument against the Big Mac is something akin to using this rap video as a good argument to fund the LHC.

After watching the commercial, @mishelleyb came up with the brilliant idea of asking my students to analyze Burger King's experimental design. What was wrong with it? What was right with it? I also asked them to analyze the manner in which the data was presented. We had a very productive discussion during which my students found some flaws with Burger King's methods, in both design and presentation. We then went here and got some more information about their "cultural experiment" and revisited our tasks. We decided that while Burger King was not completely free from fault by serving us this ad, we at least got a view of a larger section of their data set and were able to mark a few of the issues we had with their methods off of the list.

It was very rewarding to collaborate with @mishelleyb, who teaches english, on a critical thinking assignment as well as discussing critical thinking with my students. As I told them, one of my goals in physics class is to make them better at analyzing evidence and sometimes just getting them to dig deep enough to find it. I'm afraid some of them may be dangerously close to being cynics and not accepting ANY evidence; but I do think I am at least pushing them towards "looking closer at evidence" before drawing a conclusion. Some of their cynical issues are mostly due to their maturity level; I think most of that will work itself out as they get older.

Overall, a rewarding day. Don't even get me started on Physical Science.

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