Computers are Associated with Precision, but Really They Allow Experimentation

In physics, too, where computers were used to relieve the tedium of data collection and plotting, relatively mundane applications had significant effects. When calculation was automated and its results instantaneously translated into screen visualizations, patterns in data became more apparent. Physics students described feeling “closer to science” and “closer to theory” when their laboratory classes began to use software for visualization and analysis. As in chemistry, messy data no longer spoiled an experiment because you could afford the time to make extra passes until you had a good data set. One student was sure that doing all of these extra passes was what got her “hooked on physics” because “seeing that the data fits in spite of the variation is part of the allure of physics.” Another physics student reflected, “If you do the same things 1,000 times by hand, you lose the sense of what you’re doing. It takes so long, you forget the goal. You lose the forest in the trees.” Another commented that for him “theory came alive” when a simulation demonstrated time and voltage in relation to each another. “You’re not just seeing the curve drawn, you’re seeing it actually happen . . . created point by point.”

These students were experiencing another of computation’s “paradoxical effects.” Computers, usually associated with precision and rules, brought students closer to what is messy and irregular about nature. Computers made it possible for students to confront anomalous data with confidence. With multiple iterations, patterns became clear. As one student put it, “irregularities could be embraced.”


Folksonomies: simulation computation

/science/physics (0.994279)
/technology and computing/hardware/computer (0.986099)
/technology and computing/hardware/computer components (0.901159)

Experiment (0.990466): dbpedia_resource
Physics (0.984738): dbpedia_resource
Science (0.980361): dbpedia_resource
Software (0.960892): dbpedia_resource
Computer (0.900661): dbpedia_resource
Time (0.802262): dbpedia_resource
Nature (0.669001): dbpedia_resource
Mathematics (0.629071): dbpedia_resource

 Simulation and Its Discontents
Books, Brochures, and Chapters>Book:  Turkle, Sherry (2009), Simulation and Its Discontents, MIT Press, Retrieved on 2021-03-02
Folksonomies: computer science