Science and Autodidacticism

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J.Spano
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Science and Autodidacticism

Post by J.Spano » 11 Aug 2014 17:34

If tasked with constructing a science-based curriculum how would you advise someone trying to build a solid foundation in all of the major areas of science?
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Cass
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by Cass » 11 Aug 2014 17:57

I think the basis of science is not really about specific facts but actually learning how to science.

The scientific method is the key. Making a hypothesis and testing it in an objective way. Being willing to be wrong and change your view. That's what it's about.

You can't learn all the things but having the skills to gain knowledge is what is important.

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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by janis » 12 Aug 2014 04:42

I have a LOT to say about this. But first, who is the target audience for such a curriculum? Please tell me a bit about the target audience. Who are they? What is their background?

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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by J.Spano » 12 Aug 2014 05:52

The target it audience has a high school education and has taken, basic chemistry, biology, and environmental science but not physics.

The audience is looking to become a generalist in the major sciences.
Think of this curriculum as an alternative to a college degree, a poor man's BS if you will.
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F[uns]tylin' Eclectic
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by F[uns]tylin' Eclectic » 12 Aug 2014 07:29

Research, my friend. My suggestion would be to choose one different topic every week/month, and try to learn several facts about that topic each day.
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janis
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by janis » 12 Aug 2014 17:03

The most important things is fostering a sense of intellectual curiosity.
Being interested in the ways in which the world works and having a burning desire to know more will stand you in good steed. The reason this is particularly important is because you will be in this for the LONG haul. Mastery takes time, footbaggers as a group probably know this better than most. In a society centered around instant gratification where you go to bookstores and see topics such as "learn ... in 24 hours" and similar you be tricked into thinking that topics can be covered quickly. However as tempting as it is, this is just a delusion, mastery cannot be rushed.

Ask yourself what you are interested in. What topics have caught your attention lately? What would you like to know more about? Once you have figured out some things you would like to study then write them down.

Learning how to think is difficult and learning how to learn is difficult. Learning these skills are immensely rewarding and are a crucial part of the process. You need to learn how to think and how to think independently. People are not innately born with the ability to conceptualize certain ideas and people have innate ways of thinking that are not particular accurate. Some of the difficulties associated with decision making and thinking are discussed in a fantastic book called "Thinking fast and slow" by Kahnemann.
People are also not born with effective ways of learning. You need to make a deliberate effort to learn how to learn. This comes with time, experience and deliberate practice. This is a very deep topic and a very challenging one. If you have the courage to analyze, reflect and change your thought patterns you have my utmost respect. Rising to this challenge is something that most people are not capable of.

Treat this as if you were about to run a marathon. Just like running a marathon you will need to train, some things will seem annoying but are necessary. Being able to think precisely and reason about ideas is very important. A great basis for this is in formal logic. (Mathematical logic is also very good but there might be some unfortunate connotations associated with "Mathematics" if all you have seen is high school. This tangent could fill an entire post on its own.) This is a bit like eating your vegetables, even if you don't particularly like it you'll be really glad you did later on.

You will encounter a lot of information on this journey. Keeping track of that information in a way in which you can internalize it and access it when you need it is very important. You will need to rote memorize some things and there will be no way around this unless you resign yourself to a very large productivity hit. There is of course a trade-off to be made, the less often you will encounter certain pieces of information the less value there is in rote memorizing them. However when it comes to the fundamental building blocks it's very valuable to know things without having to search them up. Imagine how inconvienent it would be if you had to study how to walk every time you needed to walk. For some topics there will be things that are as important as walking, get these topics to be second nature to you.

For helping keep track of these memorization tasks I would highly recommend using Anki flash cards. This is an open source program which can be found here: http://ankisrs.net/

This will relieve a lot of the organizational issues with this type of learning because the program manages many aspects of it for you. Learning how to most effectively learn with this method can really boost the effectiveness of a flash card based approach. There's some really good articles about making flash cards over here: http://www.supermemo.com/articles/20rules.htm
Make a habit out of reviewing these.

I have deliberately avoided mentioning science until now.
Many people don't ever stop to ask "what is science"? Misconceptions abound.

I would highly recommend reading "What is this thing called science?" by Chalmers. It's a great introduction to some topics in the philosophy of science. If you like this book then you might want to continue on by reading "Philosophy of science: the central issues" edited by Curd and Cover.
J.Spano wrote:Think of this curriculum as an alternative to a college degree, a poor man's BS if you will.
I refuse to think of this from the mental framing of "a poor man's BS". In my mind you are getting access to the wealth of the knowledge in the sciences and that people who are interested only in the status of science are the impoverished people. They are not the true scientists and are often charlatans of the highest order. Wealth and status disappear when you die but the knowledge is eternal. Having a degree won't automatically add anything to the wealth of human knowledge but intently pursuing knowledge for a lifetime will. (I'm not trying to say any of this in a way that makes me come across as an over privileged asshole although I can totally see how this could appear this way given a certain set of life experiences coupled with true disempowerment/disadvantage. Again another tangent that could take pages but an important one.)
The reward is the journey
Learning is a lifelong journey. Arbitrarily limiting your learning to a set duration in time such as the length of a degree is a tremendous shame. Lifelong learning is a very rewarding journey but it can be a very tough one at times. If you have been learning for a while and feel like you just don't know anything then great! You just reached an important milestone. Before you get depressed though make sure you read up about:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2 ... ger_effect

If you are then still feeling crappy read this too:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impostor_syndrome

If you are still feeling bad then PM me.

Once you internalize that you can't ever know more than just a fraction of the existing knowledge that is out there then you are really starting to make it. Hubris and thinking you already know it all is probably the most effective ways to prevent yourself from actually becoming an expert on any given subject.

The main thing is not to get discouraged. The rewards of knowledge come to those who work hardest. The deep satisfaction that you get from working hard and attaining knowledge is the real reward. A reward that nobody can take away from you, a reward that needs to be felt to be believed. I would be overjoyed if I could help someone else experience this. I'd be happy to answer any questions on this topic.

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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by J.Spano » 12 Aug 2014 18:01

Thank you to everyone that's contributed thus far! I'm taking everyone's reply into consideration.
Janis, I believe you hit the nail on the head. One's mindset should transcend any one specific approach.

A person should, as Cass put it, "...have the skills to gain knowledge..".
Thanks again everyone, all of this helps!
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Allan
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by Allan » 13 Aug 2014 08:16


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Jeremy
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by Jeremy » 13 Aug 2014 21:58

I think it's really difficult to teach yourself a general but good broad knowledge of science. There are so many important gaps that you'll miss because you won't even know to think of them. If I were you I'd try to acquire basic textbooks on broad topics. It's possible to acquire most textbooks online for free, although illegal. Usually these are written to be the curriculum on the topic, and if you read through you'll get a decent knowledge, hopefully without too many gaps. If you stick to popular science you'll probably get very patchy knowledge set, although there are some good exceptions. Lots of (but not all) text books can be really useful too. I still use many of my biology text books, years after finishing the courses and degree they were required for.

J.Spano
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Re: Science and Autodidacticism

Post by J.Spano » 14 Aug 2014 13:24

Interesting.

Once I'm aboard ship and get settled in the Navy I think I just might order a bunch of used textbooks.
I can get college level physics, differential + integral calculus (to cover some math), biology, chemistry, etcetera.

I'd love to hear your thoughts on learning and self-education, shoot me a pm.
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