April 16th, 2008

tango

The averaging trick

Background for y'all: my good friend Mari is taking a physics class. It sounds like it's a non-calculus-based physics class, which is good, because she hasn't taken calculus yet. But bad because, grrr, calculus was invented to make doing physics possible (well, sort of). Anyway, the professor is doing the usual non-calculus-based physics thing of telling little white lies about how the physics works in order to gloss over the calculus bits. Mari called me last night, asking "how come this works?" and I said, "um, I don't know how to explain without using calculus." This morning I think I have an answer. It uses concepts from calculus, but I think they're intuitive concepts that you wouldn't need to take a calculus class to understand. So, this post is for Mari, to be a better answer than I gave you last night, and for my physicist and mathematician friends, so you can catch me if I trip up and say something wrong. And it's for anyone else who enjoys reading such things.

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