October 20th, 2005

krazy koati

Who's sorry now

My students, I've noticed, have an increasing tendency to apologize when they ask me questions. I'd try to get them out of this habit of saying, ``I'm sorry sir, but -- '' except that I know they'd apologize for that as well, so we'd make no progress. They seem more prone to apologize in computer labs. They might be picking up on my faint frustration when one asks ``I'm sorry sir, but how do you get from fk to ak and bk?'' again, so I have to repeat that the ak part is the real component of fk; the bk part is the imaginary component of fk; and that's all. I can explain again the components' `physical' interpretation is, but there's only so many ways to say any of this. They just have to read the number on the computer screen. The problem is not nearly as hard as some students want it to be, and I'm most often stumped when students won't believe the answer is easy.

That doesn't explain the students reluctant to come into my office to chat during office hours, though. I had one the other day, who knocked so timidly on the door I wasn't sure I heard her, and I had to say, ``Come in,'' and wave in, and open the door (it closes automatically or I'd just leave it open), accept her apology, and then say she didn't need to make an appointment to talk with me if she had time right now. A couple minutes later I had to tell her it was all right to sit down, too.

There's a new Singapore ``Road Wave'' campaign, designed to encourage the city's ascension to a more gracious society. In this case, it's encouraging drivers who make a mistake in traffic to wave apologetically to the other drivers they've wronged. On the order of a half-million leaflets (remember, the population is on the order of four million people, many of whom don't drive because cars are deliberately quite expensive) are to be printed up and distributed. One can't help but think of the many colorful hand gestures which could be made in a single hour of rush-hour traffic if the community really tried, or just observed the New Jersey Turnpike. There's also to be a children's storybook, James and the Big Red Car, about road courtesy.

Trivia: For a while in 1978 the Space Shuttle Challenger, ultimately given Orbiter Vehicle number 99 (matching the number from its origins as a Structural Test Article), was renumbered OV-101M. Source: Space Shuttle: The History of the National Space Transportation System, Dennis R Jenkins.

Currently Reading: The Sputniks Crisis and Early United States Space Policy, Rip Bulkeley.