I have just finished reading the first chapter of Nelson. For anyone who hasn’t started reading it yet, it’s a pretty easy read. It took me an hour and a half, and may take you even less, as I don’t think I am a particularly fast reader. This textbook from what I have seen so far uses quite easy language, and assumes very little background knowledge, which means it explains things in a way that is easy to understand. I have to thank Seth for his choice of textbook for this course.
Regarding this first chapter, there wasn’t much content in it that I hadn’t seen before. In particular section 1.4 which revises units and dimensional analysis was something I presume we all know and have used since high school. But this chapter was very useful for setting up the structure and conventions that I understand will be used in this textbook. I especially appreciate 1.5.4 Track 2, as it explains the conventions used when discussing moles. I would have been quite happy to use the unit mol, but I think the convention in this textbook shouldn’t be too hard to understand. I will be interested to see how this textbook measures quantities like bond energies, which are typically measured in units of kJ/mol.
Anyway, the point of this post was not to discuss the merits of the textbook we are using. I wanted to ask everyone where they perceive themselves in the dichotomy described in section 1.3. This section compares biologists to physicists, suggesting that the former tends to focus on details of a system, whereas the latter simplifies the system and focuses on an overall model. Is this a sentiment that everyone agrees with? I tend to think it is a bit of a generalisation; there would be many physicists that focus on the finer details of a physical system, and many occasions when a biologist can simplify a phenomenon to allow it to be compared to other similar situations. But I can understand where this idea is coming from.
I would place myself towards the big picture side of the scale myself. Coming from a mathematical and physical background, I am comfortable with the idea of extracting the important details of a system, and then attempting to discover the physical relationships which model them. I hope that this does not exclude me from noticing significant finer details about specific situations. I suppose this is something I will have to watch over this semester (and the future).
Where does everyone else perceive themselves on this scale?