Setting up a second monitor

Karl Auer kauer at
Fri Apr 21 13:10:24 UTC 2006

On Fri, 2006-04-21 at 13:31 +0100, Daniel Carrera wrote:
> You can answer all of those questions, and get a decent knowledge of how 
> a car works, without understanding the internal combustion engine.

Of course. But only via an ever-expanding set of rules about what to do
and what not to do. When the rules run out, you are lost. I concede that
a deep knowledge of metallurgy is probably unnecessary, but a basic
knowledge about what makes it go and what makes it stop are IMHO needed
if you are to be a safe and efficient driver.

> don't need to understand the Otto cycle to understand gears (heck, 
> anyone who has riden a bicycle understands gears).

No - and people who don't understand gears will happily halve the life
of a car by revving it too low. You can add another rule, but...

> that to maintain your car (the Otto cycle has nothing to do with why you 
> should check your oil, or what a radiator does).

No - but the general idea that bits of metal are flying around and along
each other under the hood does have something to do with both these. And
with why the little red light is *important*. And with why the *right*
oil is important. Of course, you can just add rules...

> You don't need to understand about the molecular frequency of water to 
> answer those questions. You know you shouldn't put the cat in it because 
> it will cook it. As for metal, could you please explain to us why 
> putting metal in the microwave is dangerous?

Try it. Seriously. And watch carefully. With a microwave oven you don't
want. Metal reflects microwaves (some metals absorb them). It can arc
across the ionized air between two metals, like the walls of the oven
and a metal object in it. The ends of the arc can pit the metal or the
walls, or even carve a hole in them. Food in metal containers will be
shielded so it doesn't cook properly. Metal trim (like gold or silver
patterns on a coffee cup) will be stripped off. And so on. Another rule:
"Don't put metal in microwave ovens".

> You don't need to know the molecular structure of scales to learn how to 
> fish.

No. But you need to know about them as animals, understand why they do
some of the things they do. Telling someone "drop the line in there"
will only work today, or in this river, or with that kind of fish. To
get good at fishing, the person will need to learn about *fish*. How
much depends on how good they want to get at fishing, and sure, there is
always a point of diminishing returns.

> I agree with the sentiment of the last paragraph, but I think that your 
> examples were poor. You don't need to know the Otto cycle to maintain 
> your car and you don't need to know what a molecular dipole is to know 
> not to microwave your cat.

Somewhere there is always the line below which further detail is
pointless in a practical sense. We don't need to understand quantum
mechanics to sit on a chair. I think most people set the line waaaay to
high. You just set it waaaay too low :-)

Regards, K.

Karl Auer (kauer at                   +61-2-64957160 (w/h)                  +61-428-957160 (mob)

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