Archive for the ‘Physics’ Category

Sort-of decided on the courses for October

The problem with the physics course is that it’s not really one that is suitable for doing all by itself. The pre-requisites for it are both the introductory science course (S104) and the maths essentials courses (MST124 and MST125). That said, I’ve got a copy of the predecessor to the current introductory science course and I’ve previously done maths at university (rather a long time ago).

However, what really knocked it out for me is that, at some stage, I’d like to do the maths and physics degree and I think that it would be better to do that as a unit from start to finish which I can’t do at the moment, so it’s on hold for a while.

Which leaves the child psychology course as my main contender for October. This has the advantage that it’s another step forward for my psychology degree and it’s got an EMA so shouldn’t clash too much with S345 that starts in May and has a TMA in early June.

In addition to that I’m thinking of the science investigation course (S155) which is an essential if I wanted to do another science degree and which disappears into a 30 pointer after this year.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Physics or psychology?

I’ve been reading over some of the S207 (physics) and psychology (mostly DSE212) samples that I’ve collected over the years to try and reach a decision between E102 (child psychology) or S207 (physics) for next October.

This October is my chance to top up my “miscellaneous interesting courses” degree to the point where I could claim it and thereby leave it while I, perhaps, head off to do a masters. So, I need a course that will fit into that timeslot.

Both physics and psychology go well with the courses already in the degree which currently has 70 points chemistry, 60 psychology, 60 physics and 30 history so nothing really to choose between them on that score.

I’ve only got the introductory sections of S207 but have bits of a course that follows E102 so it’s not really a like for like comparison. In practical terms, I’ve got the more interesting bits of the psychology to read and those bits come later on in physics.

I may have to get a coin out 🙂

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

So what was signals and perception (SD329) really like?

It’s billed as the science of the senses and that’s what’s behind it all though the emphasis on the various senses changes as you move through the course.

Each of the study guides starts with a pointer to what you’ll need to know to understand each section of the course. For instance, for vision you need to know the physics behind how light works as well as bits of biology to understand how the receptors in the eye work and some psychology to understand how the image on your retina is interpreted as a scene. For taste and smell you need quite a bit of chemistry to understand what all the chemicals that they discuss are. Overall, it’s mainly biology and psychology that you need but at times there’s quite a bit of physics and chemistry so, depending on your scientific background, you’ll find that the difficulty in following the course varies quite a bit along the way.

One consistent hassle is that the assignments are far from clear in what they’re asking for. I basically muddled along never being able to predict what my results would be with anything like the accuracy that I usually can. That’s not just me either as a number of comments on the course mention that aspect of the course. I’m not sure why that should be but perhaps it’s an aspect of it being an inter-disciplinary course and maybe they should be more explicit about saying that “the question is on biology” or something like that although even that would be quite difficult as a number of the questions run across more than one discipline.

It’s quite a large course though you wouldn’t necessarily think that from the volume of books that it’s made up from. Where the problem arises from is that there’s a fair chunk of stuff on the DVD and the reader is very, very variable in readability as it’s written by lots of different authors. The study guide points out a number of chapters in it that are particularly difficult. It’s not really that clear why the reader is there as most of the time it covers much the same ground as you’d have already read in the course text, sometimes in more detail but sometimes not. As became clear in my revision, it’s not particularly well integrated with the rest of the course.

Overall, I have mixed feelings about the course. It was in a little more detail than I’d covered in previous biology courses but I didn’t feel that it added an awful lot to that existing knowledge so it didn’t come across as fascinating as I’d expected it would be. For instance, prerequisite courses had already covered vision in almost the same amount of detail and proprioception which was new to me wasn’t really covered in a great deal of detail. On the whole, I wouldn’t really recommend it if you’ve done human biology courses before as there’s not an awful lot of truly new material.

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

Finally Signals and Perception (SD329) is finished

Signals & Perception was a really interesting course but, for me, it wasn’t as satisfying as it might have been as I ended up having to slot it in between a whole lot of other stuff which made it feel like a number of separate courses as it was very much a stop-go experience for me courtesy of me ending up with a little too many separate courses during the year.

It wasn’t meant to be that way but starting a new job in April was something that I’d not allowed for and in particular I’d not allowed for it roughly equating to another 60 point course. Net effect was that April to October was a bit of a nightmare time-wise for everything (not counting real life either!). Thankfully, the exam yesterday marks the end of that period and I notionally have a week off before the next course starts and it’s only a 20 pointer too.

Although an overly busy time, it’s been a really interesting roller-coaster of a year. Last October saw me starting S205, the main chemistry course, with a short autism course (SK124) kicking in a month later. SD329 weighed in in February and was going fine ’til the job offer came through in March. Early June disappeared in preparation for the S205 exam and the second half of June went with the pre-course assignments for the biology (SXR376) and chemistry (SXR344) summer schools which took place in the first couple of weeks of July. Coming back from them, it was straight into the assignment for SD329 before spending most of August on the assignments for the summer schools. In September it was catch-up with SD329 and then the final assignment for it before diving into revision for the exam. Not a recommended approach but, passes permitting, it means that I’m over the hump of the degree and have only two 30 point courses and a 10 pointer to complete it by 2014.

I was a bit brain-dead last night but managed to have a first proper look at what’s coming up in the Metals & Life (S347) course. First glance, it appeared like a lot of reading but it’s about 60 pages over three weeks, not the one week that I’d thought initially. Also, it seems to be run like a biology course which dives into some chemistry along the way so, hopefully, not too bad. I’m not overly keen on having the exam at the end of April though as that’ll be a couple of months into S377 which has a bit of a reputation of being very difficult.

Not to be forgotten is some preparatory reading for S377 which needs done between now and Christmas. That’s around 250 pages from S204 which we didn’t need to cover during S204 itself but which is required reading for S377.

I thought that the SD329 exam wasn’t too bad. With interdisciplinary courses, there’s what appears to be a totally frightening amount of information of differing types to go over and starting the revision is scary. Once I got well into it, things seemed to come together though and I ended up with 5 or 6 quite good answers out of the 8 short questions and only one pretty poor one. For the longer questions I think I’ve two fairly good ones and one reasonable out of the three. More than enough to pass I think but the overall result could be anywhere from 50 to 70 as I was dreadful at estimating my assignment marks during the course.


Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

The S204 potato experiment

I have finally gotten around to completing this which “just” leaves the writing up to be done.

Home experiments used to be all the rage in the Open University science courses but they seem not to be so popular these days or at least not on such a widespread basis. That’s not to say they’re not around in significant numbers on some courses though: last years Astronomy (S282) course came with loads of them. For the biology course there are two experimental weeks although in reality it’s more like a couple of experimental days if the first one is anything to go by.

The problem of course is all the health and safety considerations that come to bear on these things nowadays. What’s particularly odd about the biology experiment is that step one is to acquire a chemical that is one of three components that are very popular with bomb makers: something that has caused some difficulty in purchasing said item for a number of students.

The potato experiment comes in three segments. In the first segment we’d to try a pilot experiment with our liquidised potato and hydrogen peroxide to select a suitable concentration of liquidised potato to use in the later experiments. All by itself that part took over an hour for me and I ended up having to repeat it as the catalase in the potato went off mid-way through the second experiment.

The second experiment takes even longer. Despite having got into the swing of it, that one ended up taking several hours which is where the problem in my first attempt lay as the catalase goes off in around three hours so having the mid-point falling at close to that time was asking for trouble. The objective of that one is to find the period when the catalase is working at its peak rate which almost always is going to fall in the first minute so it makes for a very boring 9 minutes for each of the five replicates that you’ve to run.

In the final experiment you get down to the meat of the experiment which is to show that the reaction rate is dependent on the concentration of the catalase which takes another couple of hours.

Add up all the experiment times and you’re looking at around six hours to complete this. And then you have to do some statistical work and write up the experiment.

As in last years SXR270 glucose assay, the problem with this experiment is that you need to do so many replicates that it gets to be very mechanical and boring which doesn’t seem right given that what you’re working on comes with some really interesting theory behind it.

We meet the potatoes again in August when we’ve to devise our own experiment. The devising of it is what needs most thought unless you have a commercial laboratory handy. Thus, things like examining the effect of different temperatures are complicated unless you choose 0C and whatever the room temperature is but even then it’s not so simple as the liquidised potato needs to be kept in the fridge ie you only really vary the temperature of the water you’re diluting it with. Comparing how it works in the light and dark would be nice to do but doesn’t seem practical and neither does varying the colour of the light. Varying the pH would also be nice to do and certainly possible but how would you measure the pH without laboratory equipment? You could even compare different ages of potato but that’s complicated in that you’d need to use the same variety of potato and you don’t know its age (unless you’ve grown it yourself…hmmm).

Copyright © 2004-2014 by Foreign Perspectives. All rights reserved.

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