About

Greetings and welcome to QED Insight from your host, Dr. Santo D’Agostino.
 
I studied mathematics and physics at Queen’s University at Kingston, earning B.Sc. and M.Sc. degrees, and earned a Ph. D. in mathematical physics from the University of Toronto.
 
I have taught mathematics and physics (beginning in 1985) at a high school, at a community college, and at several universities. Since 1986, I have also worked on mathematics and science textbooks for all of the major text-book publishers as a writer-editor.
 
In short, I have devoted my entire career to mathematics and science education.
 
I am currently Assistant Professor in the Physics Department at Brock University, and I continue to work on various writing and education projects; QED Insight is one of my major projects.
 
I was born and grew up in the Niagara region of Southern Ontario, Canada, and I am very happy to be living there with my family again after being away for many years.
 
This blog is devoted to discussing mathematics and physics education, education in general, promoting public understanding of science, and my other interests. If you are preparing for college or university, and would like tutoring in mathematics or physics, visit my other site, QED Infinity. There are other free resources there that may be of interest to students who are would like to prepare themselves for formal studies beyond high school.
 
The name of the blog is meant to capture my twin loves of mathematics and physics: In mathematics, QED is the traditional signifier of the end of a proof (quod erat demonstrandum) and in physics QED stands for quantum electrodynamics, the most accurately verified physical theory. The “insight” part of the title of the blog stands for my intention to pass on the insights I’ve picked up over the years, and also for the insights I’ll certainly glean from readers of the blog.
 

 

Erice, Sicily, May 2009


 
Santo D’Agostino, Ph. D.
 
QED Insight

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13 Responses to About

  1. Vincent Pascuzzi says:

    Good afternoon, Professor!

    Thought you may find this interesting if you haven’t already. On my first day back to work I was talking to my boss about how the second school term went and we got into an hour-long talk first about this (see below), and then he began explaining the concept and history of [cold] fusion and also nuclear fission. Thanks to a wonderful physics prof I had this past term, I was able to understand a fair amount of what he was saying. 🙂

    Hope all is well, and look forward to hearing back from you.

    Vince Pascuzzi

    • Santo says:

      Nice to hear from you, Vince! And thanks for the kind words …

      I hadn’t heard about this, and I’m glad to know about it. It will be interesting to see if they make progress with the idea.

      What are you doing for the summer?

      Have a great spring/summer, and I’ll be very happy to hear about your successes as your career progresses!

  2. Vincent Pascuzzi says:

    I am back working (finally), but am registered for three Spring courses; I decided to take Philosophy (PHIL 1F90) for my Humanities credit, and COSC 2P03 and 2P13. This way I will be able to take additional physics courses in the Fall. It is likely I will register in PHYS 2P50 as well as a couple of others, so I will take your advice and check out Thirty Years That Shook Physics and let you know what I think, as well as shoot some questions your way if need be.

    My boss seemed pretty fascinated by the newly-founded magnetic effects of light and naturally immediately thought of you. Unfortunately the actual science in the published paper as it is a little over my head, but I somewhat understand the concept. I guess that’s how he got into cold fusion (something about electrodes and heavy water and palladium and a couple of scientists at University of Utah :)? Anyways, very cool stuff.

    Congrats on fixing the leaky pipe! I also enjoyed the entry from your blog about students reading textbooks. It brought to mind the day I approached you regarding my misunderstanding of electromagnetism (darn it and it’s importance!) and how I mentioned I was keeping up with the chapter readings until about a month or so into the term.

    Did you have any plans yourself for the Spring/Summer? Best of luck on your writing. I will be interested in seeing your finished work. I will definitely stay in touch and keep you posted on my successes, and whatever else I find interesting or think that you may!

    Talk to you soon, and my apologies for posting to your About page. 😛

  3. Barry Evans says:

    Hi Santo–I’m trying to reach Lewis Carroll Epstein, and wondered if you could help? I write a weekly science/nature column (Field Notes) for the North Coast Journal (CA), and wanted to use one of LCE’s illustrations. Could I trouble you to forward this to him, or else, if you feel OK with this, let me know his email address? Mine is barryevans9@yahoo.com

    With many thanks, barry

  4. Dave Carlson says:

    Dear Dr. Santo,

    Petrology is in a serious state of ad-hoc guesswork and in need of a complete overhaul. The explanations for gneiss domes in orogenic zones have not not converged, but rather splintered over time.

    Gneiss is thought to be a metamorphic rock requiring high PTt conditions, but the very same minerals can be precipitated from solution in authigenic clay at moderate PTt. I say the difference in origin is mineral size. In the high gravitational acceleration of earth, authigenic minerals precipitate before reaching 2 microns in size, but in the early days of the solar system, trillions of Oort Cloud Comets may have contained liquid water from the radioactive decay of short-lived isotopes at very low gravitational acceleration. And the partial pressure of sublimed carbon dioxide gas could control the reservoir of Al+3 ions in solution in a catestrophic fashion when sublimed gas burped out through fissures in the overlying snow burden.

    This direct formation process of the comet model results in alternating felsic/mafic layers which are called leucosomes, mesosomes and melanosomes. Traditional petrology tries to explain these alternating layers indirectly by partial melting (anatexis) at depths of up to 10’s of kilometers under the surface of the earth, and migration “down a differential force gradient.” This segregation of minerals in gniess is almost as fortuitous as the hydrothermal mechanisms posited to cause mineral ores to concentrate into vast ore bodies within solid rock.

    Folding is forced on these sedimentary layers when the comet core shrinks in the process of diagenesis while squeezing out the water. The reduction in volume of the sedimentary layers is accompanied by a large reduction in circumference of the comet core, causing what I call ‘circuferential folding’ resulting in isoclinal folds. Circumferential folding does not occur on earth since volume the reduction of sedimentary layers during diagenesis is not accompanied with a measurable differential change in the circumference of the planet.

    In conventional geology, folds are also a secondary process in which isoclinal folds tend to be misinterpreted as shear-induced sheath folds for which conventional geology has at least a hand-waving explanation; although as a general principle, folds are ignored as self evident.

    Freeze out:
    As the radioactivity of the short-lived isotopes died down, deposition rates slowed, perhaps allowing biofilms to form large euhedral layers of biogenic mica as gneiss gave way to schist, and finally, when the ocean began to freeze over, the most soluble minerals crystallized out of solution, namely carbonates which hardened to form carbonate rock (dolomite).

    “In some [gneiss domes], the lowest horizon of the mantle consists of basal conglomerate with boulders of the same gneiss that forms the dome; in others, the basement stratum is a layer of quartzite, above which follow dolomite and micaschist; and in still others, dolomite forms the basement.”(Eskola, 1948)

    This quartzite, carbonate rock and conglomerate that often forms the basement horizon of the gneiss-dome mantle is a significant challenge for conventional geology, but merely growth rings for the comet model.

    Yes, the comet hypothesis is based on unfounded suppositions, but it provides a single primary mechanism for comet-rock petrology, whereas conventional geology is still very much in the process of splintering off secondary theories with 150 year head start. The funny thing about ad hoc theories is that there are no general principles to disprove, whereas one definite example to the contrary would instantly disprove a general comet-origin theory.

    Here’s a sampling of the splintering of conventional geology to explain gneiss domes: fault related and fault unrelated; evenly spaced domes that are considered to be instabilities caused by vertical density or viscosity contrast and horizontal load causing buckling, and unevenly spaced dome systems are associated with fault development or “superposition of multiple deformational phases.”(Yin, 2004)

    I’ve got a 4-year jump on this, but to get beyond a conceptual model, I need partners in the academic community.

    Thanks for your consideration,

    Dave Carlson
    Philadelphia

    dave19128@gmail.com
    http://hillscloud.wordpress.com/

    • Hi Dave,

      Petrology is way, way beyond my expertise, so I can’t meaningfully respond to your comment. But I’ll leave it here in case others would like to contact you directly.

      All the best,
      Santo

  5. Christine says:

    It is very nice to learn about your blog. Good luck with your project!

    Best wishes,

    Christine

  6. mubarik says:

    A young BSC in mathematics here is saying he love these subjects more than u and anyone else.
    I dont know where to start, have a lot of ideas to talk abt..questions to ask,,,,
    Its good to have such an opportunity with persons of such multiple beauty…

  7. mubarik says:

    Oh more q prof, how dd u get the BSC’s ?i mean which was ur 1st and what lead(push) u through?….Thanks a Lot For ur Reply.

  8. Billy says:

    Hi,

    I’m a university currently attending a school in Ontario. I am in my second year. Right now I’m studying something that involves very little math. However, as my program has progressed, I have developed an interest in math. It started out with me just playing math-like puzzle games (sudoku, hidato, etc.). From there, my interest progressively increased and I started working on other puzzles in my spare time (I’ve read Raymond Smullyan’s books, I follow some puzzle blogs, etc.). At this point, I think it’s safe to say that I genuinely like math. This is a surprising turn of events for someone like me; I always thought I was very bad at math. Although my grades were quite good, I know for a fact that I struggled a great deal with math throughout high school and thought that I would never be good at or enjoy math. I recognize now that, although I did indeed struggle with math, part of my struggles were self-inflicted. I had internalized that I was bad at math, so I didn’t put in the work required to understand what I didn’t know (studying for tests last minute, relying on memorization instead of developing deep understanding of concepts, etc.) and had convinced my that math was “stupid”. I realize now that I closed off a lot of doors when I was in high school.

    I am kind of at a crossroad now. I still do not think I am particularly good at math. I make a lot of odd errors with basic calculations (all careless errors, but that doesn’t really matter; an error is an error) and I have struggled a great deal through a lot of the puzzles that I work through. There have been many times where I have felt deeply inadequate and lacking in the basic abstract reasoning skills involved in producing “elegant” solutions (or solutions at all for that matter). On the other hand, I feel like I understand more math now than I have at any other point in my life. More importantly, I find math fascinating. I feel a strong desire to act on my interest and try my hand at studying math in school again (my dream is to try to complete a degree in math or something that makes heavy use of math, like physics or an engineering discipline), but I do not know whether I am cut out for it. I feel like everyone I’ll be studying with will be much better than because I’m just a dude of average intelligence who finds math really cool. I’m afraid I’ll fail.

    The reason I’m posting this is because I’m wondering if you have any advice you could offer. I do not personally know anyone who is sufficiently scientifically literate who I could ask for advice on this topic, and I have been following your blog for a while, so I thought it might be wise to ask an actual math educator for his thoughts on my dilemma (I kinda feel silly calling it a “dilemma”). Is it possible for someone of average intelligence who has a history of struggling with math to rise up to the challenge and do reasonably well studying math in university if that person works exceptionally hard?

    Thank you in advance for reading this.

    • Hi Billy,

      In my experience, virtually everyone worries about not being good enough to succeed at his or her chosen endeavour. What separates productive people from relatively unproductive people is that productive people find a way to work in the direction of their desires anyway, despite the fear.

      Desire is key. If you desire something strongly enough, then working hard at it is satisfying, not a chore.

      However, arm yourself with an understanding of the steps necessary for success. For example, if you wish to succeed at a university mathematics course, you should ensure that your basic high-school math skills are sharp. University mathematics courses are very fast-paced, and falling behind must be avoided.

      Work diligently and consistently, every day. Devote some time to reading around the subject (and conceptual thinking), some time to working on puzzles, and some time on solving routine problems to develop fundamental skills. Write up your solutions neatly, and repeat the solutions from scratch on other days. Spaced repetition is key, as it will help you to internalize problem-solving processes.

      As long as you are well-prepared and work hard, you have every possibility of success. Keep in touch and let me know how it goes!

      For further encouragement, see:

      http://mathbabe.org/2013/11/11/how-do-i-know-if-im-good-enough-to-go-into-math/

      and

      https://terrytao.wordpress.com/career-advice/

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