Thursday, July 18, 2013
How Do You Know That?
I had the pleasure of taking a car trip with two friends who also happen to be professional astronomers. As we were discussing how the gravel road we were traveling on in a backwoods area was no longer going to be maintained by the county, I mentioned that the mapping software I used to make an alternate route to our destination suggested that a different road than the one we were on was a better choice for our trip anyway. But the map had no indication of what type of roads the other route used.
Have you ever traveled a gravel road for any length of time? Your brain starts vibrating after awhile. We were at that point.
Both of my friends were relatively new to the area, so I was surprised when the husband remarked that all the roads off the main road were gravel, so he couldn't see how a route that goes farther away from our destination and then returns could take less time. I was quietly wondering how someone new to the area knew this, since there's no reason to travel on this gravel road except to go to our destination, to which he had only been once before. But, since he's a smart guy and he was doing the driving, I kept that slightly challenging thought to myself.
And then his wife quietly asked, "How do you know that?"*
Aha! This particular habit of mind appears even in her personal life!
The question is, how to we make this a habit for our students? I have no answers, but now I know it's possible and I have a real-world observation with which to support my assertion.
* For those who are curious, it turns out that my friend is also an avid cyclist. Biking down the main road, he was frustrated to find that every turn was onto a gravel road. While we cannot assume that some of those roads don't turn into paved roads further in the forest, it does seem unlikely given what little is back there.