Let’s begin with a legitimate comparison (note: it’s VISUAL and accurate)
Below: A standard “analogy” in basic physics courses: The problem is, that even basic physics courses assume that the student has “hung out” at the local water plant, worked for a construction company or was raised by a plumber. Does this really make “electricity-magnetism” accessible to the average student? Now they have to understand the behavior of water in a system in addition to struggling with the “invisible” behavior of electrical systems. Plus vocabulary: “voltage source is analogous to water pump” is not exactly a “handy” mental exchange.
Okay – so the water system analogy isn’t terrible, but here is where the use of analogy drives me bonkers: number, quantity, volume, weight, density, forces …. believed to make “big or small” extremes of number and scale “comprehensible” to the human brain. Again – the assumption is that “equivalents” such as the earth covered in marbles or peas to some “impressive” depth is 1. meaningful 2. has a possibility of occurring outside of a supernatural “miracle” 3. will ever be observed by one or more human beings. 4. will reduce the problem of incomprehensible quantity, number, etc in comparison to “human” scale.
But, “1/18th of the surface area of the sun” makes “Avogadro’s Number” perfectly clear! What was it we were trying to explain? I’ve forgotten, and I have a headache.
Another terrific assumption is that Olympic swimming pools and football fields and stadiums are perfectly reasonable examples of “intuitive” volumes and areas because everyone has watched the Olympics on TV or has been to a football game.
And a more problematic question: Why are we presenting students with ridiculous false analogies for actual measurable physical phenomenon, when the function of teaching science and technology is to impart awareness and knowledge of “How the universe works” – that is, it’s NOT magic. What we’re telling them is that physical properties, relationships and behaviors are baffling; that “physical reality-mathematics” are arbitrary, fantastical and unknowable (and unnecessary) That the highly unscientific games, videos and films that they watch are entirely plausible “versions” of reality.
Is it any mystery as to why millions of Americans believe that climate change, global warming and other major systemic problems are “government conspiracies?”
And in case one might imagine that biology and other areas are any less idiotic:
Imagine that the jelly-like substance in your cells that keeps everything in its place is a security guard at the mall; Imagine that your data is laundry…