Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 23.djvu/36

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cessary limits of our knowledge derived therefrom. The study which he ought to make of errors, instrumental and accidental, will be of great value to him in other fields than this.

As an illustration of the lack of this sort of training, I may be allowed to mention a lecture to which I listened recently, delivered by the chief engineer of one of the leading railroads in the country. The subject was the "Great Pyramid," and in speaking of certain measurements taken in the interior he declared the results, which were given in feet, inches, and thousandths of an inch, to be absolutely accurate, taking especial care to disclaim anything in the nature of an approximation.

I need hardly explain that he was declaiming against the introduction and adoption of a system of metrology which has done and will continue to do much to increase the simplicity and accuracy of all measurements.

I have said that this quantitative work should be of the best quality possible. It is better for the laboratory to contain a few instruments of real precision than a large number of inferior performance and accuracy. It is not a matter of great importance upon which particular department of physics a student shall spend his time and strength. The underlying principles of this method of study are common to all, and it is a matter of experience that when a student has successfully accomplished a tolerably exhaustive investigation of one topic, involving, it may be, but a single instrument with its accessories, he is upon his feet for the remainder of the course.

To sum up, the course of study in physics for the undergraduate collegian, which I have tried to indicate, should include a sufficient training in mathematics to enable him to apply his knowledge with ease and facility to the more common physical problems; a thorough and exacting course of text-book and lecture-work, in which the application of his mathematical knowledge would be made, and during which all illustrative experiments necessary to a complete understanding of the text should be exhibited by the instructor from the lecture table; and, finally, this to be supplemented by a course in the laboratory in which more attention is paid to the quality than to the quantity of work done; during which every problem is discussed, as far as possible, both mathematically and experimentally, and especial attention is given to the discussion of the results of experiment, and of the more elementary portions of the theory of errors.

Considering the work as thus divided into three parts, I am unable to see which is the least essential.

I desire to say a few words in regard to instruction in physics in the school, about which we are, apparently, more remotely concerned. Even greater reform is demanded in this direction than in the other. Although there are numerous American text-books, I venture the remark that none have properly combined, in their making, the experi-