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Post 55C – Learning New Things

The Learning Curve

Learning a new subject can be a frustrating endeavourer, but it can also be very rewarding.  It all depends upon your attitude going into the process and that mostly depends upon why you are doing the learning.  Is it because you “have-to” or is it because you want to?
Most learning of a new subject follows something called the learning curve.  In the beginning it looks a lot like the interest rate curves I showed in Episode 55.  Learning at this stage is tough and lots of work to gain little because you have yet to have knowledge to build upon.  But, at some stage you “get it” and learning comes quickly because ideas and knowledge build upon existing knowledge.  However, sooner or later you know much about the subject and the learning starts requiring more searching and experimentation to learn more.  This is the point on the curve where you reach the plateau.   At this point you have a couple of choices.

I call these choices, wide or deep.  You can continue on to fight the particular subject and develop deep knowledge of the subject.  This will make you an expert in the subject.  The other choice is to be wide, and learn another and hopefully related subject.   My choice has always been the second of those two.  I prefer to be a generalist, but sometimes I dig very deep wells in particular things just because I want to know.

An example of this was during the recent post about foundation footers.  I have always been told the footer needs to be below the frost-line and the reason I was given was correct.  However, much of what I have been told has since been found to be incorrect, so I did some web surfing  before I published the reason.   During that time, I got curious.  Why is it that the ground doesn’t freeze below a certain point in the winter?   Even more:  Why is it that many caves remain the same temperature all year?  Are they heated by the heat from the center of the earth which must be very hot? We have all seen pictures of volcanoes and geysers so obviously the center of the earth is very hot.

More web searching and it turns out that all over the above is true, but even scientists seem to have difficulty providing exact answers.  However, at shallow depths, the earth can simply be thought of as a series of block with each block have a small amount of insulation around it slowing down the heat transfer to the block above or below it.  Each block has a mass so it stores the heat it receives and has it available to give to the blocks near it if they are cooler. This means the imaginary blocks somewhere down in the earth average out the temperature swings from day to night and through the seasons.

How did I come up with that understanding?  I made an analogy to some electric circuits or to a series of tanks connected to each other with relatively small piping.  Probably there will be more about this model in some future post.   But basically, I made an analogy of something I know to something I am learning.  More importantly, because of this I am learning more about both subjects.

All of this came from describing digging ditches to place concrete for a foundation footer.  That is the point of this whole post.  Learning about any subject may very well provide answers to other subjects, even if those subjects look not to be closely related at first glance.

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Finally, there will be some major change in the Categories of the posts sometime early next week.  I created those categories when I first started this blog, and I have 1/2 the world with the categoy of “Practical Knowledge” and the other 1/2 as “Practical Skills”… Not very helpful :).  I am going to put some effort in creating better categories this weekend.  Next will be Tags.   This should allow you to search the site much easier.
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Please send me an e-mail and tell me the direction you would like me to take this site.  I have many options, but the best is to try to fill the needs of you.

Thanks for your time.

Gary

 

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