tisdag 14 februari 2012

The Death of the Text Book

Apple predicts in its announcement of iBook Author that the traditional printed textbook will soon be replaced by the interactive ebook or ibook, because
  • textbooks are static
  • textbooks are heavy
  • textbooks are expensive,
  • ibooks are dynamic
  • ibooks have no weight
  • ibooks are cheap.
The argument is pretty convincing and the change is already taking place. In fact, even before the ibook students felt the change was coming and refused to buy all the expensive heavy text books listed in the course.

The traditional textbook served as the Bible presenting the accepted knowledge or scientific consensus of its time. The textbook was often written by authors without first hand knowledge as records of state of the art expressed in scientific journals by prime scientists, or in previous textbooks.

With Kuhn's terminology, "normal science" is what is written in the textbook, which thus serves as the Bible or canon.

The following questions present themselves:
  • What will be the effect of a Death of the Textbook?
  • Will "normal science" survive?
  • Is there a need of "normal science"?
  • What is the science of the ibook?
Lets us consider one specific example of major importance to all of us, climate science:

In climate science, the scientific consensus or "normal science" has been the science defined by IPCC in its textbooks, and this science is now falling apart as incorrect science identified by the scientific blogosphere, which is where the climate science is now being formed and which can be viewed as the ibook.

Another example is Calculus: No other area of science can count so many textbooks, all very similar and with very little change over 100 years. These textbooks have served to preserve mathematics education in a form untouched by the invention of the computer. But the ibook of Calculus is different and it is coming...my version is Mathematical Simulation Technology.

The shift from textbook to ibook thus can be expected to bring major shifts in both science and education. Interesting times are to come...

6 kommentarer:

  1. I think you got it a little bit backwards and over simplified.

    Normal Science is a concept originated by Thomas Samuel Kuhn and elaborated in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. The term refers to the routine work of scientists experimenting within a paradigm, slowly accumulating detail in accord with established broad theory, not actually challenging or attempting to test the underlying assumptions of that theory. Kuhn identified this mode of science as being a form of "puzzle-solving."

    Normal science is what almost all scientists does and is aimed at using existing theory. Experimental physics is a good example of this. It is the "text book" case of exiting theory but maybe better defined as the theory that "everybody" agrees on. It's not limited to textbooks but also what a professor teaches to his/her students, what practitioners of the field uses when practicing, the set of relevant peer reviewed articles and so on.

    But, in the process of doing normal science anomalies appears. Kuhn does not take Poppers harder approach where anomalies is seen as directly falsifying the theory. Kuhn views these anomalies as an important step in the evolution of a theory where, after a sufficient collections of anomalies and development of theories that could explain them the theory takes on a phase change, the big paradigm shift and develops into a new normal science. Proceedings from the normal science is done by trying to explain anomalies with theories that may go far from the standard textbook "truth", for instance by guessing, like Planck's "act of despair". The biggest extreme in such extraordinary science today must unquestionably be M-theory which is highly speculative to say the least...

    Important points from Kuhn's views.

    Normal science is very important in the development of robust theories.

    Anomalies are important for the scientific progress.

    The collective process of using normal science are important.

    Wild and crazy guesses are important, the good ones stick the bad ones dies.

    Modern science is practiced in a pragmatic way, the truth in a theory lies in the practical use (that's the normal science part) of it.

  2. The interesting aspect here is how the ibook/web will change the way science is practiced and developed. I wonder what Kuhn might have said about that.

  3. Well, my guess is that it will not change much at all.

    How science is practiced today is not overly dependent on text books.

    The big changes are driven by serendipity. I can't really see how that would be dependent on what media information is transmitted through.

  4. What Kuhn would have said about that is pretty uninteresting.

    Science is collective process and not dependent on specific individuals.

    I think a lot more progress would be done if all the "frickin" prestige just would disappear...

  5. Why not a little bit of positive imagination? Science is driven forward by individuals and status quo is maintained by collectives.

  6. I think there is a comment missing. It is mentioning the importance of serendipity.

    For every Newton or Leibnitz there is a great amount of non-Newtons and non-Leibnitzes.

    If you understand that point, then you understand why individuals are not important.