What it means to understand an equation

From Nobel physicist Paul Dirac:

I understand what an equation means if I have a way of figuring out the characteristics of its solution without actually solving it.

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3 comments on “What it means to understand an equation
  1. Peter says:

    Can that generalise to a theory, I wonder.

  2. Colin Drake says:

    I love when my science professors stress qualitative understanding, not just equation plugging/chugging. When I took electromagnetism, I did so much better than in any other science course I took, simply because the professor would write the problem, step back, and just guide us through thinking about it before solving it. I wish more teachers took this approach. It seems obvious, but it isn’t done enough (at least in my experience).

  3. Dave Frye says:

    The more I think about this quotation, the more I like it.

    And professors would do well to heed the advice of Mr. Drake.

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