Adam Sobel

Courses Taught

Statement

My goal as a teacher is to communicate the why and how of the physical sciences, as much as the specific material. When nature gives us a problem, how do we go about deciding what aspects of it are important? What does it mean to understand a natural phenomenon? The most fundamental concept is scaling. We must first ask, what is big and what is small? Ultimately, which processes control the behavior of the system, and which only modify its behavior in minor ways? The assets a physical scientist should strive to develop are a deep and mature grasp of basic mathematics, intuition, the ability to think logically, and above all the ability to recognize when one does not understand a problem. Of course, these are not entirely distinct qualities. There is also a "story telling" element that is essential to science, though many scientists either do not accept this, or accept it resentfully. That is, science is not just about the natural world, it is also about us trying to understand the natural world. A good scientist (or teacher) must take into account not only the external facts of the problem at hand, but also the contortions the human mind must go through in order to internalize these facts. All these issues are at the heart of research as well as teaching; research is just teaching oneself.

Profile

Atmospheric dynamics, tropical meteorology, climate dynamics, fluid dynamics, tracer transport.

Education

PhD Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 1989 BA Wesleyan University

Contact Information

ahs129@columbia.edu, sobel@appmath.columbia.edu

http://www.columbia.edu/~ahs129/home.html

CUNIX ID: ahs129