Today is the mid-point of the MOOC on Energy: Thermodynamics in Everyday Life that I am delivering both for our first-year undergraduate students at the University of Liverpool and anyone anywhere in the world who wants to sign up for free. Not surprisingly, some MOOC learners have been struggling with some of the topics, which include statistical thermodynamics and require some elementary calculus. A few learners have complained and implied that I should not be attempting to cover such challenging material, to which I have responded that my aim is to educate not to entertain. Many more learners have made counter-comments that can be summarised by the words of writer and theologian, John Hull in his Notes on Blindness: ‘Cognition is beautiful. It is beautiful to know.’
I think that these words hold true at many levels, from a child realizing how to match shaped pegs to shaped holes, a student acquiring knowledge and understanding in an engineering science course to a professor discovering new knowledge and understanding in a research programme. For many of us, the beauty of cognition, often associated with a moment of dawning realisation, is the reward for the effort required to truly understand.
Source: I read about John Hull’s audio diary in ‘Rain: four walks in English weather‘ by Melissa Harrison published by Faber and Faber, London, 2016.