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*From*: John Denker <jsd@MONMOUTH.COM>*Date*: Tue, 6 Feb 2001 10:39:35 -0500

At 08:55 AM 2/6/01 -0500, Ludwik Kowalski wrote:

If this misconception is common, as it was in my case, then it is fair

to ask about its origin. We can certainly not blame Aristotle for it. Neither

it comes to us with everyday language. Why is it so common?

Just a guess: Perhaps it is an example of the well-known "negative

transference" phenomenon. In this case that means remembering the answer

to one problem and mis-applying it to mis-answer a different problem. In

particular I have in mind the pair of questions being

a) Where does the corona current come from? ... in which case the

answer is that all the current comes from the sharp point, and is a very

strong winner-take-all function.

b) Where does the charge sit? ... in which case the answer is that it

is distributed according to capacitance, which goes like radius for two

widely-separated spheres, and is an even less-strong function for closer

spheres, as discussed in my previous note.

Other examples of negative transference that spring to mind include:

-- If you know how to drive a car and want to learn to fly an airplane,

you are virtually guaranteed to have misconceptions about how the

airplane's steering works, how the throttle affects speed, and about ten

other things. Unlearning these things is a burden.

-- Cross-country skiing technique is just enough different from downhill

skiing technique that there is some negative transference. (Of course

there are helpful similarities leading to positive transference, too.)

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