Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Search Challenge (3/2/16): Finding out about a concept (part 2)

Let’s continue this "new concept" theme…. 

… of how to get to the core concept behind a glob of text.  

Last week we were looking for “compound concept” terms like "beach music," or "summer romance."  

But another version of this problem is when you know the term, and you know a little bit about the concept, but you really don’t know anything else about what the word means in that context. 

For instance, the word “level” is very common, but in computer game play, it means the entire space (or "level") available to a player while trying to accomplish a given goal (e.g., find the ruby in a complicated maze--that particular maze is the game level).  It also refers to the “level of difficulty” of a given game stage or phase.  

This is an incredibly useful skill as you read.  Often you’ll see words in your text that you can’t quite figure out from context (especially when you’re reading something in a field in which you’re NOT an expert), so this is a great way to learn how to figure out those complex, hidden, subtle meanings.  

Can you figure out how to pin down the definitions of these terms?  Can you give a succinct definition?  (In this sequence, #1 is easy, but #3 is harder.) 

1.  What is an object in computer programming?  
2. What is a model when used with a bunch of equations to provide some explanatory structure? 
3. In a book I just read, the author wrote, “Miles really knew how to jam in all those modes…”   What’s a “mode”?  (Don't bother to look for this quote--I've modified it so you can't figure it out that way....)  

Can you understand what these terms are all about?  

If so, HOW did you figure out the meanings?  Tell us in the comments! 

Search on! 


  1. Replies
    1. Good Morning, Remmij, Dr. Russell and everyone.

      Thanks for the links, Remmij. Shame on me. #3 as you mention is not about computers. It is about Jazz.

      I missed the clues Dr. Russell shared: "how to jam in all those modes" and the photo. Now, I'll try to find new information.

      As Sassy Librarian mentions, I needed to [define jam] first, instead of doing [jam modes] thinking it was other topic.

  2. Good day, Dr. Russell and everyone.

    1. What is an “object” in computer programming?

    ["object" Around(3) "computer programming"]

    From Wikipedia: In computer science, an object can be a ...

    [object programming]

    Oracle; wht is an object Software objects are conceptually similar to real-world objects: they too consist of state and related behavior. An object stores its state in fields (variables in some programming languages) and exposes its behavior through methods (functions in some programming languages)

    [objeto en programación]

    Objeto definición.

    2. What is a “model” when used with a bunch of equations to provide some explanatory structure?

    ["model" explain something]

    What is a scientific model? A scientific model consists of ideas and concepts, and includes some kind of mechanism

    Model: a simplified description, especially a mathematical one, of a system or process, to assist calculations and predictions.

    [model definition]

    Model definition

    3. In a book I just read, the author wrote, “Miles really knew how to jam in all those modes…” What’s a “mode”? (Don't bother to look for this quote--I've modified it so you can't figure it out that way....)

    [mode definition computer]

    The term mode implies a choice
    Mode in Wikipedia

    [modes in computer programming]



    In each mode, input from the user is interpreted in a different way. When a user is in a given mode, it’s a good idea to provide an extremely salient indicator of which mode is currently active, e.g. by providing a large icon or shifting the color of the screen.Includes examples of modes

    [modes in computer programming] and [jam modes] In Books

  3. I always advise my students to use the right tool for the job. In this case -- understanding terminology in its subject-matter context -- a glossary or subject dictionary would be ideal, so add those terms to search.

    1. Search = "computer program" AND object AND (glossary OR dictionary)

    Answer = In object-oriented programming (OOP), objects are the things you think about first in designing a program and they are also the units of code that are eventually derived from the process.

    Source =

    2. Search = math AND object AND equation AND (glossary OR dictionary)

    Answer = An equation or a system of equations representing real-world phenomena. Models also represent patterns found in graphs and/or data. Usually models are not exact matches the objects or behavior they represent. A good model should capture the essential character of whatever is being modeled.

    Source =

    3. For this question, I knew that jam was musical slang, so I constructed my search accordingly. A searcher without that knowledge should do a preliminary define: search to understand unfamiliar terms in the problem. In reading those definitions, the searcher should examine all uses of the term -- even slang -- to identify the disciplines or professions with which it is associated. From there, the searcher can construct a query similar to the one that I used.

    Search = music AND mode AND (glossary OR dictionary)

    Answer = an interval or series used to construct a musical scale. Examples of the traditional modes include: major, minor, Dorian, Phrygian, Lydian, etc. ... a mode is actually a series of gaps, or holes, between pitches and not the pitches themselves.

    Source =

    1. Hi Sassy -- These are pretty good queries--great reasoning!

      One thing to know is that for Google, all of the query terms are implicitly ANDed together. As a consequence, the "AND" in your queries isn't an operator, it's a search term. (As it turns out, it doesn't do much of anything as every document has "AND" in it.)

      But you don't need to put the ANDs in there. Saves some typing!

      (You can also leave off the parens around the OR operator phrase--they get dropped by the query parser as well.)

    2. Thanks, Dan! Because my instruction extends beyond Google to other search tools, I usually "unpack" the search operators to make them explicit for my students and help them understand Boolean logic, hence the ANDs, ORs, and nests in my queries. When using Google, though, your streamlined query strategy is the way to go.


  4. The character of a piece of music is related to its key centre or tonality. Tonal music is in a major or minor key. Atonal music is not related to a tonic note and therefore has no sense of key. Modal music is in a mode. A mode is a seven-note scale.

    2) [model to explain structure] finds wikipedia 'data model' A data model organizes data elements and standardizes how the data elements relate to one another

    Hmmmm...there seems to be a theme here

    1) [programming object definition] Wikipedia again: In the class-based object-oriented programming paradigm, "object" refers to a particular instance of a class where the object can be a combination of variables, functions, and data structures

    Learned even more stuff this morning jon

    1. I just saw that my first line had vanished (my fault), It said something like this:

      3) [miles davis modes] and Wikipedia was there with the explanation amongst other definitions.