Brainy Quote of the Day

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why Physics...

Honestly for myself, it was a challenge and the hardest thing "on the yard" I could think to study. It was an excuse as a young man to dress strangely, taking full advantage of the "socially inept Nerd" myth - walking around in an Army field jacket and a floppy yellow hat (I sadly still own) - and construct a wall between myself and others. I can see where that was off-putting and not helpful in getting more to at least have an appreciation for science. My mea culpa.

Physics requires a curiosity about how things work: I initially and admittedly, don't or won't know an answer (s), and through trial and a lot of error, I'll eventually figure out whatever is the problem. (That didn't work out too well for a few watches and clocks my parents owned.) Hence, buying me chemistry sets, a microscope, telescope and a toolkit was their way to channel my otherwise destructive impulses into something creative and less property-damaging!

It requires persistence, and frankly a kind of mental fortitude in that it's OK not to know the answer: it's having the courage to ask the question and pursue what might be initially fruitless paths. The lab notebook is your friend! I am in no way dismissing the fear people feel when they come up to a formidable task (or, at least one they feel is). If this blog does anything, I hope it encourages you to ask questions. Life is not pre-packaged with the contents known. We may never have all the answers, but we should not fear - nor be discouraged by bullies or authoritarian dogma - from asking questions.

I think for many, especially women and minorities, the "norms" of behavior are channeled early into other areas more acceptable to the social order and less threatening to the status quo: questions imply opposition.

As a whole, the American culture of phone apps, Google, downloads, microwave meals and popcorn, drive through restaurants and instant, 24-hour access to information has jaded our sense of adventure; the Romanticism of a really tough problem and the sheer JOY of solving it. Ironically, it was advances in applied physics that allow us to be so jaded. However, for those whom the adventure is everyday in the lab, pouring over notebooks and papers, staring at experiments, computer programs, circuit boards or stars, it's what keeps physicists, scientists and engineers up at night: their love affair with knowledge and discovery. It is how we all advance and survive as a species.

And, things are looking particularly good for physics students right now...


American Institute of Physics: US Physics Degrees Reach an All-Time High
American Physical Society: Why Study Physics?

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