Ban popular physics books

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  • #26
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Big Bang by Simon Singh
I just bought that yesterday!! :smile:
Seems to be very interesting.
 
  • #27
Borek
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Big Bang by Simon Singh
Is this really type of book that we should discuss at PF?
 
  • #28
epenguin
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Is this really type of book that we should discuss at PF?
Why ever not?

Even if it is bad which it is not.

The worst I personally can say about it is that it retells a very oft-told story. (Actually the bit about formation of the elements has not been told so oft as the rest of it.) So I learned fairly little from it personally. But to read the reviews it was a total revelation to many people so has been useful.
 
  • #29
Borek
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Ah, so it is about physics?
 
  • #30
epenguin
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Ah, so it is about physics?
As I was not sure what that is :biggrin: I had to look it up. On the first thing I came to

"Physics (from Ancient Greek: φύσις physis "nature") is a natural science that involves the study of matter[1] and its motion through spacetime, as well as all related concepts, including energy and force.[2] More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.[3][4][5]"

Yes it seems to be broadly physics. Even if an atypical branch. But allow that

"in some subject areas such as in mathematical physics and quantum chemistry, the boundaries of physics remain difficult to distinguish[citation needed]."

And even if it is not physics, as the physicist Feynman would have said, that does not make it bad.

Or unscientific.
 
  • #31
Chi Meson
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Ah, so it is about physics?
He didn't get it, Borek. Give him a few moments to review...
 
  • #32
epenguin
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  • #33
Chi Meson
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You don't know that. :smile:
What is this, a dead-pan face-off?
 
  • #34
epenguin
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  • #35
what about " a brief history in time" by Stephen Hawkings and "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan
 
  • #36
Evo
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what about " a brief history in time" by Stephen Hawkings and "Cosmos" by Carl Sagan
Why? They promote interest in science. They're not meant to teach.
 
  • #37
Why? They promote interest in science. They're not meant to teach.
They are not meant to teach but don't deserve to be banned
 
  • #38
Banning books of any kind makes me physically ill (not a pun). If people read, 'The Secret' and live by it... so much for those rubes. It's worth it for the one who reads it, throws it away and picks up the Feynman lectures, or something else.
 
  • #39
I would contend that the OP's original statement is in itself intrinsically false. They actually do indeed give the layman a general idea of "what" is being researched/studied. Naturally, they fall short in the department of "how" and "why." However, as others have noted, this was never the purpose. For example, I can know that black holes are a widely acknowledged phenomenon, but I do not need to have an intimate understanding of the math demonstrating this to still contemplate the actual possible instantiation of the theory. Much of the beauty/wonder inspired in the reader of popular science comes from the very fact that the science itself is so mysterious and foreign in nature. It's unlike anything else in their lives, and for this reason, gives a unique pleasure.

If what you purport is that a layman cannot have any fruitful knowledge regarding theoretical physics without an understanding of the math substantiating the claims, then this is similarly foolish. For I could just as easily begin to point at the most mundane of objects and demand that you need a deep understanding of the object's mechanics to understand it's purpose/qualities. For example, I am sure that most people know that a car engine has pistons that, through some vague process, causes the car to move. However, they do not need to know all of the different mechanical bits in between the pistons and wheels to grasp this concept and be able to have some level of fluency in the general qualities of cars.

To categorically reject the worth of popular science seems silly, and hurts yourself than anybody else. The layman is generallmy only tolerant of science when he comprehends some perceived benefit. Since (correct me if I'm wrong) pure theoretical physics yields few practical benefits for the average person, popular science is one of the few things justifying the support of the field in his eyes--it satisfies the philosophic impulse of the "why" in many people. How do you expect anybody to endorse your continued research if you retreat to your ivory tower and disdain those whom make your inquiries possible in the first place?
 

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