How can I make my friend love physics?

  • #1

Main Question or Discussion Point

I know the whole question may sound stupid, but my best friend has a physics exam very soon, but she hates physics and she simply can't study it although she's good at maths. She doesn't even want to hear that physics is good. I want to write a big text about how exciting physics is, I want to write about big bang, wormholes, black holes, time, additional dimensions, about how interestingly do particles behave at subatomic level, about the theory that we live in a simulation, time travel, dark matter, how did heavy elements form, what happens at ultrahigh temperatures and densities, I want to make her think about these questions, I'm sure anyone will be interested if they change their mind about physics and forget that physics is boring, hard, etc.
Do you have any ideas what else can I tell her? How can I make someone interested in physics? Can you tell me some inspirational quotes about physics by famous physicisists? Can you tell me about other interesting unanswered or answered questions and theories that will make her curious about this field of science?
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
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I'm sure anyone will be interested if they change their mind about physics and forget that physics is boring, hard, etc.
This is a very optimistic view. It's hard to answer what I think and simultaneously be political correct. So I refer to the statistics. The vast majority of physicists are male. This has to have a reason. My personal opinion is, that women far more than men are in touch with everyday's business. And no, that your environment is all physics doesn't count. You don't need to know Newton's laws to have a seat, or know Maxwell's equations to not fall through the chair. The only real valid example is what keeps you on a wet road when driving fast around a curve. E.g. I often advice teenager girls not to get into a car, if a young male is driving. You can explain this advice with biology, but I doubt it would help. There is simply a gap between theory and real life, and some aren't interested in what's in between. I don't think this is a disadvantage or otherwise bad, they simply have their strong parts in different fields.

And in general: You should learn to accept others in general and your girlfriend in particular the way they are, and not the way you want them to be.
 
  • #3
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Welcome to PF! This isn't a stupid question, many students find it difficult to understand physics as its taught in introductory classes. I remember my first foray into physics and felt it was just a jumble of formulas to be used when conditions were right for the problem being solved. I treated it like a cookbook of formula recipes and got through it that way.

My love for physics came from reading popular books on it by Bergman, Einstein and Asimov. Later as an undergraduate Physics major I took Classical Mechanics and learned about Lagrangian Mechanics and the Principle of Least Action. It was then that I was truly amazed at its magic.

Not knowing your friend, its difficult to determine why they have such antipathy to Physics. As you have said they are good in math which I take to mean have done well in Algebra, Geometry and Trigonometry then it must be the word problem format of Physics problems and the decision of what formula to apply when in solving the problem is causing the issue. The only way out of this fear is to work many similar problems and later to go back and appreciate the big picture. By avoiding Physics at every chance, the fear will remain and grow stronger.

The funny part about this is that later as a parent you may be required to help your children solve these kinds of problems, you'll have to face your fear and then you'll see the wisdom of overcoming it now.
 
  • #4
pinball1970
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How can I make someone interested in physics?
Women like the human interest, peoples lives especially interesting people.

Does she like history? European history? There is a fantastic series on Einstein called Genius that covers WW2 some great physics and a bit of love interest too.
I am not saying she will watch it and stampede towards Einsteins field equations but she will learn about context and the fact that physicists are very interesting people and physics is an interesting subject.

If that does not work try her with one of the Hawking Movies - the Cumberbatch is the best one in my view, you can watch that then move on to the Hawking Paradox Horizon, hopefully she will ask "What is information exactly?"

No joy try Jim Al Kalili - he has done some great stuff on Electricity and the Quantum story.

If that fails.......Get a a new girl friend that appreciates physics.
 
  • #5
Tom.G
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If that fails.......Get a a new girl friend that appreciates physics.
Or better yet, realize that we are all different. :wink:
After all, if she were exactly like you, she would BE you... a bit awkward, that.
 
  • #6
StoneTemplePython
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I was going to suggest reverse psychology / forbidden fruit... that may cause some issues with prior advice.
- - - -

My take: you said she's good at math. Does she enjoy it? Further does she like (quasi)puzzles? If so, pick up something like Epstein's Thinking Physics and treat one of the nicely illustrated problems as a puzzle. Do 1 or 2 a week over coffee or drinks, and after a few months see what happens.

This is part of my motto of start simple and build. Big bang, wormholes, dark matter, etc. are nowhere in sight.

In general you can't make someone like something. But if you can re-frame it in a way they relate to... seems like a good start.
 
  • #7
pinball1970
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Or better yet, realize that we are all different. :wink:
After all, if she were exactly like you, she would BE you... a bit awkward, that.
She would not have to be exactly like me but an interest in science/physics would be a must.

I will gladly wave the drums, Buddy Rich, jazz, the Beatles, Yes, Deep Purple, Islam/Bible/Atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Abiogenesis and Human evolution.

I would wave all those things for topic for discussion but Dirac is in or we will have a problem.
 
  • #8
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Try chaining her up in your basement for a few days with the Richard Feynman lectures playing over and over
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50
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Why not just accept her as she is without trying to change her?
 
  • #10
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I will gladly wave the drums, Buddy Rich, jazz, the Beatles, Yes, Deep Purple, Islam/Bible/Atheism, Christopher Hitchens, Abiogenesis and Human evolution.
I've never seen anyone wave Buddy Rich or the Beatles.

Did you mean waive?
 
  • #11
ZapperZ
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I know the whole question may sound stupid, but my best friend has a physics exam very soon, but she hates physics and she simply can't study it although she's good at maths. She doesn't even want to hear that physics is good. I want to write a big text about how exciting physics is, I want to write about big bang, wormholes, black holes, time, additional dimensions, about how interestingly do particles behave at subatomic level, about the theory that we live in a simulation, time travel, dark matter, how did heavy elements form, what happens at ultrahigh temperatures and densities, I want to make her think about these questions, I'm sure anyone will be interested if they change their mind about physics and forget that physics is boring, hard, etc.
Do you have any ideas what else can I tell her? How can I make someone interested in physics? Can you tell me some inspirational quotes about physics by famous physicisists? Can you tell me about other interesting unanswered or answered questions and theories that will make her curious about this field of science?
You can't make anyone love anything, including physics. You can make people appreciate or be aware of the importance of physics, but you cannot force or make them love it! There's a difference there.

You should also consider the possibility that, in your effort and desire to make someone love physics, you might turn him/her off of it even more. A teenager often does this when parents want them to do something, because they tend to do the opposite. So as someone who has worked very hard in many outreach programs to the public about physics, I will suggest that you may just want to back off.

Zz.
 
  • #12
symbolipoint
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I know the whole question may sound stupid, but my best friend has a physics exam very soon, but she hates physics and she simply can't study it although she's good at maths. She doesn't even want to hear that physics is good. I want to write a big text about how exciting physics is, I want to write about big bang, wormholes, black holes, time, additional dimensions, about how interestingly do particles behave at subatomic level, about the theory that we live in a simulation, time travel, dark matter, how did heavy elements form, what happens at ultrahigh temperatures and densities, I want to make her think about these questions, I'm sure anyone will be interested if they change their mind about physics and forget that physics is boring, hard, etc.
Do you have any ideas what else can I tell her? How can I make someone interested in physics? Can you tell me some inspirational quotes about physics by famous physicisists? Can you tell me about other interesting unanswered or answered questions and theories that will make her curious about this field of science?
You can not do this. Either she changes later or she does not. This is not in your control.
 
  • #13
It is entirely up to you, MAKE her love physics, lol ;)
 
  • #14
Demystifier
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but my best friend has a physics exam very soon, but she hates physics and she simply can't study it although she's good at maths.
Do you want to make her love physics, or do you just want to motivate her to study physics for the exam?
The first is impossible. The second isn't.
 
  • #15
pinball1970
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I've never seen anyone wave Buddy Rich or the Beatles.

Did you mean waive?
No I meant wave, as in wave goodbye to
 
  • #16
pinball1970
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Try chaining her up in your basement for a few days with the Richard Feynman lectures playing over and over
That's more like it.

One proof at the end of each day or no dinner, full access to text books and internet science resources.
 
  • #17
pinball1970
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Why not just accept her as she is without trying to change her?
Can we pass that sentiment on to women also? All of them?
 
  • #18
kimberlywoods
I feel like there are two ways. The first one is showing simple examples from everyday life, like a storytelling technique. Explaining things, desribing their origins, leading to theoretical approach and stories of inventions and physicists can catch your friend's attention to look up for more and ask questions. Another approach is probably based on wow effect, where you can randomly point out some major unexpected features of things, events and nature to make a surprise. Both can work, it's up to you to try.
 
  • #19
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I've never seen anyone wave Buddy Rich or the Beatles.
Did you mean waive?
No I meant wave, as in wave goodbye to
Yeah, right...
 
  • #20
pinball1970
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Yeah, right...
Its a common abbreviation round our way or I was referring to some sort of duality, any explanation that means I did NOT use the wrong the word.

I hope that clears it up.
 
  • #21
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  • #22
berkeman
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I'm getting dizzy... o0)
 
  • #23
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Can we pass that sentiment on to women also? All of them?
Under no circumstances will I even attempt to answer that question.
 
  • #24
TeethWhitener
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...Unpopular opinion time. She's probably right. It's probably boring and hard.

If she hates physics and is studying for a physics exam, my guess is that she's not a physics major. It stands to reason, therefore, that she's taking an intro physics class. In which case, yes, it's probably boring and hard. This is a widely acknowledged problem with intro classes in pretty much any field. You can apprise her of some of the hot topics in physics, but the fact is (if I'm right that she's taking an intro mechanics or EM course), she's still several years out from seeing how what she's studying now relates at all to things like wormholes or quantum entanglement.

Maybe find something she's deeply interested in and relate it to physics. For example, if she likes music, there's the harmonic series and acoustics in general. If she likes art, there are plenty of fascinating applications of physics to art: spectroscopy and paint pigments, applying various x-ray techniques to see layers of paint that have been covered over, etc. If you connect with something she's interested in, she's probably much more likely to lend an ear.

Just remember that no one likes an unwelcome proselytizer.
 
  • #25
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Do you have any ideas what else can I tell her? How can I make someone interested in physics? Can you tell me some inspirational quotes about physics by famous physicisists? Can you tell me about other interesting unanswered or answered questions and theories that will make her curious about this field of science?
I can't say this is helpful to you, but just thought I'd throw in my own perspective. I couldn't do physics, because of the visualization (including "visual calculation") of some of the things in it. I'm much better at abstract thinking than concrete, visual manipulation of things.

That inability to do some of the core skills needed for physics probably took away some of my interest in it. And I'm not sure there is anything that can be done to change that. I tend to think people enjoy that which they're good at and can understand more than that which they cannot. You can just appreciate things at a greater detailed level when you have a deep understanding of it and/or are good at the skills needed to figure things out in that area.

E.g., I could never understand the concept of fields in physics. Yet, I know they are the foundation of all matter in the universe. I couldn't conceptually visualize how they worked and how they even "looked" - not even a single field, let alone multiple overlapping ones. Once you get stuck at core concepts like that, then you can't really move forward very well or enjoy it much, as you'd be struggling to even understand what's going on.

I suppose the "struggle" can be fun for some people. But, it wasn't for me. I enjoy problems in economics and political science and even when there is something I have to "struggle" to learn or figure out, those fields are just more fun for me. I'm sure it helps I can do the conceptualization and calculation in them, but there might also just be some other innate interest I have in them.

It's really hard to know where interest comes from. Is it God and/or nature given? Is it developed by our environment? Both?

I just know for me personally that I tend to enjoy things that I understand and/or have the tools to understand more than that which I do not.

Albeit, sometimes I have to ability to understand something, but lack interest too. I can understand taxes/accounting, but hate it. It's boring to me for some reason. It's just a bunch of rules and and "organizing"/fitting things into those rules. I feel like there's probably some innate dislike of some feature of accounting that turns me off from it. It's so bland and boring to me. But, again, sometimes it's really heard to know why this is. And it's not clear to me we can change that. Maybe we're just "wired" to not find certain subjects interesting.

And that's probably a good thing, b/c it means you have skills and interests that make you unique and able to get a job in them over others and vica versa.

Comparative advantage as they say in economics.
 

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