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How can I make my friend love physics?

  1. Jun 12, 2018 #1
    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?
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  3. Jun 12, 2018 #2


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    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.
  4. Jun 12, 2018 #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.
  5. Jun 12, 2018 #4
    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.
  6. Jun 13, 2018 #5


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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.
  7. Jun 13, 2018 #6


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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.
  8. Jun 13, 2018 #7
    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.
  9. Jun 13, 2018 #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
  10. Jun 13, 2018 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Why not just accept her as she is without trying to change her?
  11. Jun 13, 2018 #10


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    I've never seen anyone wave Buddy Rich or the Beatles.

    Did you mean waive?
  12. Jun 13, 2018 #11


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    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.

  13. Jun 13, 2018 #12


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    You can not do this. Either she changes later or she does not. This is not in your control.
  14. Jun 13, 2018 #13
    It is entirely up to you, MAKE her love physics, lol ;)
  15. Jun 14, 2018 #14


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    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.
  16. Jun 14, 2018 #15
    No I meant wave, as in wave goodbye to
  17. Jun 14, 2018 #16
    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.
  18. Jun 14, 2018 #17
    Can we pass that sentiment on to women also? All of them?
  19. Jun 14, 2018 #18
    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.
  20. Jun 14, 2018 #19


    Staff: Mentor

    Yeah, right...
  21. Jun 14, 2018 #20
    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.
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