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How to get someone interested in physics?

  1. Jul 5, 2004 #1
    I am thinking how to make a person who does not like physics at all initially to a person who likes physics. Any idea how?
     
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  3. Jul 5, 2004 #2

    Evo

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    Have them watch "The Elegant Universe" by Brian Greene.
     
  4. Jul 5, 2004 #3
    Better yet, have them read the much better book by the same title.

    Greene, though being a Quantum theorist does a good job at explaining relativity, however, there is a good pop physics book by one of the foremost experts in GR, Kip Thorne, entitled "Black Holes and Time Warps: Einstein's Outrageous Legacy." Also highly reccomended.
     
  5. Jul 5, 2004 #4
    Is there any practical approach rather than reading books? In my opinion, something moving could be more fascinating. Isn't it so?
    Thx
     
  6. Jul 5, 2004 #5

    Evo

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    That's why I suggested they watch the video of The Elegant Universe". I also have the book, but I would not recommend it as the way to get your friend interested. The video is much more visually exciting and more likely to hold their interest, then if they want, they can read the book.
     
  7. Jul 5, 2004 #6

    Monique

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  8. Jul 5, 2004 #7

    Moonbear

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    It probably depends on why they don't like physics. Have they studied it and decided it's not something they find interesting, or have they never studied it and have a preconceived notion of what it's about that has scared them off? Maybe they are intimidated by all the math, or don't see the practical applications? There would be different ways of addressing it depending on the reason for their disliking it.

    For example, if they already have taken a class and just didn't find it to be something they liked, well, that's their choice, everyone has their own likes and dislikes and you probably won't change their mind, just set them more against it the harder you try.

    If they don't know much about it, watching some documentaries on PBS might show them how interesting it can be in an approachable context (i.e., they explain the ideas in a way people can understand without knowing much about it). Or, a trip to an observatory to peer through a telescope with some associated discussion about the optics involved in the telescope, or the influence of gravitational forces on planets and stars, or just how much energy it requires to climb all those stairs up to the observatory.

    If the math intimidates them, sometimes it's easier to start with concepts that don't require much or any math. You can talk about the velocity of the car, acceleration, deceleration, impulse, momentum. People understand how cars go, so that really is a good starting example. Without actually solving any equations (i.e., don't need trig or calc), you can explain the concept of vectors...you drive down the block headed east going 25 mph, 1/4 mi down the road, you turn right (south) onto a highway and go 50 mph for 5 mi, before arriving at your destination (or use metric units...whatever the person is most comfortable with...it doesn't matter in the example, just stick with a comfort level). You can then explain to them that physics (or math, really) can be used to solve an equation that could be used to tell hovercraft pilot exactly what direction and speed to travel "as the crow flies" to meet them at the same time and place. Much better to stick with concrete examples rather than overwhelming them with equations.

    Or, if they don't understand the practical applications, explain about things like recreating an accident scene...determining the speed of the two cars, were they braking, what sort of road conditions were there, and how did that contribute to the friction of the tires on the road, or ability to slow down fast enough, and determining if the accident could have been avoided, or who was at fault. While some people will go "gee whiz" with the space-time stuff, usually that's far too abstract to initially entice someone into physics.

    A lot of it really will depend on knowing what someone is already interested in. For example, someone who's really into music might enjoy learning about harmonics and sound waves. Someone into cars might be interested in mechanics. Someone with several small children might be fascinated by the concept of entropy. Someone who likes gardening might like to know about levers and how that applies to the more effective use of shovels, pruning shears and wheelbarrows. Someone who enjoys stargazing might enjoy learning more about astronomy.
     
  9. Jul 5, 2004 #8
    :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

    I'll have to remember that one !
     
  10. Jul 6, 2004 #9
    Thanks to all of you.
    If you have more idea, i will be glad to know.
     
  11. Aug 9, 2004 #10
    The first step is probably to determine the level of intelligence of the person. Cognitively demanding professions, such as math, science, law, medicine, and engineering, have intelligence thresholds below which mastery of the subject matter is not going to happen. In the case of physics, I would guess that the mental demands of physics are similar to those of mathematics.

    The _g_ Factor, P. 293:
    "U. S. Employment Service data show that the _lowest_ IQ found among persons employed with the occupational title 'mathematician' was 115 (the 85th %tile of the general population); the mean IQ was 143."
     
  12. Aug 9, 2004 #11

    Gokul43201

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    Brian Green gave a talk at my University a couple years ago. It was mostly about string theory but he made it sound interesting to a relatively lay person - that's the feedback I got from friends in Chemistry and Engineering.

    It's difficult to answer the posed question in general. Mostly, it takes "tricks" to initially win a person over.

    Here's one trick : Take any cuboidal object (hardcover book, calculator, multimeter, ruler, block of wood, etc.) with dimensions L X W X T (length, width, thickness), with L > W > T (preferable by at least a factor of 1.5). This object has 3 axes defined by the lines joining oppsite face centers. You will find that you can always spin this object in the air, about the shortest and longest axes, but try as you might, it's impossible to spin it stably, about the intermediate axes. It's quite fascinating, and so simple to do !

    Why does this happen ? "If you really want to know, you should learn some Physics; things like Euler Angles, and small oscillations."

    Surely, there's more such tricks that will help spread the beauty and fun of physics. The others that come to mind, however, require more equipment/materials.
     
  13. Aug 9, 2004 #12

    Ivan Seeking

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    Most people are never going to enjoy physics.
     
  14. Aug 9, 2004 #13

    Gokul43201

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    True...but at least it may be possible to alleviate an aversion. There seems to be a negative aura surrounding physics and physicists, as far as the general public are concerned.

    Things like the Scientific American series on PBS (especially the ones hosted by Alan Alda) should help some...but I'm not sure it's getting to the masses. If I was a parent, I'd have my kid(s) watch stuff like that. Easier said than done, eh ?
     
  15. Aug 9, 2004 #14

    Evo

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    The series with Alan Alda is very good. I was very surprised the other day. Sometimes I feel that my kids don't listen to much of what I say, but I have been astonished several times by what actually sunk in.

    Our children do listen. If we truly believe what we tell them, it will register. It will shape their thinking,

    We have a responsibility to our children to make the right decisions. Expose them to the right stuff and they will learn.
     
  16. Aug 9, 2004 #15

    Math Is Hard

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    When I was a kid I used to love Nova programs on PBS and a magazine called Omni. I think that's what got me interested in general science. The conceptual physics class I took recently was one of the most fun classes I have ever taken. My teacher loved doing demonstrations, so every class was a show!
     
  17. Aug 9, 2004 #16

    Ivan Seeking

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    Ahhhhhh...Omni. That was a fun magazine; dangerously bogus at times but fun. :biggrin:

    I was born addicted to science but I guess what really made this clear was my 9th grade Van de Graff generator science fair project. I read my dad's first semester college physics book and was instantly hooked. I don't think this kind of fondness for the subject can ever be taught or inspired but by no means do I mean to detract from the importance of significant exposure to the subject for all students. I think as with most subjects, the proper exposure can produce a genuine appreciation for physics, and science in general. This happened da me wit litterture. :biggrin:

    There is also a big difference between enjoying physics, and enjoying science news and facts.
     
  18. Aug 10, 2004 #17

    plover

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    There is actually a science fiction story called "The Heat Death of the Universe" by Pamela Zoline which analogizes the struggles of woman with a small child to a larger idea of entropy.
     
  19. Aug 11, 2004 #18
    If someone isn't interested I'm not sure you should try to make them interested.
     
  20. Aug 11, 2004 #19

    plover

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    A lot of help you are with the PF plan for world domination... :tongue2:
     
  21. Aug 11, 2004 #20
    That's what I'm saying: if everyone knows physics, how can the PFers dominate them?
     
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