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Physics - Cool ?

  1. Jan 5, 2005 #1
    Physics - "Cool" ?

    I was messing around with the rss thing in firefox and noticed this headline

    Physics goes in search of 'cool'

  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 6, 2005 #2
    They've got the whole idea completely wrong. It makes me sad to think that other countries are doing as badly as the US at producing good scientists these days.

    They miss the fact that good scientists will be drawn to science. THe problem is not that physics is "uncool" but that they fail to train students to have a scientific mind at a young age. 11-16 is to late to imprint that worldview. If by that age they aren't interested, they never will be.
  4. Jan 6, 2005 #3


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    I started reading about chemistry and physics in grade 4, and by grade 7, I was reading about the structure of matter, cosmology, nuclear energy and subatomic particles. For the remainder of my primary education, I was way ahead of the science teachers - and I had no one to help me with my interest in these areas.

    I had to wait until college to get formal education in physics.

    And more than 30 years later, education in math and physics has made no progress at the primary school level.
  5. Jan 6, 2005 #4
    AS far as i'm, concerned public education systems are complete failures in this respect. Absolute and abject failures.
  6. Jan 6, 2005 #5
    If you want to know what needs to be done to inspire kids into science here is what needs to be done, as a person who survived it all-
    ~ Stop dumbing down the classes to the dumbest kids in them. No one is the same and some kids are smarter then others/ have talents in different areas so can we please admit this before you destroy the brightest to save the weak? I will never forget being forced to learn basic addition and subtraction again in the fourth grade because "we want to see how fast you can do it" in the words of the teacher. We all knew it was nonsense: we were doing it because some kids had yet to master addition and subtraction.
    ~ Get mentors out there for kids interested in science. For two years I was stuck with a science teacher so apathetic that she actually told me to stop being interested in science because I was annoying. As a result I ended up turning to the writings of the late Carl Sagan to remind myself that there are actually good people out there who encourage kids interested in science. Do you realize just how incredibly lonely it is to be a sixteen year old girl whose role model is a scientist who died when she was perhaps half that age? I truly don't blame people who drop out of science fields who have to deal with stuff like that.
    ~ Get kids over to the local university to see what it's really like. Just a little field trip would suffice here but ideally you'd have some smaller internships for interested kids. Seeing what "real" scientists do in the flesh is one of the most exciting things you can experience then.
    ~ Flip the order in which science is taught in high school. That is to say switch from bio chem physics to physics chem bio, the chem bio bit being utterly mandatory. I have yet to figure out exactly how you're supposed to understand biology at all without having a grasp of chemistry (you need some physics as well but you'll probably live if you don't have that but it'd be great if you did). I think physics needs a bit of explanation, however, so please refer to my next point of
    ~ Scrap physics classes, particularly the APs, and start over. Either physics is too easy or too stupid in high school (not to even MENTION middle school where it's nonexistant despite the fact that some exposure should be given there: just a bit of a hint here or there even). I mean you're either moving blocks down ramps half the year or trying to cram every possible equation into your head by May and neither is very good because you'll never get inspired by either. Plus I don't particularly get the idea behind giving AP credit for physics: I have heard of so few kids actually using that credit in college that it's not worth it. So why not have a class for kids who just want to learn physics and show them that it's fun?
    ~ Stop worrying about the peer pressure from other kids. By the time you're getting into science your friends have known you long enough that they're going to stick by you despite your idiosyncracies. A far greater threat is apathetic adults which I mentioned before in enough detail.
    Really the problem with this is behind the stereotype that the kid interested in science is perpetually picked on. Most aren't, actually, and are as normal as could be. This idea just comes from the stereotype of kids who are socially backwards and are drawn to science because they don't want social interaction. They are not your majority I promise you.
    ~ Get rid of all the politically correctness regarding teaching science. Get it in your head that not every kid is going to be a rocket scientist, nor does each one want to be. This isn't a bad thing either because not everyone wants to be a scientist! Stop implimenting fake programs that do utterly nothing but look good on paper for minorities and completely ignore the majority. The majority sincerely is in need of something as well during middle/ high school so please stop ignoring them! And stop picking up the latest teaching fashion that will be forgotten in a few years regarding teaching kids. They're too often ineffective (I say that in case there was theoretically a program out there that didn't end in failure) and will not help you out should you want to be a scientist.
    ~ Get some decent books in the library. Please for the love of God do this now and do this ASAP!!! The reason here should be self evident...
    ~ Get kids together who have common interests regarding science. When the apathetic classmates are left behind on occasion and a few kids get together to do what they love, even if on the Internet or for a fleeting amount of time, it's like meeting people who speak the same language as you. It also helps you keep your sanity the rest of the time.
    Ok, my rant is over, hope there was some truth and sense in it. But let me just say it is my sincerest hope that I will someday see some of these for the average kid interested in science.
  7. Jan 6, 2005 #6


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    Andromeda, I think you're making an incorrect assumption that there are a sufficient number of qualified high school physics teachers that are capable of handling a higher level of discussion.

    Often, the physics taught is dumbed down, not because of students, but because the teachers might have a problem responding to questions in tricky areas.
  8. Jan 6, 2005 #7
    Well then add it to the list of problems then. Really though, I can understand if a teacher can't answer specific tricky questions but shouldn't they then at least have some inking as to where you can get an answer?
  9. Jan 6, 2005 #8
    Well you would, we can tell that just from your name.

    Oh and I agree.
  10. Jan 6, 2005 #9


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    My high school hired a PhD in physics fresh out of Caltech. I took a Physics course taught by him during a summer program for high school students at a local university, and he was a brialliant teacher. He taught a college freshman course in Physics in my high school.

    Unfortunately, by the time I started senior year, he left to go work for Shell Oil Co. and another much less proficient teacher was hired. A friend in my graduating class was fortunate to take physics in his junior year, while the PhD was still at the school.

    Our chemistry teacher has a MS in chemistry with some industrial experience. I was in a group of students who took 2 years of Chem (AP), and based on our course work, I skipped freshman Chem at the university.

    We also had a rigorous course in Calculus with Elementary Analysis, and I was able to skip freshman math, and started university taking sophomore level math.

    I think my high school was an exception. I had other friends at other high school who got screwed in Math, Chem and Physics because they did not have very qualified teachers.
  11. Jan 6, 2005 #10
    In my classes (still in high school), I think I'm the only one who thinks that physics is cool. Unfortunately our school doesn't have a qualified physics teacher (and hasn't been for three years), so I have to take it online (conceptual and algebra-based). As a result I am learning as much from extracurricular study as the material in the course.

    I cant even carry on conversations with many of my classmates because most of the time I'm thinking of calculus/physics. Now that ive started a self-initiated holography project, I'm usually thinking of lasers and how to set up the mirrors for use in the project. My interest is not shared, I seem to be the only one expressing it :frown:.

    I have noticed that most of my classmates don't have the 'drive' to learn things out-of-school.

    I'm in Astronuc's situation because there are few people in my general area who I can talk to (though I didn't quite grasp the concepts back in middle school). Luckily I was able to find a few students who are similarly minded in the summer programs that I attened over the years.

    Were most physics majors this obsessive in high school? Or am I just quirky?
  12. Jan 6, 2005 #11


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    Motai, you as normal as any physics major or physicist. :biggrin:

    Physics is cool, but then so is mathematics and chemistry, and I should say any science is cool, but I enjoy those three. As a result, I have had a very interesting career, have traveled overseas, and I get paid well while having fun.

    I used to have to go to the university libraries as the high school libraries didn't have the appropriate texts in physics or chemistry. I took advantage of this and amused myself learning about pyrotechnics and high explosives. :biggrin: It is amazing the stuff they had in some libraries. I went back to the libraries after college, and all the texts with information on explosives had disappeared.
  13. Jan 6, 2005 #12
    Agreed. If I were to rank them, it would be in that order as well. If only I had a better grasp of biology, that is my weakest area in all of the sciences.

    The books at the high school are dismal. The only thing that was interesting was one of those gargantuan physicist handbooks with massive grids of information. The local university library has everything though. There are around twelve full bottom-to-top rows on just physics alone.

    Recently QM and plasma physics/controlled thermonuclear reactions have caught my eye, and I have around six books checked out right now. One of the books in particular hasn't been checked out since I was a year old!
  14. Jan 7, 2005 #13

    I was just like that.

    I had a minor advantasge in that i had a great physics teacher in high school, he was a lot of fun, although i love physics before then. For that class i did one project where i wrote a computer simulation of a simple pendulum (which is not simple to model, believe me). It was a great project, my first experience writing computer programs to model physical systems (an important skill). It was also of course far more complicated and in depth than it needed to be, but thats why i'm a physics major.

    AS for having meaningful conversations with people, i've all but given up. People are not capable of saying anything worth listening to in general. So i'm a bit of a recluse. I spend most of my time working on energy tranpsort in stellar interiors (working with a professor on this one). My dormmates find it odd that they rarely see me out of my room (this was just mentioned to me on my way back from dinner) but the only common interest i share with them is alcohol, so i see no reason to socialize with them much. MOstly i just keep with my old friends from high school (i did make a few very close friends, one of which is at the same college as me, which makes life easier.)

    I'm tired of people's eyes glazing over and treating me like some sort of alien when i tell them my major. I'm one set of eyeballs away from lying about it so they can cut the special treatment bullcrap. My last gf's mother always just referred to me as a "real live genius" as if i was not quite human, but something more. The attention is nice for a while, but gets old when you get the same bit from every person you meet, who only thinks about how great the adulation may be when you just want to be treated as a frickin human. So i mostly avoid people who are "inferior", it minimizes the demi-god treatment.

    And of course no one i know can really relate to this (not even my close friends who are themselves very smart) because i seem to be the only person alive willing to give a lecture and discussion on just about anything. There are so many times i hate being smart. I'm going to stop ranting now.
  15. Jan 7, 2005 #14
    Dover books, Dover books, Dover books. They sell a lot of older edition graduate texts for cheap. Some are very good.
  16. Jan 7, 2005 #15


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    I was always reluctant to answer the question - "what's your major?"

    Tell most people that one is studying astrophysics and nuclear physics, or nuclear engineering, and the expression on the face changes, or one gets a response like - "Ooh, you must be really smart" - or worse, one gets a really inane question about Star Trek or UFOs or the latest fad in science. :rolleyes:

    And I collect Dover books and occassionally math books published by Springer Verlag, which are mostly available through university book stores.
  17. Jan 7, 2005 #16
    Yeah, the resposnes i get make me more of a misanthrope. I just avoid people altogether now, that way i don't ahve to answer them.
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