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Physics for the other half?

  1. Nov 29, 2003 #1
    We know much of how physics from Newton on has benefited the world's upper and middle classes, but how many of its applications have helped the lower classes survive?

    Can we physicists retain a good conscience when so many of us support weapon systems or build frivolous gimmicks that define our materialism, rather than construct a consensus toward a humanitarian work ethic?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 30, 2003 #2


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    Look up "Freeman Dyson"
  4. Nov 30, 2003 #3


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    Electric power, telephones, refrigerators, even televisions are a lot more widespread than among upper and middle classes.
  5. Dec 1, 2003 #4
    That is what I was thinking, or maybe he was referring to the 90 percent of the world who do not have these things??

  6. Dec 1, 2003 #5


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    The mobile phone - cheaper calls, faster availability, ... in developed economies everyone has one (the US and France are exceptions), in developing economies they make a significant contribution to economic liberation. If smartphones take off, the first experience that most people will have of a computer will be the mobile phone (better hope that Symbian beats Microsoft in the battle for the OS!)

    When will 90% of the world's people have a mobile phone? Sooner than you might think!
  7. Dec 1, 2003 #6
    Even in the poorest countries already >15% of all the population has acces to internet. Guess by whom the internet was developed...
  8. Dec 1, 2003 #7
    I have heard that less than 1/2 of the world's people have ever made a phone call!
  9. Dec 1, 2003 #8

    Chi Meson

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    Was the "lower class" in a better condition before Newton? The average life expenctancy in Europe was, what, 33 wasn't it? What were the lower class called back then? Serfs, indentured servents, etc.

    It appears that political progress and scietific progress are interactive, and one spurs the other. And I think that some people are scientific leaders not political leaders. IF we said to JC Maxwell, "hold it, before you continue, we have to come to a consensus on the work ethic, " I don't think he could have contributed much to anything. The world will be better if we all do what we do best ( and for the right reasons).

    This is philosophy isn't it?
  10. Dec 1, 2003 #9


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    The young, the old, ...

    It's a bit of an urban myth. First, even in developed economies, many children don't get to make phone calls until they're, what, 5? 10? In developing economies there are, to generalise, an awful lot more under-10s than in the rest of the world (both relative to the total population and absolutely). Let's say 15% are too young to call.

    In all countries there are those who will never make calls in their entire lives, for many different reasons. Let's say 2%.

    There's an urban/rural divide in most countries, and it ranges from ~95:5 in most developed economies to ~15:85 in the least developed. As an OOM, let's assume 50:50 for all developing economies, and assume the total population in those economies comprises 75% of the world's total.

    As an OOM, assume all those not in the 17% (too young to call, will never call) in developed economies have all made calls, ditto those in urban areas in developing ones. Assume none of those in rural areas in developing economies have.

    Total who've yet to make a call =
    (.75 * .5) * .83 + .17 ~= 48%.

    The more relevant number is those who are old enough to call but haven't yet done so, as a percentage of all those who could (and have). That's ~37%.

    [edit: 50:50 for developing economies; not developed]
    Last edited: Dec 1, 2003
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