• Support PF! Buy your school textbooks, materials and every day products Here!

Physics Grad School with Historical Method Pedagogy?

  • Schools
  • Thread starter Geremia
  • Start date
  • #1
151
0

Main Question or Discussion Point

Physics Grad School with "Historical Method" Pedagogy?

Are there graduate schools in physics that teach physics with a history and philosophy (HPS) emphasis?

http://sites.huji.ac.il/science/stc/staff_h/galili_h.htm" [Broken] and optics that adopted this approach remain to be valuable and interesting teaching resources."

Is it just me or is graduate-level physics taught only to a certain type of learner, i.e., to one who "learns by doing," who learns solely by solving written problems?

Thanks
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2,665
16


The purpose of grad school in physics is to prepare students to participate in new research, solving unsolved problems. In this light, programs that offer a PhD in physics will involve lots and lots of problem solving. Otherwise how could they hope to train future researchers?

If you do not like solving physics problems, then physics grad school is probably not what you're looking for, as it prepares one for a career in physics problem solving!

Have you considered looking at philosophy grad programs where you could possibly do a dissertation in the philosophy of physics?
 
  • #3
151
0


The purpose of grad school in physics is to prepare students to participate in new research, solving unsolved problems.
Yes, but as an undergrad I did a lot of research and it was much different than written, busywork-type assignments. Even in high school I read the first volume of the Feynman Lectures in Physics, and my math teacher said he wished Feynman had put problems at the end of each chapter. I remember thinking: Why? The Feynman lectures prepared me to do well the first few years of my undergrad physics education.
In this light, programs that offer a PhD in physics will involve lots and lots of problem solving. Otherwise how could they hope to train future researchers?
But problems never seem to reflect the real-world. Maybe physics PhD really isn't for me, but I find it really crazy that I am currently a physics grad student and don't know what kind of physics grad school is preparing me for...
If you do not like solving physics problems, then physics grad school is probably not what you're looking for, as it prepares one for a career in physics problem solving!

Have you considered looking at philosophy grad programs where you could possibly do a dissertation in the philosophy of physics?
The philosophy of physics would seem so "hollow" to me... Thanks for the suggestion, though
 
  • #4
866
0


HPS is often even its own department. The resources are certainly there if HPS is what you are interested in. The University of Pittsburgh has one of the top departments, for example. See http://www.hps.pitt.edu/. They even have a concentration in the history and philosophy of physics: http://www.hps.pitt.edu/graduate/history-philosophy-physics.php. Dissertations include "Gauging Gauge: Remarks on the Conceptual Foundations of Gauge Symmetry" etc.

If you want to do the standard physics track, you can do it. If you want to study physics from a historical point of view, you can do it... Duhem is actually someone you'd be likely to study in traditional HPS.

Does it matter what the department is if you can study what you want? What do you think is lacking in traditional physics, HPS, or philosophy of physics? What exactly are you looking to study?
 
Last edited:
  • #5
G01
Homework Helper
Gold Member
2,665
16


HPS is often even it's own department. The resources are certainly there if HPS is what you are interested in. The University of Pittsburgh has one of the top departments, for example. See http://www.hps.pitt.edu/. They even have a concentration in the history and philosophy of physics: http://www.hps.pitt.edu/graduate/history-philosophy-physics.php.
I've also heard good things about this department.

Also, Geremia:

Could you describe a physics graduate class taught in a way you would like? The reason physics classes are taught the way they are is because solving lots of problems in a time tested way of teaching physics. I couldn't imagine learning, say, E&M to the point where I could use it without working some pedagogical textbook problems.
 
  • #6
6,814
12


The other problem with historical method pedagogy is survivorship bias. You know which ideas worked out in the end, and you miss the point that most ideas end up to be dead ends.

Also you do have something about historical method in graduate schools. If you want to know something about say supernova theory, you'll be spending a month or two going through papers over the last two decades and learning all of the dead ends and why they were dead ends.

Geremia: But problems never seem to reflect the real-world.

That's because in graduate school you don't know what the real world is like. That's what you are trying to figure out. It also tends to be true that the real world is far, far too complex and messy to be useful in giving you mathematical skills, so the problems that get used to train mathematical ability tend to be abstract.

Geremia: I am currently a physics grad student and don't know what kind of physics grad school is preparing me for...

One other thing about the real world is that it doesn't fit into nice neat categories.
 

Related Threads on Physics Grad School with Historical Method Pedagogy?

Replies
1
Views
1K
Replies
29
Views
11K
Replies
5
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
1
Views
495
Replies
4
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
2K
  • Last Post
Replies
4
Views
3K
Replies
3
Views
991
Top