Should the public know what you are thinking and concluding?

  • #1
I am an old man now of 72 who has been a continual student of just about everything except notably mathematics and chemistry. To provide a frame of reference, I received a D in Chemistry, (who would want to memorize a lot of symbols in high school--give me a break!), a C in Physics, (all I remember is that black is supposedly [since nothing is certain, right?] the absence of color), and flunked 11 of 14 mathematics exams.

I learned quite late in life that the reason the Algebra-initiated called them "equations" was that both sides were supposed to be equal, (for what reason only a mythical higher being might speculate.) Oh, and I also learned that Mathematics was necessary, though I never learned exactly how or why; and more importantly, the degree to which most of us on Earth would be disadvantaged by the very failure to know.

I studied for three Master's degrees and received one in History, because I refused to do student teaching for the M.A. in Social Science Teaching, and because I concluded that after studying supposedly advanced Business Administration, it was a farce to call it an academic subject.

Anyway, the teachers in my classical high school, (yes, we studied Latin), passed me because I was tested with a high IQ. I have always been pessimistic and learned by middle age to be cynical as well. I live in Florida, (miss New England terribly), and am retired, (and I never thought "work" worthwhile except as a means of survival.) I think "A Prayer for Own Meany" is a marvelous book and often think about "Treasure Island" with affection. I try to protect my small mound of moral high ground in a society devolving at rapid speed. There, you now have a grasp of whom I think I am, though as a caution we must remember that no one sees themselves as others do, and, perhaps worst of all the Physicists and some Philosophers say, "It is all illusion anyway."

My question, (which will follow in the next paragraph), arises from a fascination with the ideas of the new Physics of "Space Time" "Reality" is "illusion," "Consciousness" and the theories of Time. I was thrilled when I read that Time is or could be bent back like a hairpin, I think because of gravity or the absence thereof, I forget which. Anyway, I enjoy reading pedestrian online magazines which attempt to inform the general public like AEON and Scientific American; and other periodicals which include somewhat comprehensible language about the "New Physics."

I do not usually completely understand the articles because of the specialized language utilized by the writers, themselves Physicists, (or students thereof if you tend to quibble about the need to have a Ph.D. before using that designation.) I sometimes but rarely see articles by freelance journalists which try to digest recent conclusions, controversies and theories in Physics, though I greatly appreciate any opportunity to read them.

Oh, lest I forget, here is that primary question, (and it has some followups): Do you desire the general public to know what you are thinking and concluding? The reason I ask is that the overwhelming amount of information from your discipline is clearly crafted, perhaps unintentionally but I think not, to bypass the public mind and be considered only by you yourselves. As a former graduate student in several disciplines, it became clear to me at a relatively early age that all disciplines are linked, and no area of attainable knowledge is uniquely separate from other areas, nor excluded from a moral and ethical need for promulgation. In other words, why are you not promulgating your acquired knowledge except among yourselves?

Forgive me for being judgmental but I think this is selfish, (and I will bet for some the catalyst is intellectual arrogance); and most importantly, unkind to the mass of humanity. Do you not have a moral obligation to share information you discover or ideas you theorize?

A followup question is: Why when I search the local libraries, (one is on the site of a college campus and administered by enlightened staff), do I find no books addressing introductory Physics except a couple of low level college textbooks? Even those become incomprehensible after about twenty-five pages because they require specialized language and mathematical skills not possessed by the vast majority of humanity? Another followup question: Does anyone except Carlo Rovelli care?

My final followup question is this: Why does this not bother you? I find no simila discussion on Physics forums. Why are the marvelous conclusions and theories being made by Physicists hidden from public view by (albeit benign) neglect? Um, this is not healthy you know. You must integrate with the rest of humanity and be kind to us by sharing your ideas and conclusions with us. You shouldn't pawn the job off to casual self-employed "journalists" who might entice an occasional publication to include their articles.

I am dismayed that I cannot, in my quest for knowledge about, well everything, that you have perhaps unconsciously excluded such important areas of investigation from us due simply to an insistence upon demanding advanced specialized knowledge to even begin to comprehend. Come on, someone out there speak your thoughts in a manner we can comprehend.
 
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  • #2
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In other words, why are you not promulgating your acquired knowledge except among yourselves?
This is not the case. We want our knowledge spread as wide as it can be. The crucial point is that it requires a language only few people speak. If we drop this language, then our contents would become arbitrary and therewith not meaningful anymore.

You cannot attend La Traviata in the Met and expect them to play on recorders, banjos and tin barrels, and sing in Mandarin.
 
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  • #3
PeroK
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Physics and mathematics are open to all. But, it's the hard graft that deters most.

Whether you like it or not, the onus is on you to understand properly what an equation means.

If you are prepared to study physics thoroughly it is all there for you. But, it doesn't come easily. There's a big difference between swallowing a hundred pages of popular science at one sitting and battling your way through a handful of pages of undergraduate physics in a full day of study.
 
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phinds
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the overwhelming amount of information from your discipline is clearly crafted, perhaps unintentionally but I think not, to bypass the public mind and be considered only by you yourselves.
That's absurd. If you want to read a book in German, do you consider it selfish of German writers that you would need to learn German?
 
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  • #5
Vanadium 50
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Forgive me for being judgmental
Not until you're sorry for it.

As the other have pointed out, you have judged before you have the facts. The literal meaning of "prejudiced" is just that: pre-judging, or judging before.

and I will bet for some the catalyst is intellectual arrogance
I think that crosses the line from prejudice to bigotry. You might do better to, you know, make actual arguments in favor of your position.

If I were you, I'd ask the Mentors to remove this thread, and start over. Maybe by asking actual questions about physics than complaining and judging physicists. Just sayin'.
 
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  • #6
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What is the root complaint? That physicists do not write for the popular press? I know that many threads here include advice "don't read popular science books, they are crap." But there are many exceptions, going back to Einstein, Eddington, Born, Jeans, through Gamow, Feynman, Hawking, Thorne, Weinberg, and others less famous (I really enjoyed Percy Bridgman's writing). Maybe we should make a list of the good popular books (or is that already done here somewhere?)

Why when I search the local libraries, (one is on the site of a college campus and administered by enlightened staff), do I find no books addressing introductory Physics except a couple of low level college textbooks? Even those become incomprehensible after about twenty-five pages because they require specialized language and mathematical skills not possessed by the vast majority of humanity?
This is confused: do you find these introductory books too simple or too hard?
 
  • #7
phinds
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This is confused: do you find these introductory books too simple or too hard?
Obviously, he finds the math too hard. He wants physics without math which, of course, is a bit like wanting human singing without vocal chords.
 
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  • #8
jrmichler
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I find no books addressing introductory Physics except a couple of low level college textbooks? Even those become incomprehensible after about twenty-five pages because they require specialized language and mathematical skills not possessed by the vast majority of humanity?
Trying to learn physics without a solid background in algebra, trigonometry, and some calculus is an exercise in futility. Go on over to your local community college and take the algebra, trigonometry, and first calculus courses. You will then find introductory college physics books much more comprehensible.

It's never too late to try something new. I'm 67, and recently got a part time job as a Natural Resources Research Scientist, a field that is almost completely unrelated to my previous career as a mechanical engineer and inventor.
 
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  • #9
Ibix
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The universe is the way it is, and maths turns out to be an efficient language for describing it. You could write tens of thousands of words and never fully convey what one equation conveys about physics, and you could never manipulate those words to get numerical answers.

Does that exclude people? Possibly - but changing approach isn't within the gift of scientists. The universe works the way it works, and it is not guaranteed to be fair. We don't express physics in terms of maths for the fun of it. We do it because it's the only way to actually get anything done. You either have to learn the maths, or put up with digests from people who have done so.
 
  • #10
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There are quite a few good tv shows or videos on youtube which explain physics in an everyday language. Some are awful, but others aren't that bad. However, they have tight limits. E.g. I could explain how we get from counting to complex numbers without using complicated math. However, you will not be allowed to ask me about uniqueness, why ##1/2## equals ##0.5## and why it does not, actual construction of the reals, or the fundamental differences between functions on the reals and complex functions. In order to answer those questions, I will no longer be able to use common language. And said this, we are still far from such miracles as Euler's formula or Stokes' theorem.

You don't have to know or understand Stokes' theorem, however, for the price that you will not understand its beauty - not to mention its countless applications.
 
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  • #11
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I think this OP's diatribe has been addressed sufficiently.
 
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