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What moment/person/idea inspired you to pursue an education/career in the physics?

  1. Jan 12, 2012 #1
    Hello hello,

    I've recently decided to re-think my career outlook and follow my innate passion and curiosity by re-entering university and pursuing a degree in physics, going who-knows-where from there. I think there are quite a few others out there who, like me, have been inspired to go against the grain and enter higher education as an older student for the sake of pursuing what interests them the most. I thought I would put this out to those of you who are in phD programs, masters programs, or are out in industry or academic positions you've obtained as a result of your education in physics and can look back with a bit more wisdom and pragmaticism at their initial decisions to enter the field.

    So, to all whom it may apply, just what was it that made you decide to study physics/engineering/etc? I'm looking for stories of personal inspiration, or a moment of revelation and realization, grand epiphanies, or personal challenges that made you realize the value of an education in the sciences.

    What really interests me is seeing whether those decisions to enter the field have in any way panned out later on, i.e. you were inspired by black hole's and stephen hawking - have you found positions or career work related to that initial inspiration? Or did your initial interests in, say, grand unified theories lead you down a avenue that is a dead-end for industry jobs? Lets do away with the "necessary" conditions for being a physicist, i.e. degrees etc, and maybe share the "sufficient" conditions, like inspiration or revelation or, perhaps more likely, pushy parents.

    Part of my motivation for asking this is to see whether my reasons for entering this field are comparable to the reasons of "real life physicists", who, for all I know, taught themselves calculus in the crib and published papers in high school.

    I'll start this one off myself. My inspiring moment came on a bicycle ride along the seawall in my hometown Vancouver. I was thinking about how, in due time, all the possible impacts I might have on the world would be eroded down to nothing, even if I was a momentously important person in civil affairs, or on the world stage, every person that would remember me or think of me would eventually die off, and so would their relatives and so forth, until the only impacts I could claim as my own were, say, the small hill I built in my backyard or the foreign species of cuttlefish I introduced into a freshwater lake. But, I thought, there is one impact that is more lasting or more permanent than the rest: technical innovations. In my mind, technical innovations are the real foundations of progress because they provide concrete groundwork from which to do more advanced work. Great achievements in human rights are also remarkable, but next generation there will be another round of dictators, murderers, psyopaths. But we don't have to re-invent the telephone, or plastics, etc, each generation. So, I thought, scientists, inventors, and technicians are the real building blocks of humanity because their work/contributions are something that can be built upon in the future and not, by necessity (like education, social work, etc), must be re-performed again and again.

    I look forward to hearing any of your own stories.
  2. jcsd
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