What sparked your interest for physics?

In summary, Bill's introduction to physics was watching PBS's Nova on general relativity and symmetry. The experience ignited his interest in the subject and he has been studying it ever since.
  • #1
For me it was something as trivial as a conceptual example of Newtons third law, the astronaut creating momentum by tossing a wrench, that gave me an eyeopener for the subject.

What ignited your spark?
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  • #3
I was always interested in Electronics, like building crystal sets etc and really was astonished in my young days how math explained these electrical circuits that did these strange things like tuning is a radio station. Even more astonishing to me was when I found this on the surface esoteric idea, imaginary numbers, was the essence of a lot of it. But my serious interest came with understanding the role of symmetry - it was like a light switched on in my head - this is the key to the universe.

Still am amazed though at the power of complex numbers and the power they have in very weird ways in applications to physics. The 1+2+3+4+5... = -1/12 counter intuitive and strange result is actually from analytic continuation which you can only do in the complex plane - but is needed for the usual explanation of the Casmir Force - I say usual because it's not really correct, but it is the usual explanation and gives the right answer.

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  • #4
Stephen Hawking's A Brief History of Time
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  • #5
When I was very young, the space race in the 1960s piqued my interest in science and astronomy. Later, in grades 8 through 10, I had quite an interest in electronics. In grade 10 math, Euclidean geometry and proof absolutely entranced me. About the same time, I read an article on the expanding universe, which introduced me to general relativity, and I saw a BBC (via PBS) show "The Key to the Universe" on quarks.

On Physics Forums, I see a lot of bashing of popular-level physics shows and print material, but, without this popular-level stuff (as well as good high school teachers), I would not be doing what I am doing.

Form grade 10 I have been wresting with

pure maths ... theoretical physics ... pure maths ... theoretical physics .. Which ?

Of course, at the level of grad courses, they can be combined, e.g., the grad-level (for both maths and physics) in books like

"Quantum Theory for Mathematicians" by Brian Hall,
"Quantum Field Theory for Mathematicians" by Gerald Folland,
"Mathematical Gauge Theory With Applications to the Standard Model of Theoretical Physics" by Mark Hamilton.
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  • #6
Greg Bernhardt said:
Watching PBS's Nova in the mid 90s with my dad.
ohhhh such a youngin haha :wink: :-p

in the mid - late 60's I got interested in the various space programs … by collecting the cards from various breakfast cereal packets
( sadly, something young kids don't get exposed to over the last 20 yrs or so). Watching the moon landing on the old B&W TV
Solar max of 1970 was when mom and dad introduced me to the aurora and I could lie in bed look out into the dark and watch the auroral lights dance across the night sky.
At around the same time I was getting into bulbs, batteries and such. The beginnings of my electronics working life.
In the early '70's, my astronomy interest bloomed with the saving up and purchasing of the first telescopes.
Rock and mineral collecting also started around the same time. Then in 1974 I experienced a nearby M5.0 earthquake and
that was the start of my deep interest in seismologyDave
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  • #7
In the 1960s, my parents bought us How and Why Wonder books, so I became interested in Science and Nature, and the nature of things. I was interested in Astronomy and Space Travel, Rock and Minerals, Paleontology and Dinosaurs, . . . . One moment from second grade that still sticks in my mind is when I read an article of the effects of a thermonuclear explosion on a large metropolitan area. I think that, and my interest in astronomy and space travel, initiated my interest in studying physics, particularly nuclear and astrophysics. I was also interested in how mankind developed and used energy.

I did various kinds of experiments from the H&W Wonder books and playing with electronics kits, a microscope, and magnifying glass. By 5th grade, I started reading articles on atoms and particles, and in 6th grade, I designed an nuclear power aircraft. From 7th grade on I took every math and science course I could.
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  • #8
bhobba said:
I was always interested in Electronics, like building crystal sets etc and really was astonished in my young days how math explained these electrical circuits that did these strange things like tuning is a radio station.
Cool :smile: , that was something from my youth as well... '68 onwards. My dad had no understanding of electronics ( a farmer most of his life)
But my grandad (mom's side) did and on may of the school Christmas holidays I stayed there, he always encouraged and helped me
with the building of crystal sets and the like. There were several multi kW Am stations with several kilometres of his place that had coverage
over the Dunedin City region, NZ. so there was no lack of signal to pick up... the problem was more the stations overpowering each other
when received by a basic crystal radio

Wonderful memories of a time when life was much simpler :smile:Dave
  • #9
davenn said:
Cool :smile: , that was something from my youth as well... '68 onwards. My dad had no understanding of electronics ( a farmer most of his life)

My father was an electrical engineer, not electronic, working on high tension power lines. I read his textbooks (very old) explaining this stuff and IMHO their explanations were atrocious. I asked Dad but he had forgotten a lot - he moved on years before to be an electrical estimator so he wasn't much help. But on the math side heard of this thing called calculus and taught it to myself about 14 - what can I say the math I was being taught at school bored the hell out of me. The book I learned it from also explained complex numbers and Euler's relation. Well I knew the the current that went through a capacitor was proportional to the differential of the voltage, with the constant of proportionality being the capacitance. So I differentiated Ce^ix and low and behold you saw immediately the 90% phase shift because you now had an i in from of it. I was astonished. Told Dad and he said - that's not the way he was taught - but he too was amazed at its simplicity - I am still amazed to this day. Got a book on electrical circuit theory to lean it even better, but started having trouble with how transistors worked and their circuits - it took me a while to understand to take the equations liberally - the current through the base and emitter determines the current thought the collector to emitter. Put a resistor on the collector and low and behold by ohms law the voltage varies with the current going going from base to emitter - it took me a year or two to cotton on to that and I read all the electronics magazines - but again to me they didn't explain it well.

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  • #10
"Brief history" was definitely one spark/moment but I had already studied Biology at uni by this point and reading around that area not physics so much. As time went on I just got more interested and was doing some NMR then Colour physics in my job although did all the maths was done via the programs not manually (I may have actually learned something if I had to do some of the calculations manually). However I nearly fell off my chair when my son told me he want to study Physics at uni so that was another push to learn some real stuff. I wanted to be able to talk to him without feeling lost!

1. What is your background in physics?

I have a Bachelor's degree in Physics and a Master's degree in Astrophysics. I also have several years of experience conducting research in different fields of physics.

2. What first sparked your interest in physics?

I have always been fascinated by the natural world and how things work. As a child, I loved conducting simple experiments and learning about scientific concepts. In high school, I took a physics class and was immediately drawn to the subject.

3. Was there a specific event or experience that solidified your interest in physics?

In college, I had the opportunity to participate in a research project where I worked with a team to build and launch a small satellite into space. This experience solidified my interest in astrophysics and sparked a passion for research and discovery.

4. What are some of the most exciting developments or discoveries in the field of physics that have captured your attention?

There have been many exciting developments and discoveries in physics in recent years, but some that have particularly captured my attention include the discovery of gravitational waves, the confirmation of the Higgs boson, and advances in quantum computing.

5. How do you see the field of physics evolving in the future?

I believe that the field of physics will continue to expand and evolve in the future, with more interdisciplinary research and collaborations. I also think that advancements in technology and data analysis will play a crucial role in pushing the boundaries of our understanding of the universe.

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