# Why aren't that many people interested in physics but on junk knowledge

chroot
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
To me, it's just that there are so many other ways to enjoy free time. Play music, play chess, sport, meet people, spend time with your loved one, write a letter to your family, cook a nice dinner, go for a walk, to a concert, to a museum, read a book, you name it...
Well, everyone has their indulgences. It's true that everyone needs time alone, and everyone needs time with no commitment to productivity. If a person unwinds with a little junk TV, I see no harm in it, as long as it's not all they do with all their free time.

Let's be honest -- nearly all of the things you listed as recreation are very cerebral, and people don't take breaks from doing very cerebral things to do other very cerebral things.

For example, the thought of chess as a form of easy recreation is a bit laughable to me. Let's see... I'll spend ten hours a day working my butt off (or thinking my butt off, as the case may be) to figure out what's wrong with some circuit. Then I'll sit through traffic to come home, listen to a lecture, and spend another three hours doing homework. I'll choke down a little dinner, finally lift my head from the sixth or seventh page of homework, and.... desire to engage in a rousing game of chess? Not a chance.

- Warren

I think the ability to become an intellectual needs breadth and depth, a person who has a whole range of interests outside of science and within. Some people don't have the horsepower to think about a lot of different things, thus they limit themselves to a lot of very mundane things; as patronising as it sounds that is just most people. I just don't think you can get away from that.

See an honest answer isn't PC, an honest answer is: to get involved in the more intellectual takes a great deal of mental effort, some people just don't have that mental edge. There's no judgement on them, they are the way they are and good luck to them, they are happy with their lives. As are those who like to look a bit further; if there weren't "stupid" people then there wouldn't be intellectuals who would be measured against them.

Pfft it's impossible not to sound demeaning but we've all met people who just couldn't nor would want to grasp the esoteric, good, the world would be a dull place if everyone was an intellectual, I'm not one by the way, but I aspire to be one, I count myself lucky, other people would see me as foolish, but it's a matter of taste and a matter of your individual ability too.

Bad popular science explanations can cause harm too. For example, this is how I encountered quantum physics: There was no explanation about wave functions, instead I learned that "the location of particle cannot be known precisely". After this I naturally assumed that the precise location exists, because it doesn't make sense to say that we cannot know it, unless the thing that we cannot know existed. Then the explanation continues "because we cannot know it, there is no reason to assume that it exists. Therefore it is scientifical to believe that precise locations don't exist". The logic in the conclusion is totally flawed, and I was absolutely convinced that physicists are stupid, and I was going to overthrow quantum mechanics.

I wonder if these popular explanations are intended to drive all people, capable to think with their own brains, away from physics?

Later I of course understood that the claims I wanted to overthrow were not relevant part of the quantum mechanics at all, and it wasn't the QM that I had been disagreeing with.

That's just one example, relativity is another. Most of the introductions to the special relativity don't concentrate on solutions to the paradoxes. An authoritative attitude "you think wrong when you see paradoxes. Don't you understand this has been verified by experiment?" merely encourages more crackpottery.

It is easy to lose interest in science, when personal experiences with it are negative.

chroot
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
Schrodinger's Dog and humanino -- you guys are starting to make me feel like I'm some kind of brain-dead brute. I don't spend every waking hour in pursuit of new neural connections. Sometimes I play stupid games. Sometimes I browse the internet for nothing in particular. Sometimes I watch movies I've already seen, and laugh at all the jokes anyway.

I think I pursue knowledge more than most, but I don't think it's fair to put down someone's intellect (or worse, their value as a human being) because of how they chose to spend their leisure time. Intelligence has a far broader scope than that.

- Warren

Let's be honest -- nearly all of the things you listed as recreation are very cerebral, and people don't take breaks from doing very cerebral things to do other very cerebral things.
Maybe they are cerebral also (apart from sport, meet people and ... spending time with your loved one ) but they involve very different intellectual "efforts". To me, playing music is not an intellectual effort, it is really recreational. Actually, even the technical exercises I do everyday to maintain the muscles allow me to relax from intellectual activities (just as sport in fact).

The other day we organized a little chess tournament here. Of course we have the russian players, I do not know whether they were born on a chess board, but they do play better than most of us european or american people that night. Most of us did not even try to take those games to the competition level, and we did have fun.

If you have nothing else to do than watch television, why not watch (say) discovery channel, which might learn you something, and requires very little brain activity. At least, watch a movie (if reading a book is too difficult, or you don't like it) but quite frankly, I will never, ever, watch that kind of junk television I am talking about right now. I feel it in my stomach, it makes me sick. Seriously. :yuck:

This discussion reminds me of a quotation, from Eleanor Roosevelt :
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.

chroot
Staff Emeritus
Gold Member
I wonder if these popular explanations are intended to drive all people, capable to think with their own brains, away from physics?
Interesting point. I've long held the belief that most scientists inherently participate in and perpetuate a sort of elitism designed to keep people they deem unworthy out of the scientific ranks. It can be a sort of "good ol' boys club," in which you have to brown-nose the right people so they'll permit you to continue your education. It's unfortunately not at all uncommon for scientists to have distate for their colleauges who write popularizations -- not because they're dumbed down, but quite literally because they let the cat out of the bag.

Musicians and other skilled people have the same tendencies, too. My sister is a professional musician, and, in her opinion, no one should attempt to learn to the play the guitar unless they actually intend on following through with the entire learning process, up to and including a degree in musical performance. In her opinion, the legions of kids learning to play Nirvana on their $150 mexican Statocasters is downright disgusting. I imagine that many scientists have some of the same sentiments about many of the books in Barnes & Noble's laughably tiny science section. - Warren Schrodinger's Dog and humanino -- you guys are starting to make me feel like I'm some kind of brain-dead brute. This is certainly not my aim [...]Sometimes I watch movies I've already seen, and laugh at all the jokes anyway. Agreed, me too of course I don't think it's fair to put down someone's intellect (or worse, their value as a human being) because of how they chose to spend their leisure time. Please do not think that I am judging anybody here, and certainly not am I reducing "human value" to intellect ! I am just completely horrified when I see my friends fall into the trap of "reality television" (for instance). Especially if I invite them for dinner, want to cook for them and organize a nice casual meeting between friends, and they say "no way, I'm not missing the last episode". This is offensing to me, especially considering that one can tape the show. But no, in the end they get priorities. Intelligence has a far broader scope than that. Absolutely agreed Ivan Seeking Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member That's just one example, relativity is another. Most of the introductions to the special relativity don't concentrate on solutions to the paradoxes. An authoritative attitude "you think wrong when you see paradoxes. Don't you understand this has been verified by experiment?" merely encourages more crackpottery. It is easy to lose interest in science, when personal experiences with it are negative. With dad, all that it took was for me to insist that time dilation was real and not just a philosophy. That is more than he can accept. Most people don't like their sense of reality to be challenged, and physics certainly does that. I had a friend whose wife became upset when he explained how rainbows are made. In her mind, it forever ruined rainbows, and years later she still resented this. Many people NEED to believe in magic. However, on the flip side, I would argue that entanglement is still freakin magic! Last edited: chroot Staff Emeritus Science Advisor Gold Member want to cook for them and organize a nice casual meeting between friends, and they say "no way, I'm not missing the last episode". This is offensing to me Ah, if you're talking about people who consistently choose television (which is always available, and always sucks) over invitations to dinners and social events, then yeah, I'd share your sentiment. I'd be a little offended if I asked someone to do something and they turned me down for an episode of American Idol, too. I broke up with a girl once upon a time, because she watched 3-4 hours of "junk television" a night. After a while it was bad enough that I would sit beside her, bored senseless, and try to start a conversation with her. She would glance back and forth between me and her enormous television, and it was clear which got priority. I gave up and moved on. - Warren Evo Mentor Ah, if you're talking about people who consistently choose television (which is always available, and always sucks) over invitations to dinners and social events, then yeah, I'd share your sentiment. I'd be a little offended if I asked someone to do something and they turned me down for an episode of American Idol, too. I broke up with a girl once upon a time, because she watched 3-4 hours of "junk television" a night. After a while it was bad enough that I would sit beside her, bored senseless, and try to start a conversation with her. She would glance back and forth between me and her enormous television, and it was clear which got priority. I gave up and moved on. - Warren I dated a brilliant biochemist working at the forefront of AIDS research and we spent EVERY evening watching reruns of the Golden Girls, he LOVED that show. That and other equally bad tv reruns just made me crazy. He just wanted to VEG out when he wasn't working. JasonRox Homework Helper Gold Member Interesting point. I've long held the belief that most scientists inherently participate in and perpetuate a sort of elitism designed to keep people they deem unworthy out of the scientific ranks. It can be a sort of "good ol' boys club," in which you have to brown-nose the right people so they'll permit you to continue your education. It's unfortunately not at all uncommon for scientists to have distate for their colleauges who write popularizations -- not because they're dumbed down, but quite literally because they let the cat out of the bag. Musicians and other skilled people have the same tendencies, too. My sister is a professional musician, and, in her opinion, no one should attempt to learn to the play the guitar unless they actually intend on following through with the entire learning process, up to and including a degree in musical performance. In her opinion, the legions of kids learning to play Nirvana on their$150 mexican Statocasters is downright disgusting. I imagine that many scientists have some of the same sentiments about many of the books in Barnes & Noble's laughably tiny science section.

- Warren
I don't agree with this kind of approach. I think popularization brings a lot of candidates to the subjects. In fact, it brought me here today where as I would never of thought of even doing mathematics.

Also, for musicians, maybe they should appreciate the fact that some people would like to enjoy it as a hobby or the like. They appreciate music, but can't spend their life on it. People have other desires and goals in life, but at the same time enjoy many other parts life has to offer. Why must we go all out everytime? Sounds very inefficient and silly to me. I understand why a musician doesn't want to be associated with "hobbyists", but the musician shouldn't be worried about that. If the musician is truly a musician, he or she should have no problem seperating herself or himself from the "hobbyist" when they play music. A musician should worry about their music playing and their fellow musician's music and not some "hobbyist" who can't play at all. At first a musician was most likely a "hobbyist". No child or person goes into anything thinking they're going all the way, or atleast I never seen someone do that about music. Anyways, the "hobbyist" is also not ruining music like some musician think. It's just ridiculous because they were just as terrible before in the beginning! It's called curiousity.

Anyways, if the elitist thing actually does exist, that basically means when I take part in future conferences I will shatter this existence among my surroundings. My colleagues may not like it, but in the end, I'll have more admirers. Not a fan of stuck ups.

Note: It's like if you want to get healthy, go all out. Don't just run twice, run 5-6 times a week. Blah, blah, blah... people don't want to make a life out of everything they do.

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JasonRox
Homework Helper
Gold Member
With dad, all that it took was for me to insist that time dilation was real and not just a philosophy. That is more than he can accept. Most people don't like their sense of reality to be challenged, and physics certainly does that.

I had a friend whose wife became upset when he explained how rainbows are made. In her mind, it forever ruined rainbows, and years later she still resented this. Many people NEED to believe in magic. However, on the flip side, I would argue that entanglement is still freakin magic!
I HATE THAT!

And these same people say they're open minded.

Because it takes effort and people are lazy.
That says it all. Also, most people focus on their social lives so much. Also, people probably got bored of science when they learned it in school. They treated their science homework as tedious and probably also had bad teachers

It just seems like the majority of people are interested in social status, (especially people under 30), what stupid move paris hilton will make next in order to gain attention, is lindsay lohan a cokehead or not.
I think you're underestimating the majority of people. I think most people know that their interest in Paris Hilton is ironic. Speaking of which, Nicole Richie is pregnant!

I don't think there has ever been a time in history when a greater portion of the earth's population has engaged in academic pursuits. Furthermore, I don't think that everyone needs to learn about relativity or unifying electricity and magnetism in order to have a meaningful existence. There are lots of different ways to approach the question "why am I here?" - science is one way, but so is gossiping with your in-laws or cooking good food for your children.

Shakespeare's plays were low-brow entertainment in his day, but his works still make people ask deep questions about how they live their lives and are governed. I think movies and TV do the same thing. It may feel like your brain is rotting away, but even passively observing representations of others causes people to reflect on themselves. Of course, that doesn't mean that people should watch TV all night at the expense of their real social relationships!

BobG
Homework Helper
Maybe they are cerebral also (apart from sport, meet people and ... spending time with your loved one ) but they involve very different intellectual "efforts". To me, playing music is not an intellectual effort, it is really recreational. Actually, even the technical exercises I do everyday to maintain the muscles allow me to relax from intellectual activities (just as sport in fact).

The other day we organized a little chess tournament here. Of course we have the russian players, I do not know whether they were born on a chess board, but they do play better than most of us european or american people that night. Most of us did not even try to take those games to the competition level, and we did have fun.

If you have nothing else to do than watch television, why not watch (say) discovery channel, which might learn you something, and requires very little brain activity. At least, watch a movie (if reading a book is too difficult, or you don't like it) but quite frankly, I will never, ever, watch that kind of junk television I am talking about right now. I feel it in my stomach, it makes me sick. Seriously. :yuck:

This discussion reminds me of a quotation, from Eleanor Roosevelt :
Great minds discuss ideas; Average minds discuss events; Small minds discuss people.
I disagree about sports not being a cerebral activity. While fitness and skills that have to be learned (and skills are a completely different type of learning), the best part of playing a sport is the mental aspect - being able to anticipate what's going to happen next and to set your angles to best counter or take advantage of how the play is developing (even refereeing required the same kind of thinking as being a player, at least as far as making sure you were in the best position to make a call). Even non-competitive sports such as kayaking, canoeing, or sailing require a lot of cerebral activity to read the currents, wind, etc. It's just a very intense type of thinking about a lot of "simple" things (although some of those things aren't really that simple and having at least a cursory understanding of things such as fluid dynamics, etc, make it a lot easier to 'read' the physical picture in front of you).

And I even disagree with Eleanor Roosevelt. Talk about a liberal elitist. She virtually said that pita people just get in the way of great ideas. If it wasn't for people, a lot of great ideas would work (like education, religion, law and order, marketing, programming, welfare, health care, and most of all love - love would be a great idea if you didn't have to deal with other people).

Schrodinger's Dog and humanino -- you guys are starting to make me feel like I'm some kind of brain-dead brute. I don't spend every waking hour in pursuit of new neural connections. Sometimes I play stupid games. Sometimes I browse the internet for nothing in particular. Sometimes I watch movies I've already seen, and laugh at all the jokes anyway.

I think I pursue knowledge more than most, but I don't think it's fair to put down someone's intellect (or worse, their value as a human being) because of how they chose to spend their leisure time. Intelligence has a far broader scope than that.

- Warren
Maybe I've just met more idiots than you j/k

I used to think the same way as you, that everyone could be more learned if they just applied themselves, but some people are just not up there and not interested either because of it. They realise there limitations and have tried and failed in education.

I've tried to be politically correct but lets face it if your honest and meet enough people your going to see that you need a bit more than average to succeed in the world of the scientist or the intellectual, that's just reality.

I did say earlier I thought part of the blame goes to science itself, there is a serious shortage of Hawking, Dawkins's*, Feynman's and Kaiku's to get the world enthused about science. In this country there's a serious shortage of science teachers and that's even worse, these people make up the body of the army against ignorance, there value is inestimable.

* pre "The God Delusion", when he was just a geneticist who hosted TV shows.

I don't spend all my time reading Wiggtenstein whilst playing chess in fact most of the time lately I'm either doing coursework or on line battling the forces of Sauron, which although involved is hardly intellectual

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mathwonk
Homework Helper
as charlie brown said: " i dont like math, i prefer questions where the answers are mostly a matter of opinion."

BobG
Homework Helper
as charlie brown said: " i dont like math, i prefer questions where the answers are mostly a matter of opinion."
When did he ever say that?

However, he did say:

CB: It says here that the force of gravitation is 13% less than it was 14.5 billion years ago.
Lucy: Whose fault is that?
CB: Fault? It's nobody's fault!
Lucy: What do you mean nobody's fault! It has to be somebody's fault! Somebody's got to take the blame! Find a scapegoat!
Hmmm, I wonder about that statistic, but Lucy's sentiment is certainly accurate of the average person's impression about science.

Mk
Benzoate, that is fashion. Science should be made more fashionable.
I think that's different levels. After man landed on the moon I think science's fashion rating went up a little.

If the army has ads for people to join the army, and make getting shot at look cool and honorable, why not science?