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Insights Why Study Physics? A Bit Goes a Long Way! - Comments

  1. Nov 9, 2016 #1


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  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2016 #2


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    Nice article!
    It is always hard to find the right level in technical insights articles.

    The quoted part is conservation of momentum. We cannot use conservation of energy at the LHC, as some particles escape in regions where we cannot have detector elements. Some other particle physics experiments can use it, however.

    The link to the LHC insights article seems to be broken.
  4. Nov 9, 2016 #3
    I just want to comment on anorlunda's (that's different) statement : "is there a good reason to study physics? I say, “Yes,” because knowing just a little bit can be quite rewarding in ordinary life." because I've been saying something similar about poetry since high school when a politician came to a monthly assembly saying that people who dig ditches don't need to waste time studying poetry in school nor government waste money to teach them. I've dug ditches and quite frankly poetry makes that bearable.

    Likewise the physics and maths I took helped me to know there was a solution to a question I had about constructing something and that led me to this forum and the answer I was looking for.

    - "I feel confident I should have been a rebel Angel had the opportunity been mine." - Keats, 1817
    Last edited: Nov 9, 2016
  5. Nov 10, 2016 #4
    Did the sailboat thread trigger this? :D
  6. Nov 27, 2016 #5


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    Several years ago, I was involved in a self-assessment study at the Physics Institute, University of Oslo. During the discussion I came up with the slogan: "A good engineer knows everything in the engineering course books, and knows when a problem cannot be solved. A good physicist does not know anything about engineering course books, so he just sets about solving the problem".

    A couple of years later I was the censor at the final exam of such a physicist. I helped him get a job afterwards (he was really good) and after a year or so I asked one of the seniors there how he was shaping up. The answer was: "Well, if we hit a problem we think is impossible to solve, we assign it to him and do not tell him that there is no solution. He usually finds one".
  7. Nov 27, 2016 #6


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    That second paragraph is interesting. Why is this? Engineers and physicists are both smart types of people. They both study some physics or more. One of them learns how to investigate and design; and the other learns to understand and explain and test ideas (or theories). They both are problem solvers and use a bunch of Mathematics. What is the big difference making the physicists able to solve problems in engineering that the engineers are not able? Does this really depend on the person and not the educational degree field?
  8. Nov 27, 2016 #7


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    Engineering is a conservative field. In most cases, we say, "thank God for that." Conservative means demanding "proven technology" with only incremental advances that are deemed safe enough to risk. Imagine if designers of bridges, skyscrapers, and nuclear power plants were not conservative.

    Engineering projects almost always have defined goals, limited budgets, and schedules. There are exceptions. Engineers do pilot projects and experiments from time to time.

    I think it was on Big Bang Theory that I heard the phrase "Nobel prize winners free to waste the rest of their lives studying unanswerable questions." That may be a bit harsh, but it captures a bit of the truth underlying @Svein 's comment. Scientists get paid for that and even honored for it. Engineers don't.

    One can say that engineering is "applied science" but the science must exist before it can be applied.

    But it is important to acknowledge that the modern world can't exist without both scientists and engineers. Science brought us transistors, but engineering brought us microelectronics. That statement can't be 100% true, but it probably is 80% true.

    The irony is that this question arises on PF, where it is scientists more than engineers who bear the burden of telling posters why perpetual motion, FTL, and other "crackpot" ideas aren't possible. It would be great if @Svein could enlist the physicist he talked about to be a PF member. We could direct all those perpetual motion questions to him. :wink:
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