Physics as Magic?

There’s a nice post over at Physics Buzz that I thought I might draw your attention to. The central quote for me is: “Speaking strictly about technology - which is often the knowledge attained by physicists put into practical use by engineers - physics has created some pretty amazing things. Cars, planes, iphones, medical treatments, lasers, 3-D movies, and the Large Hadron Collider. We are constantly WOWED by science. Unfortunately, the less someone understands how these things work, the more they begin to believe anything is possible. In other words, if you don’t understand the parameters that allow for amazing things (like jets!) you also don’t understand the parameters that would prevent other things (like energy generating heart replacements). If you don’t understand anything about physics and technology, then it appears to be nothing short of magic, and magic has no bounds…” I think this gets at some of the heart of what we’re interested in doing here at the virtuosi. By trying to strip away some of the mysticism around physics, we hope to bring people to a better understand of what we do. Sure, we work fun problems, and discuss interesting topics (at least, so I hope). More importantly though, while doing so we display both the tools of physics, and how physicists think. The reason I got started on this blog is because I feel there is a huge gap in understanding between what physicists do and how we do it, and what the general public perceives us as doing. I don’t think this gap is good for anyone, and I think part of the reason for that is very well articulated in the above quote. Of course, part of my hope for this blog is that if more people are comfortable with physics, when I tell people at a dinner party that I’m a physicist the response won’t be either “Oh, I hated physics in high school” or “Oh, that’s nice.” End of conversation.

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By Jesse