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Education Science

Physicists Work on Physics' Uncool Image 362

Posted by CowboyNeal
from the centripetal-not-centrifugal dept.
WindowsTroll writes "Since it seems that science doesn't appeal to the youth of today, physicists are trying to make physics kid friendly. From the article, 'Bicycle stunts, rap music and modern dance -- all in the name of Einstein.' I am particularly interested in the modern dance, thinking that this is probably a better approach of studying oscillations than the springs that I used when I was in college."
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Physicists Work on Physics' Uncool Image

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  • What? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Real physicists like Stephen Hawking, and fictional ones like Quinn Mallory, are very cool!
  • by nxtr (813179)
    Won't it make you look like the crazy bum at the park?
    • I can imagine:)

      me draw number, phone... Error
      me draw number again, phone... Error
      me draw number again, this time carefully, phone... Calls wrong number
      me draw "FUCK YOU" in the air, phone calls 911 and reports abuse
    • by dexter riley (556126) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:08PM (#11354295)
      Raving Lunatic Obviously Took Some Advanced Physics

      STANFORD, CA--Known throughout the community for his verbal outbursts and his shopping cart full of trash, area street denizen "Cosmic Stan" must have studied advanced physics at some point, sources reported Monday.

      [Photo Caption: Cosmic Stan asks for enough change to take a bus to the Riemannian manifolds.]

      "Where's my cheese? Don't take my rowboat! Got no room!" the lunatic screamed from his regular spot near the Campus Drive bus stop. "I need space! Gimme space! Infinite dimensional separable Hilbert space!"

      Though his rants seem nonsensical to most passersby, some astute listeners say they contain evidence of higher learning.

      "I'd always see him around that bus stop, dressed in his ragged wool clothes, duct-taped shoes, and that plastic sheeting covered over with symbols drawn in magic-marker," Stanford Ph.D. candidate James Willard said. "Then, a few days ago, he was out there waving his tin-foil wand at random strangers, and I heard him yell, 'I demand that you buy me an ice-cream cone! My third-favorite flavor is strange! My second-favorite is top! My favorite flavor is anti-charmed!' Suddenly, I realized the guy was talking about quarks."

      Willard said he spent the next several minutes listening to Cosmic Stan's rant.

      "Mixed in with the usual stuff about CIA mind-control beams, talking dogs, and monkey-people, I heard him mention beta decay, instantons, density matrix, and subspaces of n-dimensional Riemannian manifolds," Willard said. "I'm not sure where he got it, but he definitely seems to have had extensive schooling in theoretical physics. Man, what could've happened to him?"

      Stanford theoretical physicist Carl Lundergaard seconded Willard's theory on the loonball.

      "He's definitely had some advanced training, though I'm not surprised that it went unnoticed for so long," Lundergaard said. "It's hard for the layperson to differentiate schizophrenic ramblings like 'Modernity chunk where the sink goes flying on the ping-pang' from legitimate terminology like 'Unstable equilibria lie on the nodal points of a separatrix in phase space.'"

      Lundergaard said he first became intrigued by Cosmic Stan in December 1999, when the homeless man threw a chicken bone at him and said, "Components of the Weyl conformal curvature tensor." The professor said he initially suspected that Stan was repeating a phrase "from a textbook he'd found in the garbage." Then, several weeks later, the screaming nutcase shouted some things that indicated a strong grasp of high-level science.

      "As I was buying coffee in the quad one morning, Stan came by waving those roller skates he sometimes wears on his hands," Lundergaard said. "I distinctly heard him say, 'I can't be in two places at once! I can't meddle in my own affairs! I can't destructively interfere with my own future plans! What do I look like--the uncollapsed wave function of an electron?' He was referring to the seemingly paradoxical aspects of wave/particle duality as illustrated by the 'two-slit' experiment in electron diffraction. Stan wasn't just mouthing phrases: The crazy homeless man knows his stuff."

      Added Lundergaard: "I almost approached him the other day to see if he had any ideas regarding the general solution for the relativistic force-free equation describing the structure of the pulsar magnetosphere, but he was busy smearing a plastic doll with glue."

      Cosmic Stan also appears to be versed in other academic subjects, Lundergaard said.

      "He seems to have a working understanding of several of the higher maths, including Zurmelo-Fraenkel set theory, category theory, and algebraic topology," Lundergaard said. "He also seems to be quite interested in the subjects of religion, sexuality, fast-food restaurants, Ferdinand de Saussure, malevolent evil, '70s TV shows, and shadowy authority figures."

      Lundergaard said he has no knowledge of Cosmic Stan's past, but theorizes that his nickname derives from the physic
    • > Won't it make you look like the crazy bum at the park?

      Crazy? Don't fuck with the Hawkman. All his shootin's be drive-bys.

      Then up ahead cold chilling in the street,
      six motherfuckers from MIT.
      I flick off the safety, check my grip,
      and load a dum-dum clip.
      I glance at the Doom to make sure he's packed,
      his fingers on the trigger of his baby Mac.
      Time to give a Newtonian demonstration,
      of a bullet its mass and its acceleration.

      MC Hawking [mchawking.com], busting more shit than an incontinent man at a chili coo

  • Too Late! (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:44PM (#11354061)
    I believe one Bill Nye The Science Guy has already accomplished making Physics (and science in general) "cool".
    • Re:Too Late! (Score:4, Informative)

      by YrWrstNtmr (564987) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:51PM (#11354137)
      You whippersnappers! Mr. Wizard [museum.tv] was cool when Bill Nye was but a pup.
      • Re:Too Late! (Score:3, Interesting)

        Yeah, I had him for Physics 11 at El Camino in '68. Got a C in the class and was hated by the rest of the class, who got D's and F's. Guy gave out 3 A's in his life.

        But for having someone split a stump with an axe on his chest while shouting "Faith in Physics!" he coudn't be beat. He was a popularist, a highly dramatic basic physics teacher. Brought in experts to discuss relativity in terms of meter sticks and clocks. A complete bastard, we loved him utterly.

  • ... Jordi was THE coolest guy on Next Generation.

    Seriously, did he EVER get laid in those 7 years?

    • I don't remember the exact episodes, but I believe he got some a few times.
    • I think he almost laid some engineer chick from some holodeck program, once. I think he, then, he met her in real life and totally freaked her out.

      That's as close as I ever remember him coming. No pun intended...ha...ha.....ha.
      • Her name was Leah Brahms and, yes, he could've got some but he totally freaked her out by stalking her on the holodeck.

        I do, however, agree that Jordi was one of the cooler crew-members.
        • I do, however, agree that Jordi was one of the cooler crew-members.

          Considering you know the name of jordi's almost-lay by heart, it doesn't really surprise me that you identify with him so well...if you catch my drift. Personally, I thought Worf, O'Brien, and Data were the only cool ones besides Picard. Everyone else was too emotionally/intellectually unbalanced for my tastes. Actually, the Crushers were pretty well balanced, but they were just tragically retarded.

          Guinan and Cue dominated them all
    • by Average_Joe_Sixpack (534373) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:20PM (#11354426)
      Seriously, did he EVER get laid in those 7 years?

      Now that you mention it, no. And I don't remember him getting any on Reading Rainbow either.
  • MC Hawking (Score:5, Funny)

    by grahamsz (150076) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:45PM (#11354072) Homepage Journal
    I think they should get MC Hawking to promote physics

    http://www.mchawking.com/ [mchawking.com]

    He rocks :) I still like " F*ck the Creationists" best :)
  • Absolute Zero (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Doc Ruby (173196) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:45PM (#11354079) Homepage Journal
    The flipside of that double-edged sword is that physics will be infiltrated by people who want to be "cool", rather than just smart. Physics is already cool, because it *creates* coolness. Most "cool" kids aren't cool at all; they're just smart at looking cool, copying the people who other people say are cool. Truly cool physics is asymptotically low entropy; that won't be making the cover of the _Rolling Stone_ anytime soon.
    • Maybe if you're really *cool* you already have low entropy, that is, you just stand around and look cool. Maybe you don't *need* to be told you're cool, because like the MC Heisencool effect, you might no longer be cool after you're told you're cool.

      Word.
  • Kid friendly? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by StevenHenderson (806391) <stevehenderson@gm a i l . c om> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:45PM (#11354082)
    Why does physics have to be kid-friendly?

    The shit is hard.

    Like computers/programming, kids will pick it up if they have the interest...

    • For that matter, I wasn't aware there was a shortage of physicists in the first place.
    • to get them interested.

      Basic physics is not hard. You can apply it with basic math, and real world examples and experiments.

    • Re:Kid friendly? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by bcrowell (177657) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:18PM (#11354398) Homepage
      Are "fun" and "cool" two different things?

      When I was a kid, I had fun reading science fiction, and that was not considered a cool way to have fun. But science fiction got me interested in math and science, and now I'm a physics teacher.

      Lots of kids are interested in things that are not at all easy: playing music, riding their bike off the roof of their house, etc. Why should we try to make a difficult thing seem easy in order to make more kids do it? And what makes us adults think we have any influence over what kids see as fun and cool?

      A lot of these efforts also stem from a misconception that a lot of people have, which is that there's somehow a shortage of scientists. Sorry, just not true. There is no need to encourage more kids to go into science. In fact, as a science teacher, I see a lot of the opposite phenomenon: kids who really care about jazz, or photography, but whose parents are pushing them to do science or computers, because they think it'll be more likely to lead to a good job. Well, actually, a really talented, dedicated jazz musician probably has much better job prospects than someone fresh out of college with a biology degree and a 1.7 GPA.

  • Physics and Geeks (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Daxx_61 (828017) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:47PM (#11354094) Homepage
    It all links to the reasons that smart kids are so unpopular at school. Maybe because being smart is seen as an attempt to suck up to the teachers, or picking on nerdy kids is a defence mechanism to cope with lack of ability, but Physics Expert = Geek in many people's eyes.
    • by Elwood P Dowd (16933) <judgmentalist@gmail.com> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:17PM (#11354391) Journal
      Whatever. Smart kids aren't unpopular at school. Geeks are, maybe, but that's a subset of the smart people.
      • Re:Physics and Geeks (Score:3, Interesting)

        by NardofDoom (821951)
        First, define "smart." Does "smart" mean you're in advanced placement or Honors classes?

        There was a girl in my class who took the most advanced class available every grade, and did well in them. We were watching a space shuttle launch and she asked why it didn't run into the ozone layer. She obviously wasn't smart. She was studious, driven, and popular, and graduated with a 3.8 GPA.

        There was a guy who didn't take all the advanced classes, except in math and science. He didn't know why he would need AP his

  • by ProudClod (752352) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:50PM (#11354121)
    How do you tittilate an ocelot?

    Oscillate it's tits a lot!
  • by jerometremblay (513886) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:50PM (#11354123) Homepage
    To make sciences look cool, you need to fix the problem that causes nerds to be unpopular [paulgraham.com].

    As if
  • by grahamsz (150076) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:52PM (#11354146) Homepage Journal
    Things you probably cant do nowadays but we did in high school (which was only 8 yrs ago)

    1) Play with radioactive stuff

    2) Use transformers to run some 14kV distribution lines up and down the classroom to show the decrease in cable loss

    3) Show that the high voltage back-emf spikes from a relay closing can jam your nerve signals and leave you unable to move (ala taser)

    4) Look inside classmates with ultrasound

    5) Find out how much voltage it takes to blow up a capacitor

    Even then our teacher had a closet full of 'special equipment' that he'd smuggle home every time the inspectors came round to visit.

    I loved physics and i can assure you that 90% of my high school classmates concurred that it was better than chemsitry or biology or social "science". The experiments make it fun.
    • 5) Find out how much voltage it takes to blow up a capacitor

      I did #5 in my dorm. I would say about 110 VAC.

    • by Anonymous Coward
      my current physics teacher does a lot of this and his classes are always packed, especially the high level ones. last year as an end of the year physics project he let us go wild, my group built a gauss coil gun, another group built a trebuchet (which we used for a lab this year). He is the only teacher I ever had that uses computers correctly and for educational use. He is especially great after natural disasters because he has dual masters in Geology and physics (I have no clue why he works in a public sc
      • dual masters in Geology and physics (I have no clue why he works in a public school)


        Obviously, he works in a public school because he wants to. Money can be cool, but I hear that teaching can be a lot of fun - if you teach high enough level classes that your students want to be there.
    • I *almost* decided to become a chemist after one particularly enlightened teacher let me play with some potassium and magnesium and a few big beakers of water. Oh, the memories.

      A few days later, however, my maths teacher started telling me about manifolds and differential geometry, and I was lost to physics forever.
    • Some more...

      Wiring up a 300 to 6 turn transformer to 240V mains, and melting a 2 inch nail with the current.

      My dad (the maths physics teacher) would get his year 12 students to set up cool experiments for the primary school kids. Crush cans with air pressure by filling them with steam. Explode tins with airated flour. And some other stuff I can't remember ATM.

      Start a fire drill after a very noisy explosion (acetelene and oxygen from tech studies in a plastic bag in the middle of the oval). I've never see

    • Physicists Work on Physics' Uncool Image

      There's your first problem right there.
  • I just know at some point I am going to have to see some physicist/actor doing a rap about how government grants put the schnizzle in his projectizzle - or something even scarier, middle-aged, balding, white backup dancers...

    <shudder>
  • by 01dbs (696498) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @06:57PM (#11354183)
    My graduate fellowship (in physics) [nsf.gov] requires me to spend two days a week working with the science classes at a local high school, and I can say from experience that gimmicky pedagogical tricks like those mentioned in the article aren't the way to get kids (except maybe very young children) interested in science. The stuff just comes off as incredibly lame, and physicists end up looking like bigger geeks than they already are.

    The way to engage kids is simply to show them the physics at work. I've got kids making plasma in a microwave, measuring the temperature of the sun with a cup of water, studying paper airplane trajectories, making stereo speakers. Physics is interesting and it's ubiquitous, so there's always something kind of cool that the kids can relate to. The secret is to let them see what's happening, get their hands dirty, and most importantly, let them ask the questions.

    Find interesting (but safe) project, put them in charge, and they're hooked.
  • had his own special way to make physics problems interesting... he combined cats and kenetic energy...
  • I wants my transporter raygun that can make people and objects disappear and reappear on the ninth planet out from Sirius*. Then physicists can try to be kewl all they want.

    (* This is purely for experimental purposes, and not to make my wife, kids, doggie doo-doo, Hoover salesmen, Jehovah's Witnesses, that guy Bob who wears his hat on backwards and thinks Gremlins are awesome cars, my mother-in-law, recently used hash-pipes, small electrical appliances that I accidentally dropped, used motor oil, former W
  • Silly ideas (Score:5, Insightful)

    by davidoff404 (764733) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:02PM (#11354232)
    I've said it before and I'll say it again: the best way to interest young people in physics is to describe some of the wonders of the universe to them. Stupid ideas like the "Einstein flip" serve only to make physicists look like your father and his embarrassing attempts to be hip by listening to Icey Tea, and saying grace before dinner in "wrap-stylee".

    I've yet to meet a kid who isn't fascinated by the ideas of time dilation, the uncertainty principle, black holes, or how the universe began. Far better than this crud.
  • by nizo (81281) *
    Explosions. Now those are way cool, and always made chemistry exciting. Then again, the explosions in chemistry class never had fallout associated with them.
  • by trainsnpep (608418) <mikebenza@@@gmail...com> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:12PM (#11354342)
    As a current physics student (crazy physics idiot #3 actually) in IB HL Physics, I've gotta say this: It's all about the teachers. The teachers can make it interesting, or they can make it hell. One teacher in my school is the nicest person in the world, but she can't teach. The two physics teachers I've had are great. They encourage us to do experiments.

    Three of my friends and I wanted to take pictures of exploding balloons. So, we built a circuit to trigger a flash (a strobe actually), and borrowed a camera. We got some amazing pictures out of it (http://www.benza.us/group4/ [benza.us]. See second- and third-to-last), while at the same time ended up with extra credit we never intended on. We even ended up doing a short lesson on it.

    To make physics cool, all you need are teachers who make it fun. When it's fun, it's cool.

    Prior to the balloons, we made a potato cannon. Our next project is a ballistic pendulum...If that's not bringing cool and physics together, I don't know what is.

  • Some ideas (Score:3, Informative)

    by Spy der Mann (805235) <<spydermann.slashdot> <at> <gmail.com>> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:12PM (#11354347) Homepage Journal
    I guess they should add more interesting images and stories about scientists. Like the one about Newton blowing up his alchemy lab ^_^

    Or how about Einstein's tongue [lanset.com]?

    Or Lenna [ndevilla.free.fr]? (Lenna is a 70's playmate whose picture is widely used by image processing scientists. The image is cut JUST at the RIGHT point, so nothing "interesting" is seen :P )

    However, I think that the most critical part of science is HOW it's taught. Richard Feynman made an astonishing discovery on science being memorized and not taught [66.102.7.104] (Excerpt from book: Surely you're joking Mr. Feynman).

    I belonged to a scientific group in my school. (I'm talking about college). We had LOTS of funs making robots that actually walked (one was a crane-like biped robot), programming computer simulations (or making cool flashing lights with electronics), a talking program (you would train the program with your voice, and a few hours of manual labor later :P, you could make it speak any phrase you'd like)...

    And of course, just talking about science, of any topic that interested us. We even talked about religion - in a scientific way (WEIRD math ideas), fractals (fractal geomety of nature), chaos theory (remember Jurassic Park?), etc.

    We were like the "deat poet society" of science. The LINDA group was pretty succesful, and we published some papers in international physics journals.

    Perhaps making groups like this in your school would attract youngsters. Science, without the grades. Just for learning and fun :)
  • OK, now don't get me wrong, Physics is not an easy subject. It's great that people are working on it to make it more kid friendly.

    However, I know many Physics majors that, even through the booming 90s, didn't graduate and go on to actually work for places they could apply their skills.

    What kind of expectations do they give the kids they are showing this stuff to TODAY for jobs tomorrow?
  • by g00z (81380)
    Ya know, I got a bad feeling we're about to see a dog with sunglasses riding a skateboard rapping about sting theory.

    Seriously, don't "jazz up" physics. Those that have an aptitude for it will be drawn towards it in the first place, and those that aren't interested in it obviously shouldn't.

    Besides, us nerds know that Physics is cool. Cool like absolute zero mang!
  • I am particularly interested in the modern dance, thinking that this is probably a better approach of studying oscillations than the springs that I used when I was in college.

    I can guarantee there are situational examples of spring oscillations that are FAR more interesting to high school/college students than modern dance. The unfortunate truth, however, is that the students interested in physics are typically the same students with little/no field experience with such oscillations.
  • When ignorant, unwashed cattle can get

    "This textbook contains material on evolution. Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things. This material should be approached with an open mind, studied carefully and critically considered."

    stickers put on school textbooks, we have lost a generation of future scientists.

    The next science (and innovation) powerhouse will be somewhere else, maybe Japan or Europe. How ironic if it was Germany again?

  • I am particularly interested in the modern dance, thinking that this is probably a better approach of studying oscillations than the springs that I used when I was in college.

    /self imagines the Micheal Flatley 'Lord of the Dance'-style in teaching physics. :-)

  • teach children to be curious and the rest will take care of itself.

    And now for a rant.... what's with /.'s anti-Social Science attitude? Frankly it reeks of elitism and the same kind of anti-intellectualism that many people approach science with: it's not cool. After all, Social Science deals with issues that are much more intrinisically meaningful than all the natural sciences do (eg "nature vs nature"). I'm sure that more people have fought and died in that debate than for any math equation in the world.

  • by Somnus (46089) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:26PM (#11354493)
    I'm working on my PhD, and teach. What has worked for me:

    * Demos, demos, demos. The louder, brighter and more mysterious-seeming, the better.

    * Some students are into technology, others are into cosmology and exotic topics. Draw connections between their lives and physics, esp. the possibilities stemming from new developments.

    * Be very crisp in your own treatment, so the students see the beauty through complication.

    You are not going to achieve social engineering through physics. The goal is to give bright students interested in science something to think about, and hopefully excite their imaginations if they are so inclined.

  • Ok guys this really stinks of a practical joke, hidden camera style?

    Anything that involves a 'youth-driven ceremony' is a waste of time by someone who has absolutely no idea whats going on. Just listen to this song Einstein (not enough time) [surrey.ac.uk] (im sorry for the bandwidth you're about to get surry uni) if you think im wrong. its definately in the C rap MC category.

    "We want to show that physics is not about the stereotype of the mad scientist. Physicists are normal people doing normal things."

    But thats exa
  • I think many of you misunderstand their motives - they're not trying to lure in the "cool" kids.

    When someone decides something is boring or difficult to learn, it is. This isn't just with high-school kids, 75% of my engineering class decided the mandatory programming course was boring, difficult and irrelevant. After a full four semesters of tuition, solely in Java, most of them couldn't write a simple program at all.

    If you create a positive image of the subject, there's more chance the student will app
  • ... an f-ing makeover, because, you know, science is well served by people worrying about their popularity and image. It's all about faith, man, making people believe. I mean, if they don't that plane might crash because the engineer's couldn't mingle at parties. This computer might cease to function because the chip designers had trouble getting a date to the Jr High dance.
  • "But, but... You can't do Physics without that REALLY hard math!"

    Yup, thus the reason Physics is on the "decline" (which I don't believe it is) is because it's now become a discipline that requires the brightest of us. Not everyone can get it, and those who do will go into it anyway 'cause I think it's a personality thing.

    So for those who aren't the brightest, they will chose the "lesser" Physics of Chemistry, engineering, etc. And for those who do, then comes ANOTHER problem and why I don't believe it'
    • It's a full time calling and you can't just do it while working as a patent clerk anymore.

      Yeah because physics has advanced so much since the introduction of relativity and quantum mechanics. Oh, wait a minute...

      Physics is just as hard if not easier. Now there are very sophisticated computers that take a large portion of the brunt mathematics out of physics.

      As for your comments about the "lesser" physics, I say bah to that. Physics is just a cuddly version of math after all. Theoritical computer sci
  • I have a BS and a MS in Physics, and let me tell you, there was nothing "uncool" about studying it! We would stay up past midnight, solving equations, sharing tricks for integration, debating the Kirk v. Picard question, and then of course there were the physics groupies. I'm sure I don't need to tell you what a Michaelson Interferometer, an oscilloscope, and a few drinks can cause*, but I can tell you that it can go all night long! AOOOOUUUU!!

    *data collection
  • Flying Circus of Physics

    He was on PBS for a while - dressed like a John Belushi Samurai for impulse / momentum... Jumped into a vat of non-newtonian cornstarch solution (and then stumbled and watched slow flow engulf the front rows of the audience).

  • I'd hate to thing that someone might decide that F=m+a simply because addition is less stressful than multiplication for the average kid's brain.
  • by xplenumx (703804) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @07:59PM (#11354844)
    One of my coworkers had a junior higher who absolutely detested school - he simply didn't see the point; he was going to make computer games. Anyway, one day one of the gaming website had a series of articles regarding physics engines, how gaming companies really needed people with a physics background, and the articles provided some suggested reading. I passed the articles to the mom, who subsequently passed it along to her kid, who totally ate the articles up. All of a sudden this kid who hated school took up a keen interest in his science class. It's been one year now and he's now taking the physics class, has joined the science club, and his grades have made an astounding improvement (he's on the honor roll).

    For the first time in his life, the kid sees a point to his schooling. School still isn't cool (not by a long shot), but now it provides the means allowing him to accomplish his goals.

  • by jd (1658) <imipakNO@SPAMyahoo.com> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @08:01PM (#11354861) Homepage Journal
    ...is to figure out how to get all the really boring teachers onto Mars. (I had one who, no kidding, handed out photocopies of the course textbook as lecture notes. The lectures involved a painful reading from said notes, with nothing added. Oh, and to add to the torture, he wore a really hideous polka-dot bow-tie.)
  • by Magickcat (768797) * on Thursday January 13, 2005 @08:59PM (#11355390)
    Any chance Western culture had of retaining it's thousand of years legacy of science and the arts went out the door with television and the rise of post-modernism and consumer culture.

    Is it really any surprise that the sciences and arts are all going out the window. After all, most of Western culture nowadays is anti-intellectual anyhow. Society rewards degenerate rappers on the television who can't speak coherent English and actors extolled as role models. Reality television actually gets watched! Who of these people will become a physicist despite the fact that we're on the brink of physics' new golden age?

    With Hollywood churning out so many vacuous and innanely stupid movies, along with the mindless slop music industry, is it any wonder that kids would rather not go into jobs that afford them no respect or decent pay. Most of them wouldn't get the chance at a sufficient education to become a physicist anyhow even if they wanted it.
  • by Goonie (8651) <`gro.arbmaneb' `ta' `lekrem.trebor'> on Thursday January 13, 2005 @09:52PM (#11355861) Homepage
    I dunno, but it seems more likely the fact that genetics and pharmacology are getting funded up the yin-yang at the moment, while physics research isn't, might have something more to do with the declining enrolments than "coolness" factors.
  • by Presence1 (524732) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @09:55PM (#11355891) Homepage
    ... and that was the bicycle flip designed by the physicist. The rest of the stuff is sensless drivel that will only repel kids, who will see it as putting lipstick on a pig (this concept well described in other comments).

    The good part is DOING SOMETHING and GETTING KIDS INVOLVED. I once saw an article on a math program where kids were presented with a problem and asked to solve it. Any method they wanted was fine, e.g, formulas, iteration, successive approximation, etc. Then they discussed the advantages and disadvantages of each method, i.e., whether it produced a good answer, was understandible, quick to use, etc. This was started out in grade school at the earliest levels, when they only had the most basic of tools.

    I thought this was wonderful, as it is exactly the way math is done at the edges of research. No one tells the researcher to solve the problem with method X, (s)he just has a goal, a toolbox, and a blank sheet of paper.

    Unfortunately, this was years ago, and I've seen nothing of it since. Yet, every successful math or science program I've seen involves the kids in the real experience of measuring, quantifying and predicting stuff they liked, i.e., real science, not some rote memorization process. If they have a goal, then they have the motivation to overcome the obstacles.

    Without direct involvement, it is just some dumb teacher handing out meaningless tedious assignments. Of course the teachers' union will never acknowledge that some teachers will utterly ruin their students' chances of learning. but that is a topic for another day.

  • Physics of Football (Score:3, Interesting)

    by TimTheFoolMan (656432) on Thursday January 13, 2005 @10:25PM (#11356121) Homepage Journal
    By far, one of the most entertaining reads of the holiday season (for me) was, "The Physics of Football" [amazon.com], by Timothy Gay. As a physics prof @ the University of Nebraska, he determined to align two of his favorite subjects.

    The result is very instructive, and covers a HUGE range of topics, including conservation of Warren Sapp's momentum when he hits Doug Flutie! He discusses the flight of a thrown or kicked "oblong spheroid," and even does some statistical analysis of how likely a fan is to participate in "the wave" as it moves through a stadium (or attempts to).

    As one of the reviewers on Amazon.com states, "If Timothy Gay doesn't rewrite this book into a high school level physics text he's really missing a bet." I couldn't agree more.

    Tim

I never cheated an honest man, only rascals. They wanted something for nothing. I gave them nothing for something. -- Joseph "Yellow Kid" Weil

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