Saturday, May 8, 2010

What is a physicist?

Okay this sounds like a strange question but stick with me for a moment. What is the first thing that pops into your head when you here the word physicist?

Is it a pair of glasses, a lab coat and a social awkward person?

Where did this stereotype stem from and is it justified? I will admit some of it is justified from my experience, physicist due tend to be a little odd at times but that is true of many sciences. I suppose the view in the public of the appearance of a physicist comes a lot from the media. The media tends to only report sensationalist news especially regarding science. For example do you think you would see this headline on the front on a newspaper "Strange Quark Mass Weights In" or are you more likely to see "LHC will Implode the Moon". It has to said that the reporting of black holes at the LHC in Cern seems to have died off. If only people realized that there is far more energetic collisions happening just a few miles above your head.

Another point is that in a lot of movies physicists are very much portrayed as crazy individuals who haven't seen the outside world in years.

It is refreshing to see more coverage at least over here with the likes of Brian Cox speaking up for science. It is my opinion that an integral part of any science degree should be some form of presentation work. It is now of vital importance that science be portrayed with pubic in a more favorable light. With the current recession science funding has been hit hard. It should be the complete opposite, we should be putting more funding into research and science. Education is the key for pulling economies out of recession.

Physics needs more people like Richard Feynman. He was not your atypical physicist (ignoring his personal life), he was very outgoing and always wanted to help the public grasp the vibrant and exciting world of physics. His public lectures and books still amaze today. There is certainly an appetite in the public for more science related books. It is a shame that one of the most popular books on science, A Brief History of Time, was one of the least read books by people who purchased it. With the new age on internet 2.0 science in general has a great opportunity to reach so many people with a more engaging medium. One of my favourite things to do when I have so spare time is to watch some of the MIT lectures on physics given by Walter Lewin. He is such a great example for anyone wishing pursue education as a profession. It is a joy to watch the enthusiasm with which he enlightens his captive audience. So here I am trying to do a small part in helping to spread the good word of physics.


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