Hate Physics? Inconceivable!

“I hate Physics” is said far too often in an introductory physics course. If you’re solving for the probability of transitioning from the 1S to the 2P state of the Hydrogen atom in a time dependent electric field then that statement may be warranted. But kinematics? Newton’s laws? How can you hate something you probably see every day? As a first year TA my reaction to this statement ranged from: I can change you! (the first time I heard it) to: great, now you’re dead to me (the 3×108 time I heard it). I’m fully aware Physics is difficult. Some people have a disdain for Math and prefer simply memorizing facts, names, and places. Listen, memorizing is great, who doesn’t like making flash cards and highlighting things. Combine it with large amounts of caffeine and it’s like getting the star in Mario Party, you’re untouchable. Second grade memory game, I was first team all-state. But at some point it’s time to grow up and use what separates us (well some of us) from the animal kingdom: the ability to think critically and rationally.

And therein lies the beauty of Physics. After learning a few fundamental laws every problem can be solved by proceeding in a logical manner from them. Nearly every problem in first year Physics boils down to F= ma or the conservation of energy. Don’t enjoy math? Well physics gives you the advantage of not needing to follow mathematical rigor to interpret the results of a problem. Bring back that childhood imagination and just picture what’s going on in the problem, apply simple logic, and the resulting solution should appear (or at least enough for a passing grade and that’s really all you care about).

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Not the best way to challenge it
Much of the hatred of physics stems from the number of equations involved and the math necessary to manipulate them. However, if you take a second from narcissistically updating facebook, twitter, or looking at planking/leisure dive pics to think, you might see Physics has the ability to Jedi-mind trick you into learning the equations. For example learning the equation for velocity: I’m 100ft from the door and Mary Anns closes in 2 hours, how fast do I have to move to get in: v = distance/ time = 50 ft/hr (at least). I ordered a beer, the bartender is 10 ft away and is moving at 2 ft/sec, how long until I get that goodness in me: time = distance / velocity = 5 sec! If I drop this ice ball out my window in Ignacio how fast will it be traveling when it hits that guy in the face: vterminal=(mass x 9.8m/s2)/(gamma x diameter). On the exterior you now know that guy is feeling a bit concussed, but on the inside you’re crushing physics. Only in Physics can you think of 6.02×1023different ways to solve a single problem. You’ll be calling out the Haitian cab driver hitting every light and taking a serpentine path to Faneuil in no time.


Or you can go back to highlighting like in first grade and remembering H.O.M.E.S gives you the great lakes. I don’t know how I would have made it through life without that. If that doesn’t come in handy on the video bonus of cash cab I’m building a time machine and punching my 4th grade teacher in the face.

One Comment

  1. Thanks for the share!

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