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Offline strongfoundation1

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« on: 14/08/2010 09:30:27 »
1. Physics: Why study it? 

What is Physics?  How did the person who created Physics create it?  Why did he create Physics?  What specific purpose does Physics fulfill?  What would happen if no-one learned Physics and the concept/idea of Physics just “disappeared”?

No need to answer the above, they're just some of things I wonder about.  My idea of what Physics constitutes is it’s someone elses idea of how to explain something.  “Physics is experimental science” according the Physics textbook I’m reading right now.  That means that everything begins and ends with experimentation.  Nothing is known for certain.  There are theories and then there are laws/principles of science.  The only difference between the two is the one is widely accepted and the other isn’t (yet). 

I wonder why it is required for students to learn Physics.  I want to know how to find mineral ores, extract them, turn them into various metals, and then build an automobile.  What in the world does Physics have to do with any of this??!!  Why do I need to study all of these stupid long complex math and science formulas that are super difficult for no reason at all.  I feel that the field of Physics is someone’s attempt to explain the world around him.  The concepts that the field of Physics aim to convey is not solely dependent on the existence of Physics.  There are seemingly various other ways to describe them.  (I presume)  Those that embraced Physics and advanced the field were probably minds analogous to the original founder of Physics.  If it worked for them, fine.  So be it.  But that does not deem the study of it by others obligatory.  What I want to do here and with other products should be a straightforward process.  It has been done before.  I am not attempting to build some new space age product.  I want to build a car that is older than I am.  It should be a straightforward simple process.  Correct me if I’m wrong but since that car is a classic, very old car then hopefully the intellectual property that Ferrari has for that car is now public and freely available online. (although I could be wrong on this...)

I have even read the blogs of some engineers working in the field and they have stated that they do not use Physics on their jobs.  And it’s not just Physics either there are plenty of other “advanced” fields of math/science that simple bull crap that is mandated by colleges for students to learn.  The mandated courses/fields of study very very frequently have no relation to what the students actually want to do.

Now, there is one reason that I can see why one would learn Physics.  That would be to understand the language of modern day scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc.  You see, the field of Physics is an established field and there are a number of things that are explained according to it’s inner workings.  So, to navigate their world then you have to speak their language.  Even though you might understand it another more simple way, to convey your thoughts to them then you might be required to explain your thought according to the methods of Physics.  It’s like if you have a professional soccer player (Ronaldinho) and a professional Physicist who is also very good at soccer.  The lesson is to teach a student how to kick a curving free kick.  Ronaldinho is excellent in this regard and he teaches the student how to kick a nice curving free kick by showing him how to do it physically and instructing him that he simply needs to practice everyday to master it.  On the other hand, the Physicist explains how to kick a nice curving free kick in the language of Physics.  He make complex formulas and schemes about the motion of the ball and other stuff like that.  The point is “most” people learn naturally by Ronaldinho’s method and “some” people will be able to learn what is being taught by the Physicist’s method.  That example is what Physics is all about.  You do NOT need Physics, it is simply one method of teaching to explain particular concepts/ideas.  And this is the basis of why I say Physics is useless. 

This is the reason why I elect NOT to read the following textbook even though it is listed as a required text/course for MIT’s undergraduate Geology degree:
Sears and Zemansky's University physics : with modern physics


Everyone here on the forum - This post is about whether or not I should study Physics and in response to the proposal below in my other thread:
Quote
1. Sears and Zemansky's University physics : with modern physics.  San Francisco : Pearson Addison Wesley, c2008  0321501217     
Worth reading ___       Waste of time  ___   (check one)
Specific reasons why:
http://www.thenakedscientists.com/forum/index.php?topic=33451.msg319524#new

This is the response to the “specific reasons why” above.  Am I spot on, a bit confused, or do I have it all wrong in my thought processes here?  There are many other areas as well but I am starting this discussion off with Physics. :) 


 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #1 on: 14/08/2010 18:38:34 »
Trust me. You need to learn Physics.

I was an engineer for forty years, and the most monumental foul-ups were caused when an engineer failed to appreciate basic physics. Actually, I was rather shocked that so many engineers were able to get a degree in engineering when they clearly didn't have a solid grasp of much of the basic physics on which their discipline was based.
 

Offline strongfoundation1

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« Reply #2 on: 16/08/2010 09:25:38 »
Thank you for the reply, Geezer.  So, I presume that my original post is correct since you didn't specifically refute it but you just feel that Physics helps you personally to learn better, right?  I still don't see why it's necessary/the purpose...
 

Offline JP

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« Reply #3 on: 16/08/2010 12:39:15 »
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Now, there is one reason that I can see why one would learn Physics.  That would be to understand the language of modern day scientists, mathematicians, engineers, etc.  You see, the field of Physics is an established field and there are a number of things that are explained according to it’s inner workings.  So, to navigate their world then you have to speak their language.  Even though you might understand it another more simple way, to convey your thoughts to them then you might be required to explain your thought according to the methods of Physics.  It’s like if you have a professional soccer player (Ronaldinho) and a professional Physicist who is also very good at soccer.  The lesson is to teach a student how to kick a curving free kick.  Ronaldinho is excellent in this regard and he teaches the student how to kick a nice curving free kick by showing him how to do it physically and instructing him that he simply needs to practice everyday to master it.  On the other hand, the Physicist explains how to kick a nice curving free kick in the language of Physics.  He make complex formulas and schemes about the motion of the ball and other stuff like that.  The point is “most” people learn naturally by Ronaldinho’s method and “some” people will be able to learn what is being taught by the Physicist’s method.  That example is what Physics is all about.  You do NOT need Physics, it is simply one method of teaching to explain particular concepts/ideas.  And this is the basis of why I say Physics is useless. 
  Engineering is not like kicking a soccer ball.  Imagine what would happen if engineers built cars that exploded as often as soccer players missed shots.  My point is that engineering and science use mathematics so that they can predict the results they'll get every time as well as the error in their results.  The modern world would break down if no one used equations in designing products. 

But why do you want to build this car, anyway?  Is it for a hobby, or do you want to train yourself as an engineer?  If it's a hobby, then you probably don't have to go deeply into all the physics involved--skip the book, or save it for last and only read it if you feel you need it to draw up or implement the designs. 
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #4 on: 16/08/2010 13:48:59 »
I have to say, sf1, I thought this question was a wind-up. It is hard to imagine anyone able to formulate an argument, albeit a poor one, and present it in good english can seriously believe in those assertions. How about these alternatives:

You don't need to read/write as you can learn from practical experience from others by verbal communication.
Why study law? You just need common sense and a sense of right and wrong.
Why learn maths? People constructed buildings by eye and rules of thumb before, and not too many fell down.

Physics and maths are the basis for all modern engineering. You can't design a jet engine without a lot of physics and maths for example. I work in semiconductors (with a physics degree) and you would not have microchips without physics. I could go on; much of the technology in the world would not exist today without some people studying physics to some depth.

Why you should study it is up to you and whether you have the ability or interest in the subject. If you do any related subject (like engineering or architecture) you will also have to learn some physics. I think people who enjoy physics for its own sake like to ask "why" quite a lot and look for more basic reasons for how the world works. If you don't find this interesting then I suspect the subject is probably not for you. 
 

Offline Variola

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« Reply #5 on: 16/08/2010 14:31:44 »
Physics is an alien concept to me, I don't understand it, I don't enjoy it, I don't 'get' it, and I don't like it!! :)
However even though my degree in life sci based I still have to learn some physics with it, there is no escape!!  :o
 

Offline strongfoundation1

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« Reply #6 on: 16/08/2010 15:03:03 »
@JP & Graham - Yes, my assertions are most likely not spot on but that's ok.  I'm here to learn.  If I need to learn Physics then so be it.  I will do it.  Graham, can you list a specific example of how I absolutely must know physics well to achieve my task?  A response akin to "To be able to do __, you need to know and understand this exact Physics formula and associated equations -> __ and __.  This Physics formula means __.  If you don't know these there is no way you could do __ or __."  Could you please write a response similar to that? 

I'm asking this because the way my mind works is I have to be able to see specifically in my head exactly why I need to study/focus on something.  Below, I will refer to the example you used in your post above.
You don't need to read/write as you can learn from practical experience from others by verbal communication.
Why study law? You just need common sense and a sense of right and wrong.
Why learn maths? People constructed buildings by eye and rules of thumb before, and not too many fell down.
With one of your examples, I am able to see precisely why one would need to learn to read/write and why one would need to learn math.  For the former, if you don't know how to read then you won't be able to personally communicate with others who have left behind their knowledge/work for us to benefit from.  That is, unless you get someone to read it out loud for you all the time.  For the latter, I'm not really sure where math would come in the picture here.  But you have to remember that I don't know advanced science/math so what is "common knowledge" to you is a foreign language to me.

On another note, perhaps I should start reading the Physics textbook and post questions that I have here so I can better "see" what you all are talking about after you all explain the difficult concept better.  Since I don't know Physics, as I am typing my response now and attempting to explain my position, I'm finding it difficult to put into words what I'm trying to say.  After all, even if you all as experienced Physics professionals state that I need Physics in making my car, since I am at the learning stage, I won't be able to see the need unless specific clear simple examples are presented.  Otherwise, the advice kinda seems like "just learn this because..." and that doesn't answer any questions at all.    Let me know what you think about this.
Physics is an alien concept to me, I don't understand it, I don't enjoy it, I don't 'get' it, and I don't like it!! :)
However even though my degree in life sci based I still have to learn some physics with it, there is no escape!!  :o
That is what I'm talking about.  If you don't need it for what you do in your job then there is no need to learn it.  My day job is translation/interpretation.  I speak eight languages.  If a student trying to learn one of the languages I work with inquired about why he needed to learn the alphabet of the language in question, then I can give him an exact reason with plenty of concrete examples of why he needs to know it.  Plain and simple.  That is what I want to know about Physics now.  You see, I don't believe Physics should be difficult to learn if it absolutely necessary for someone who explicitly needs it.  In my case, I either don't need it OR I am not looking at it the right way and I need some better explanations. :)
« Last Edit: 16/08/2010 15:14:55 by strongfoundation1 »
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #7 on: 16/08/2010 16:41:56 »
Well, for me trying to learn another language is immensely difficult. I would have loved to have learnt other languages but it is not my forte. Being able to ask for a beer in lots of languages is insufficient I'm told :-) Maybe physics would be hard for you - it's hard for most physicists. There are very few true polymaths - people who can turn their hand to anything and become masters at these subjects too. Physics has become an immense subject with many specialist areas that are only fully understood by a few people.

We can all get away, as individuals, with not understanding aspects of the world, be it other languages, physics, biology, maths, geography etc. but, as a society, we do need people who do understand these things. If you are interested in languages and can communicate well you have an important role and learning physics, to any significant depth, is probably not something you would need to do. If you are interested and sufficiently motivated, then it may be satisfying to understand more of the subject but it is not essential; at least as long as someone is doing it.

I'm afraid physics taken to a high enough level, like many subjects, is very difficult. I heard a professor of mathematics say that, with maths, most people hit a level beyond which they struggle to get beyond - and he cited himself as an example. I think it takes both a lot of work and an inherent ability. To use an analogy, I love cricket and played at an amateur level for many years, but I quickly realised that no matter how much I practiced I was never going to be county standard (or even county second team standard). The same is true with music I think. Practice and interest only gets you so far; it takes genius (as well as hard work) to become a Mozart.

You can, of course, learn enough physics for a particular task or a specific job. Engineering is an example where you can learn enough for the tasks required, but someone has provided that basic knowledge and worked out the theory that allows new developments to be undertaken. In learning a language you may be able to speak and understand much but it can take a lot more work and deep understanding to aesthetically translate poetry for example. I don't think this analogy works wholly though, because physics is not so subjective and, ultimately, there is probably only one way to understand something although this may be very obscure and difficult to understand. And even this understanding may be subsequently overturned by knowledge gained and a new theory needed.

To answer one of your other questions, physics is (I think necessarily) taught by actually falsely (or, perhaps, not quite accurately) explaining how things work. The student can see how this or that works because he can relate to what happens from his own experience and he can do calculations that give a good answer. Later he may learn that what he was taught is not quite right or an approximation and that, actually, the universe is not as straightforward as he thinks. Of course most people have some idea about this and find the ideas of modern physics intriguing. Unfortunately there is no way to jump from little knowledge of physics to a dep or profound understanding quantum physics or general relativity or particle physics etc. though many people try. It is good that popular science tries to explain such mysterious behaviour but, in reality, being able to make a useful contribution to the subject would take (even a gifted person) several years of work - A levels, undergraduate physics and a lot of extra study and/or a post graduate course. This all needs a good understanding of the maths too.
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #8 on: 16/08/2010 17:07:47 »
sf1

You might learn an engineering topic by wrote, much like learning how to bake a cake from a recipe. As long as everything works out exactly to plan, you'll be in good shape, but as soon as something deviates from the plan (which is nearly always the case btw) you'll be in trouble.

Without a solid grounding in Physics and Mathematics it's unlikely you'll be able to solve any problems because you can really only solve problems by going back to first principles.
 

Offline strongfoundation1

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« Reply #9 on: 18/08/2010 12:45:58 »
Quote from: graham
If you are interested and sufficiently motivated, then it may be satisfying to understand more of the subject but it is not essential; at least as long as someone is doing it.
The context of my inquiring about whether the study of Physics should be pursued is directly related to me achieving my ultimate goal of constructing an automobile from scratch.  Therefore, if the study/understanding of Physics isn’t obligatory for me to be able to build my car then I don’t need it.  Correct? 

Also, I don’t think your analogy of music (possibly cricket also) are the same as what it seems we are comparing with Physics.  Your music example is seemingly an excellent example of what I want to do here.  I want to learn how to be able to build a car from scratch.  This would be the equivalent of playing like Mozart in a musical sense.  I don’t want to make new musical pieces or great symphonies or anything like that.  I simply want to learn how to play that which Mozart has already created.  Therefore if learning how to play one of Mozart’s great pieces then I have absolutely no need to study all the different subjects that Mozart possibly studied that enabled him to be able to create such beautiful pieces of music.  I would just need to learn how to read music so that I can practice and practice until I’m able to play his pieces.  This is the same thing that ANYONE can do.  Practice and interest will get you this far.  It is genius that enables one to be able to actually write music/symphonies like Mozart.  This is the same thing with what I want to do with cars once again.  I just want to follow the steps that are already that will enable me to build a car from scratch.  I’m not trying to build a new awesome automobile that requires a knowledge of Physics that will ensure it runs properly.  I just want to follow the instructions that are written/documented that entail manufacturing an automobile.  Is that all correct?  Please let me know if I’m wrong or my thought processes are off.

With all this said, I still maintain that I don’t need to study Physics since it does not specifically relate to manufacturing an automobile.  But like I said, the answer to this question (importance of the subject area) depends on what one is seeking to accomplish. 

@Geezer - I don’t think I would label something deviating from plan as something that is nearly always the case in the realm of engineering.  Now I have no experience in this arena but I would think that it is very much quite the opposite.  That things deviating from plan rarely happens and when it does, the consequences are severe.  i.e. recalls, huge profit losses, etc.  When situations like that occur, I don’t think a grounding in Physics/math comes into play.  This is because Physics probably didn’t cause the problem.  I’m not sure but I think most of the recalls didn’t occur because the directions were bad rather because the directions weren’t followed properly.  This is the same thing in making a cake.  If a chef has a prized recipe that works then it works, period.  If someone messes up his recipe even after they have a copy of his recipe then it’s not an error of the recipe, that is user error.  So, I still don’t see where I would need Physics.  Like I said, I think Physics is for the Mozarts of the engineering profession who create cars and provide us the directions to follow to build the awesome cars that they have come up with.  Much like there are great chefs who can continually formulate delicious and new recipes for everyone to enjoy and also make themselves in their own homes. 
 

Offline graham.d

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« Reply #10 on: 18/08/2010 16:26:47 »
Given your reply, sf1, I do not think you need physics to build an automobile from scratch. Designing one from scratch (truly from scratch and not copying) would require physics. Building one would use existing parts that had already been calculated to be adequate for the job. I can't exactly think of why you would want to do this, but that's another issue.

I don't think playing like Mozart is just a matter of practice and something anyone can do. It takes a certain skill and and a feel for the music to play an instrument well; IMHO not all of this can be simply learnt without some degeree of inate ability or even training at a sufficiently early age. I suspect building a car is rather easier.
 

Offline imatfaal

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« Reply #11 on: 18/08/2010 17:30:20 »
Building a car from scratch doesn't equate to learning to play a piece of Mozart; I would think it closer to being able to play every part of a concerto, from third clarinet to first violin, all at professional level.  even give refined materials the number of highly skilled jobs is beyond one person; let alone the manufacture of the refined materials from raw materials.  The preceding would apply to any car, but the 250 red head is not merely a car - it's a work of art.
 

Offline Geezer

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« Reply #12 on: 18/08/2010 19:51:38 »


@Geezer - I don’t think I would label something deviating from plan as something that is nearly always the case in the realm of engineering.  Now I have no experience in this arena but I would think that it is very much quite the opposite.  That things deviating from plan rarely happens and when it does, the consequences are severe.  i.e. recalls, huge profit losses, etc.  When situations like that occur, I don’t think a grounding in Physics/math comes into play.  This is because Physics probably didn’t cause the problem.  I’m not sure but I think most of the recalls didn’t occur because the directions were bad rather because the directions weren’t followed properly.  This is the same thing in making a cake.  If a chef has a prized recipe that works then it works, period.  If someone messes up his recipe even after they have a copy of his recipe then it’s not an error of the recipe, that is user error.  So, I still don’t see where I would need Physics.  Like I said, I think Physics is for the Mozarts of the engineering profession who create cars and provide us the directions to follow to build the awesome cars that they have come up with.  Much like there are great chefs who can continually formulate delicious and new recipes for everyone to enjoy and also make themselves in their own homes. 


Well, you are entitled to your own opinion of course. It seems I am telling you what you don't want to hear. If you already know the answer you want, why did you even bother to ask?
 

Offline strongfoundation1

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« Reply #13 on: 18/08/2010 22:00:37 »
@Graham - Yeah, I just want to copy that which has already been done and tested to work.  I won't use existing parts but you are right that I will be using ideas/concepts/blueprints and all that type of materials that has already been worked out by scientists, engineers, physicists, and the like to ensure that the product will, in fact, work properly as long as the builder builds the product according to their instructions.  You're right, not totally from scratch but darn close enough, I'd say.  :)

@Geezer - Oh no, sorry, I didn't mean to come off like that if that's the impression I gave.  I was just trying to wrap my head around this thing, that's all.  Enough talk about Physics, I think I get the points that you all are trying to convey.  Thank you very much, I really appreciate it.  If I run into a Physics related problem then I'll just deal with it when/if it occurs. [^] 

You know, come to think of it, I think it's correct to say that that is the approach I should take regarding all the subject areas that I have doubts about whether I need to study them on their own or not.  If I encounter a specific problem that that subject area covers then I can simply open a textbook written on that subject and learn only the areas in the text that solve the particular problem I'm wrestling with at that time.  Sounds good! ^^
« Last Edit: 18/08/2010 22:12:21 by strongfoundation1 »
 

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