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Author Topic: Another Physics department closing  (Read 3443 times)

Offline bigtim

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Another Physics department closing
« on: 20/11/2006 18:55:26 »


"Release date: November 20, 2006

The University of Reading Council decided this evening (November 20 2006) to close the University’s Department of Physics in 2010. Members voted 18 for the closure, five against, with one abstention.

The welfare and teaching of existing physics students will be a priority until the Department closes.

More information about the background to the proposal can be found on the

Vice-Chancellor's Communications Page. We regret that no interviews are being offered at this time."




Luckily they will allow me to finish my degree before they close it.


 

Offline daveshorts

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #1 on: 20/11/2006 22:18:21 »
How much longer have you got? It is going to be somewhat strange for you though as I guess the academics are going to be trying to find other jobs and to be honest you can't blame them.

I guess there are arguements against small science departments as they are expensive, but the big ones tend to mean that noone from different areas talks to each other (or is this true in small departments too?)
 

Offline Heliotrope

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #2 on: 21/11/2006 22:17:05 »
Were it not so obviously real I'd have been unable to believe this.
What's it to be next ?
Replacing the Physics department with finger painting, bead stringing or some other utterly irrelevant non-subject that the trendy lefties think will make the world a better place because "it's soooo important for our children to be socially aware" ?

Yeah.
Great.
Socially aware. Right.
What about them being able to read, write, do sums and be able to think independently so they can filter out the bullsh*t like this ?!
Oh no. They don't want any of that.
Being able to think in this day and age is a serious crime.

This situation makes me so angry that I want to puke blood.
In their faces.
 

Offline chris

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #3 on: 28/11/2006 00:11:35 »
Part of the problem is that school leavers are just not going into the sciences like the used to - and who can blame them? There are no decent science programmes on TV or the radio any more (except one of course!), and no vocal science role models. Just heavily-moustached crusties who've had their day.

Bring on the next Johnny Ball I say!

Chris
 

Offline Heliotrope

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #4 on: 28/11/2006 19:21:45 »
I was listening to another podcast (http://www.theskepticsguide.org/) yesterday where there was an interview with a chap (edit : Richard Wiseman http://www.psy.herts.ac.uk/wiseman/index.html) who is going around the country putting on science shows at theatres.
Remember decades ago when this used to happen ?
The public would go to see the greatest scientists of the day doing their experiments in front of them.
As I recall, the chap who presents the show is actually a psychologist and a magician so he knows all about how to be a showman and please a crowd.
Part of the show involves a million volt Tesla Coil throwing lightning just feet from the audience.
And of course part of the draw for the public is the very real possibility that someone on stage is going to get zapped.
Needless to say their insurance costs are... substantial.

http://www.psy.herts.ac.uk/wiseman/ToSsite/ToS.html

They do not just put on a big show for the bovine proletariat to veg out in front of. They manage to get across the incredible fun of real science and what is behind the astounding display they put on.
They make you think and more importantly they show you how to think and understand.

It's utterly brilliant.
More of this sort of thing please.
« Last Edit: 29/11/2006 19:14:56 by Heliotrope »
 

Offline rosy

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #5 on: 28/11/2006 22:26:09 »
Puts me in mind of the Faraday lectures... if you haven't read "The Chemical Histroy of a Candle", you should.

Why aren't people going into science? As I understand it, numbers of science undergrads are holding up to their old levels but not increasing in line with numbers of people doing other subjects. I'd have said possibly one contributing factor might be that kids are being encouraged to go to university to get a "generic" degree.. one that hopefully shows they can think, marshall an argument, be self-motivated enough to turn in a dissertation. Which they can do without going to the greater (perceived, from the viewpoint of a 17 year old) effort of studying science.
Plus, all the maths is being taken out of A-Level maths, and the A-Level physics courses are now in any case being specifically designed not to require maths above about C-grade at GCSE... which makes it pretty difficult to get anything meaningful out of an A-Level physics course. In my day (about 6 years ago), as a fairly bright student in an A-Level physics class I used to literally go to sleep with my head on the desk whilst I waited for the rest of the class to go the long way round to finding the area under a graph, when I knew we could have cut the crap and done it by integration and actually left ourselves time to study some physics.

I carried on with science in the teeth of the opposition presented by the utter tedium of the A-Level courses... I nearly decided to study French at uni but was at an unfair advantage over many kids in my position because my dad did a physics PhD and kept tellng me interesting bits of science and I kept my interest that way (and by preparing out of school for an extra STEP exam in chemistry which actually made me think as well as just regurgitate preprocessed phrases).

Making science study beyond GCSE available to more kids is genuinely laudable.. if more of the public have a least some grip on how the physical world actually works that's a good thing (and they're unlikely to get it from GCSEs), but I suspect that at present a lot of bright potential science students are being lost into the arts subjects because those are the ones where the pace of learning is less often limited by the slowest... an essay on Shakespeare can be written on many levels by different students, but I think that's much less the case in the physical sciences at school level.
 

Offline Heliotrope

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #6 on: 29/11/2006 19:34:52 »
I've always thought that the way science is taught is backwards.
They start you off with the most basic stuff with almost no relation to what you experience.
The mind numbing tedium of simple harmonic motion for example.

I think that kids need to be drawn in first. Then you can start giving them more detail. Showing them how these awesome things work in greater detail as you go on.
This will get almost all of them interested at first then the ones who want to stay and learn how things work will stay.
Not many kids are interested in friction or want to stay to learn the cool stuff like superfluidity because they have to trawl through so much tedium.
Suck them in with something exciting. Get them interested.

Show them black holes, superconductors, space and time warps, lightning, supercomputing, modeling, supernovae, cosmology, quantum weirdness etc... etc...
Just the basics of these, just enough to get them listening and excited and interested.
The ones who wish to continue will stay and those who want nothing more than a splashy show and then it's off to media studies will at least get some idea of how exciting it is.

You get a kid interested in black holes and then they start asking questions.
Why is it black ? What happens when you get close but don't fall in ? Why does the light bend around it ? etc... etc...
Then you can anser and give them more detail. Eventually you'll be right down to the basics of spacetime geometry which leads you on to all sorts of basic stuff that allows you to fill your gaps in the big stuff you already know.
It doesn't take an awful ot of brains to grasp that space is curved. You can show them with a rubber sheet and a ball easily enough.
Show them, demonstrate, experiment.

You need a framework to build on, something big with gaps in it that you can fill.
You have to have sight of the big picture before you want to start examining parts of it in detail.
So give them the big picture.
Don't just concentrate for 3 months on the most amazingly basic details that bore them to tears and put them off learning anything further.

After all advertisers don't bore you with the technical details of the products, they get right in your face with the big stuff and then if you're interested they make the details available.

Science is interesting.
Science is THE MOST interesting thing that it is even conceivable for humans to be involved in.
The Quest For Knowledge is the entirety of the purpose of consciousness in any and every form.

 

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Re: Another Physics department closing
« Reply #6 on: 29/11/2006 19:34:52 »

 

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