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Future Faces of Physics - part 1 - Aug 8, 2008 at 1:18AM
50 Posts

The current adopted theme of SPS is the Future Face of Physics, so what better topic exists to start a blog on!?  I've been thinking a lot about what this theme means and the problems of how to apply in force such a broad and important topic.  Well, of course there is the obvious interpretation: physics and engineering are well behind ever other field in terms of the number of women and minorities at every level, especially tenure track positions.  People cite many reasons, ranging from how we are socialized as young to someone such as the Larwrence Summers, President of Harvard, claiming that women have "innate differences" from men when it comes to ability in math and science (maybe he should read this: ). Whatever your opinion on this might be, you can be guaranteed that, while slow, the times are indeed changing.   I am proud that SPS recognizes this and encourages an image of physics that goes well beyond the stereotypes.  However, recognizing it is not enough.  A problem is never solved unless you whole heartedly set you mind to solve it.  In my opinion one of the first steps is to make physics more approachable and friendly.  No, I'm not saying we should do away with Jackson E & M (although that would be awesome!!). What I'm saying is that physics has always seemed to be a very exclusive club, where only the most brilliant and aloof could be members.  How to fix this? Well, for starters kids should be taught the rudiments of physics at a very early age (and watch Bill Nye the Science Guy!) in order for this image not to stigmatize the field. Outreach is also VERY important.  The more the public sees how cool, friendly,  and adventurous  physicists are...the better the image of the field will be...the more diversified the field will become!    

I've also thought that this theme strikes so close to home in the United States that many people don't use it in a broader scope.  If you're a graduate student (like me) or a jr. or sr. in your undergraduate career, you might have begun to notice how many resources are available to physics students that really aren't available to students in other fields.  When I tell my friends in law school, med school and other grad programs I'm getting full tuition plus a stipend plus travel to conferences ect....they go green with envy and begin to tell me horror stories about student loans.  In the West, we have a lot of opportunities that most people around the world just simply do not have.  Many children can't even go to school to learn to read and write, much less learn about physics.  Even in the richest country in the world, physics is not mandated high school curriculum and is not even taught at many schools.  If this is how America is, imagine the amount of physics education/opportunities in the poorer parts of the world.  Perhaps we should also keep these faces in mind when we think about the future of physics.

Replies to Future Faces of Physics - part 1

Re: Future Faces of Physics - part 1 - Aug 11 2008 4:34PM
Felix Lin
24 Posts

Ah, now I'm wishing I had saved the link to a news article I saw last week.  A recent study has shown that there are no statistically significant differences between the male and female capacity to do math.  Gender should be no bar to a love of physics.