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Archive for September 6th, 2008

A beginning of sorts.

This is a first post in a blog about physics.

Well, not just physics. Also other areas of science in general. Math will also be pretty popular. What is this all about? I’m not sure yet. I guess I’ll figure it out as time goes by.

What I can answer now is what led me to this. I will shamelessly blame other people I know, by telling anecdotes. Not too long ago, when I was in Stony Brook, Jacques Distler said to me:

JD- We have to get you blogging, heck if you want to, just send me your TeX files and I will make sure that they get posted.

DB-I’ll think about it.

That was my answer. Then I got some e-mail from some friends suggesting that we start a group blog, but there is the issue as to how much time a blog takes away from a persons life, so their commitment was along the lines of “I’m in if you’re in” sort of thing. In any case, I decided that it was not a crazy idea and that I would give it a go. So I’m hoping that as time moves forward, more friends will join me and then everything will be easier for me. Moreover, when I talked to some people hoping that they would dissuade me from it, they said “cool” instead.

Next came the subject of the blog. Yes physics: after all, I am a physicist and that is what I wanted to Blog about. That was not the issue. More like what kind of physics and for what reason was I really blogging?

You can insert a soul searching diatribe here. Pick your favorite. I don’t care. What I do know is that I’ve had illusions of being a writer -not just of technical papers- so this is a place where I can experiment.

The other thing that has happened is that I’ve had many conversations in airplanes where I have realized that people in general do not have a clue as to what physics is all about and why it is so important for humanity. The conversations go like this:

Passenger- Nice to meet you.

DB- Nice to meet you too.

Passenger-So what do you do?

DB-I’m a physicist.

And then the person who is staring at me, if he does not decide that he is too scared, gives me one of the following lines:

 

  1. I see. So what is that good for?
  2. So you’re good at sports?
  3. That was my worst subject in high school.
  4. I never understood physics
  5. You must be a genius.
  6. I wanted to be a physicist, but I became an engineer instead.

Well, that last one I have only heard once. But there are other variations. I also teach physics courses in the University and have realized that for many students “physics” is what happens in the classroom and it has no bearing on real life. So I thought it might be a good idea to correct those misconceptions and set the record straight. Physics happens everywhere, all the time. It does not stop from happening just because people want to be ignorant about it.

 

The last thing to think about was style. Heck, I want this to be a friendly site, where technical words do appear but they don’t turn off people away from physics. I decided that it would be nice if I could have a casual style. So that it reads like a conversation, somewhat humorous even though I’m not a great jokester. Hopefully in the end people would (will?) learn something fun and -*ahem*- important.

There is a precedent for this. Galileo had some nice things to say about physics, and he said it in a mocking way. There were three characters, Salviati,Sagredo and Simplicio.  One was Galileo, the other was the orthodoxy, and the third one was a mediator. And Galileo would win in the end. It would be pretty pathetic otherwise. But the case was pretty convincing.

So these are the reasons why. Now, I will have to hide and come up with something brilliant by tomorrow.

(more…)

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