24 February 2005

When Awe Is Overrated

The book on my bedside table is Robert H. March's "Physics for Poets." I borrowed it from the library when I wrote an essay about my former Physics teacher. It was a Brother who recommended to me this book. I was browsing through this big astronomy book and he seemed pleased that someone was interested in the sciences. He then told me about March's book and how good and comprehensive it was.

Indeed it is. What is good about the book is that while it is an introductory text to Physics, the author, Robert H. March, approaches the subject in a way that he tells a story. The story of Physics.

Here are some of the things that I find enlightening that I wish to share with you, dear reader/s:
An idea must be more than right--it must also be pretty...

. . . .

...It has become a cliche to call a scientific research a great adventure. Well it may be; but the student approaching his first hard science course with this maxim in mind is in for a rude shock. Rarely does much of the sense of adventure manage to come through the hard work, for the subject matter often seems both difficult and dull. The student headed for a scientific career is usually told that he must face years of diligent drill before he can understand anything really profound.

But one wonders how many peope would love music if they were required to master a good deal of piano technique before they were allowed to listen to, for example, the Beethoven sonatas. True, a concert pianist probably enjoys the sonatas on some levels denied to others, but a reasonably sensitive person with totally untrained fingers can appreciate their becauty.

. . . .

It is possible to understand nature in terms of approximation to an ideal state even if that state cannot possibly exist in nature.
Finally, I love it when he said, "The worst possible attitude with which to approach the study of physics is one of awe."

There's more, but that's it for now. Take care.

Top Shelf