From microwave ovens to computers, from refrigerators to cell phones, from air travel to advanced surgeries, can we imagine a world without them? But most of us are unaware of what we owe to classical and modern physics.
Physics helps us understand motion, the effects of forces on objects and energy – heat, light, sound, electricity, magnetism – and what they can do for us. It is therefore the basis of all technologies that make our lives easier. But, treated as just another subject to raid and exams to pass, students memorizing the laws and processes of nature, teachers rushing to complete the curriculum, boring textbooks, the primary goal of passing exams, and a lack of inclination to acquire knowledge for its own sake have taken the magic out of physics.
American physicist Jearl Walker wrote in the foreword to his revised 10th edition of David Halliday and Robert Resnick’s groundbreaking ‘Fundamentals of Physics’: “Physics is the most interesting subject in the world because it is about how the world works and yet it was textbooks every connection with the real world has been thoroughly wrested. The fun was missing.”
Perhaps if there were textbooks like Walker’s own ‘The Flying Circus of Physics’ (2011), which promises to show how physical phenomena such as soaring acrobatics and other stunts and mind-altering illusions are part of everyday life, or Paul Parsons’ aptly titled ‘How to Destroy the Universe: And 34 Other Really Interesting Uses of Physics” (2012), they’d better ignite the mind.
This indifference to physics is well described in Surely You’re Joking, Mr. Feynman: Adventures of a Curious Character (1985), the anecdotal autobiography of Nobel laureate Richard Feynman, considered one of the top three physicists of the 20th century Century – along with Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.