Australia Day orator horrified at 'feminised' physics curriculum


#1

theage.com.au/technology/sci-tech/australia-day-address-orator-michelle-simmons-horrified-at-feminised-physics-curriculum-20170124-gtxoi2.html


#2

The soft bigotry of low expectations.

Physics should not lose its mathematical rigor. We can learn it conceptually at first but we should not be afraid to tackle the math head on. The more sophisticated the mathematics, the simpler the physics.


#3

Being a physics major myself, I agree.


#4

I agree. When I took high school physics, I loved the subject and could understand the concepts perfectly well. But I just wasn’t that good at the math, and barely survived the course, notwithstanding that I was at the head of it before the really tough math began. That was in the “old days” of course, when almost every student in the class went on to engineering schools. I didn’t, of course.

But notwithstanding my ready grasp of the concepts, you wouldn’t want me building a dam or designing a bridge, and exactly because all practical applications are applied with math.

My brother, who actually is an engineer, once showed me a sheet of paper covered with mathematical equations. He asked me if I could tell him what it was. Of course, I couldn’t. He flipped the sheet over and on it was a picture of a common screw. It took all of that math to express the precise physical features of a screw. You could enter those equations into a GNC machine and it would turn out perfect screws.

Nobody wants me to design a dam, or even a screw. And I am one who doesn’t want me trying it.

But my brother doesn’t understand the mortgage market and securities trading, either, while I do. The math is a lot easier in those things and movements and concepts are everything. Takes all kinds, and we should insist that only those who can really grasp a field fully should enter it.


#5

I’m glad that this comment was made by a woman! :wink:

I’m somewhat surprised to hear that the math is easier in business, because my brother did an MBA in Melbourne and seems to have learned a lot of fairly difficult math. Perhaps it is “easier” than in physics, but would still be too hard for most people (I expect).


#6

RR, did you see that movie “A Beautiful Mind,” the story of John Nash? He was depicting in doing math to solve a pigeon gathering, later getting a Nobel prize in economics. So even securities trading (I love options trading) can get quite involved in mathematics.


#7

I can discuss the physics behind sunspots or stellar evolution all day long and get really excited about it. However discuss securities trading or stock market basics and my eyes just glaze over. :smiley:


#8

:thumbsup:


#9

Exactly. Not a physics major myself (my degree is electrical engineering), but advanced techniques make the physics significantly simpler. This is true in any technical field.

In fact, when I did have to take the engineering based physics in college, I remember the professor saying to those advanced students: “Yes, if you know how to solve differential equations, you can use that to solve these spring/circuit problems.” And later: “Yes, you EE majors that know how to use phasors, you can use that to solve these AC circuit problems.”

The advanced math isn’t there to make it harder to become a physicist. It’s there to make the job of being a physicist easier.


#10

Some business statistical analysis uses very advanced math, according to other people I know who know more about those sibjects than I do.

I am still reeling from the fact that an MBA I knew could not understand basic bookkeeping principles.


#11

Most liberal arts colleges offera conceptual physics course along the lines of “Physics for Poets” and have done so for decades. Yes, it’s hard to find students in many countries to take on the rigors of “real” physics (I fight the losing battle trying to teach AP Physics daily…), but a conceptual course at least presents them with some basic understandigs about the little guy in the refridgerator who operates the light :slight_smile: !

Couldn’t really tell from the article if they were addressing actual physics majors, or just introductory courses…


#12

Feminised? Women typically outperform men when it comes to math. Sounds more like masculanising physics to me.


#13

Not true for maths.

Also not true for the hard sciences like physics.


#14

Yes, that, and some analytical talent never hurts.


#15

You’re right, not sure what I was thinking about.


#16

My degree is in Physics but went to grad school in EE.

I remember phasors well and how they can introduce us to solving equations in the frequency domain via Fourier transforms.


#17

I agree with you as a general principle, but would add that not all physicists are the same. Albert Einstein did not do well in high school math and others had to explain some of the consequences of his general theory of relativity to him.

I attended a really good high school. Our substitute teacher for chemistry and physics was the chairman emeritus of a well regarded college chemistry department. He escaped the Nazis with the help of his fellow Benedictine monks when Hitler wanted him to work on his atomic bomb project. He worked on the Manhattan Project at the University of Chicago. We were all shocked that he had trouble with simple arithmetic. For years he had been at a level where he had assistants do calculations for him, while he concentrated on theory.

Two of my cousins married physicists and they are as different as two people can be. One also had a second doctorate in engineering and was too educated to work for anyone but the government. :wink: He helped design facilities for nuclear waste disposal. The other taught at two different medical schools and ran a regional lab for medical isotopes. He was a very practical guy. The first is agnostic, while the second is a solid and active Catholic.


#18

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