Physic envy

Jun 20, 2012

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Physics envy is a little bit of a disease for biologists. It is just that  in so many circumstances the Queen of sciences seems so powerful: a few powerful ideas and you can build a whole edifice of understanding of the natural world. Biology is so much messier. Leo Szilard the great physicist and biologist, pointed out that once he had moved from physics to biology, he could never enjoy a good bath. He was always having to get out of the bath to find and check out some annoying little fact. It was easier to think big in physics, and the power of pure thought greater.

If you are interested in learning and teaching the problem doesn’t go away. The physics  and hard science education community seems to have thought harder and more deeply about problems in learning than the medical community. The use of concept inventories for example, and some wonderful publications that are both terrific prose and models of clear thinking — without all the pomp of so much writing about medical education (here and here). Below is a lecture from the physics Nobel Laureate Carl Wieman. The sound is poor initially and you scan skip to where he starts (8’30”).

Langenberg Lecture 2011 – Carl Wieman from Maryland Physics on Vimeo.

Post by Jonathan Rees

Clinical academic and skin watcher at the University of Edinburgh

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