5:38 PM

A Science Journalist Critiques Physics

In this Chronicle of Higher Education article, science writer and journalist John Horgan tells physicists to "get real."  He charges that recent popular books on physics suggest a disconnect between physicists and what is really fascinating other readers and thinkers these days.  Neuroscience is doing a better job of capturing our imaginations these days (so to speak).  Am interested in what those of you in physics think....

Comments (5)

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I very much feel like he's projecting his idea of what is "interesting" on others and saying, "I don't find that interesting, so you shouldn't!"

I've seen this guy's writing before, and while I agree partly with what he's saying (A lot of people don't give a crap about the "out there" theories), his general attitude and arrogance bothers me.

On a side note, I had a VERY VERY lengthy discussion about the mentioned Omega Point theory on my blog, right here

I have to agree a little with this authors point. After being raised on earlier books by these same authors, I have to ask, what was the point to talking about these ideas? I believe that why these books exist is to sell to people (like me as a kid) who want to see science without seeing the math that at first seems to bog down understanding. There are a lot of people who want to hear about new crazy possibilities and accept them as science.
They are great at sparking scientific interest but fail at showing the reality of the situation. After learning the math, then learning the science I find that the greatest possibilities are not far fetched metaphysical ideas but the ideas that make the world a better place the science that occurs every day in labs across the world.
In the end, this author eludes to putting all of physicist into this metaphysical category. I think capitalism forces physicists to be real, applying research to present world problems. There are a few physicists out on the fringe but the vast majority stay here in the present world.

"what was the point to talking about these ideas?"

Well, a lot of people find concepts like those discussed int he book as interesting. Those who do/read about physics purely because they enjoy physics.

I think I fall more into that category. I like seeing science benefit mankind, but that's not why I do it. The great Richard Feynman was once quoted as saying, "Physics is like sex, sure it may give some practical results, but that's not why we do it."

I agree, and find the pure pursuit of knowledge much more interesting.

I don't read physics for fun, so a lot of what he is saying doesn't really relate to me. I know about the physics he is describing, but I can't really comment on the books or authors he mentioned.

I have read bits and pieces of some physics best sellers, and I found them pretty thought provoking. I do know a girl who is a business major but has read "The Secret" and taken the content to heart, especially the message: your thoughts govern your lot in life. I didn't see a lot of physics in the book, and the things I did see lacked detail and made some assumptions and conclusions I did not always agree with. And yet, the girl is living a very happy life... with her parents. Which is fine. She has a positive outlook after all. But the book promises health, happiness, and wealth. So far, the girl has only the first two (probably the more important ones anyway).

My reason for not reading physics books for fun:
If you give me a physics book as an assignment, or tell me it's wonderful, I will read it. But on my own, I usually find that I am too busy with other things to get hooked on a new hobby.