Why DART of Physics?

Oct 22 2013

Physics and science get to the very heart of what it is to be human – to be inquisitive, to test assumptions, to learn from them, and to teach others around you what you have found. From atoms being forged in stars to the forces that attract neighbouring Cheerios in your milky cereal bowl, physics seeks ’to know’ the universe.  A quest built on curiosity, fuelled by creativity, with results that have shaped and explained the world we live in.

This is not, however, the common perception of my discipline.

People see physics as ugly, but necessary, and not for them – a specialist subject taken by a brainy few at school with topics that touch on the obscure and odd.

DART of Physics aims to change that perception by capturing the beauty of physics for commuters between now and Christmas. We’ve chosen 12 statements and challenges that will zap your curiosities and start a city-wide conversation about physics.

In the 19th century, people followed advances in science as they did the latest trends in literature, music or art. Faraday, Kelvin, and Darwin were household names. Science and the public fell out of love as the perception of science changed from being an extension of curiosity to a weapon of war in the first half of the 20th century. Scientists no longer publicly aired their findings and views. In return, the public stopped seeing them as passionate mavericks with radical opinions but rather as conservative, grey old men.  A half century of bad press by both physicists and observers has cut the public off.

Despite growing public apathy, funding for science, and in particular physics, grew at extraordinary rates. Governments were conscious that curiosity-driven advances had given nations massive economic advantages, and they were keen to replicate success. Scientific findings fuel technology, and the country with the leading technologies stands to gain the most.

Today we see governments are investing enormous amounts of money into scientific research whilst, incredibly, the public disconnect with science continues to grow.

This doesn’t make sense.

For the euros spent on research to truly make an impact on society, we need a more scientifically literate populace: a nation that talks about science and contributes to the conversation, connecting the professor to the factory manager, the teacher, the politician, and the parent.  

I invented DARTofPhysics to spark this conversation by putting simple, but beautiful, physics statements in a public space.  It seeks to get Dublin talking, debating, and arguing about physics, bridging the divide between the Joe on the DART with the Josephine in the lab.

Over the next 8 weeks, I hope you’ll join the conversation. 

Author

School of Physics & CRANN, Trinity College Dublin

Dart of Physics Blog

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