Choose a Word — Physics

I did this kind of post once before, and I got a lot out of it.  The idea is, I open a book, point to a word, (with eyes closed, of course,) and then write a post about it.  The word is PHYSICS — seems appropriate, considering my recent fascination with all things quantum-physics-ish.  But first, I need to reach back into my past for a physics tale.

I never had any knowledge of physics when I was in high school; in fact, I studied the science required for graduation — basic Biology and Chemistry.  In my senior year, I took no science classes at all.  When I enrolled at the University of Maine – Orono, in the fall of 1978, I was a little bit shocked to see that I had a full credit science requirement; I decided to take Physics for Liberal Arts and Craft Sciences Students — Physics 001.  Was I in for a surprise!?

Physics 001 was a class so basic that even I understood it.  The professor was an old hippie who seemed to be stuck in the 1968 model of teaching.  He’d climb up on the table in the front, barefooted, and start spouting out physics in words a third-grader would understand.  Even I began to learn a little.  The first subject was hydraulics, and I got it so well that when I want to talk about hydraulics, I see him, almost automatically.

Then our hippie instructor informed us that we would be allowed to bring an 8 x 11 sheet of notes to each test.  What?  Was he kidding?  Sadly, I had no discipline at the time, so after the first test, I only showed up on exam days.  I ended up with an A in the class.  I am not proud of that whole business, but I did learn hydraulics.  After that class, I had no exposure to theoretical physics for thirty years or more.  I really didn’t mind.

About five years ago, I began pay attention to Discovery Channel on my cable.  Somewhere around then, I saw a very basic explanation of quantum physics, and I was hooked.  I didn’t remember half of the terms, and science programming came up on Discovery about once a quarter.  Really no help.  My interest drifted, but subconsciously I was watching for more.

One day, in 2009, I broke through.  I was looking at the

Typical APOD photo — first ever back side photo of Saturn

Astronomy Picture of the Day, which I recommend to everyone

— lovely shots from telescopes and from amateur cameras.  Every day, a new surprise. Somehow, I linked from there to an interactive Quantum Physics Animation. (I have just spent a ridiculously long amount of time, measured in hours, looking for this site — can’t find it.  Longer looking for it than the actual tutorial.)  That quantum physics “class” did more for me in two-hours than I’d learned in all my life.

Sadly, for some really unknowable reason, I didn’t bookmark that site.  But now that I had upgraded my cable, to get the Science Channel, I knew what to look for, and information on quantum physics began jumping at me, from TV, and from my web browser.  I understand quantum physics more thoroughly that regular physics, but that will come with time.  (Very) Basic Quantum Physics made sense, once I learned the rules.  I will continue to look for that website.  In the meantime, I’ve seen thousands of sites on line which will help — you might look, and see what you think.


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