20 February 2013

Real live physicists

For medical people, conversations at parties often go like this:
“Hello, I’m John.”
“Hi John, I’m Jenny.”
“Great party, huh? What sort of work do you do, Jenny?”
“I’m a doctor”
“Fantastic. Hey, I hope you won’t mind me asking you this, but I've had this pain in my left elbow for the past six weeks….”
If you’re a physicist, especially a female physicist, conversations at parties apparently tend to go like this:
“Hello, my name’s John.”
“Hi, I’m Jenny”
“Fantastic. I have a sister called Jenny. Do you live around here?”
“Yes, just down the road.”
“Great! And what do you do?”
“I’m a physicist”
“Oh.” Silence. “Well, it was nice meeting you. Must go!”
John could do to learn some better conversational skills. But for many of us, the physics we learned at school seemed to be all about memorising page after page of formulas, involving strange symbols, which were devised by long-dead men with wild hair or wigs. What do real live physicists do?

The University of Nottingham have put together a series of videos to demonstrate and explain some of the symbols used in physics and astronomy, as well as the sort of things that physicists are interested in. In the process they've also demonstrated that physicists have a lot of fun doing what they do. Here’s a sample:

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