I looked physics in the eye and I did not flinch

Credit: CERN

I haven’t studied physics formally since year 10. I found it boring (really, high school physics is pretty dull, especially if your teacher isn’t engaging in the slightest) and I wriggled out of it at uni.

I had a vague sense that my chemistry at uni was suffering as a consequence, but I didn’t dwell on it as I moved further into biological sciences (ironically including a biophysics component, but I didn’t need to understand how the x-ray crystallography machine worked) and later out of research science altogether.

So it was with surprise and trepidation that I found myself not only reviewing two physics books, but also interviewing a physicist-turned-writer.

But as it turned out, I picked the perfect material to gently reintroduce me to what may be the most daunting field of science. Margaret Wertheim’s Physics on the Fringe tackles people with alternative theories of the universe and everything in it. These outsider physicists are usually studiously ignored by the establishment, but in examining them Wertheim elucidated some uncomfortable truths about the state of the physics, particularly theoretical physics. Our interview touched on these topics and made me think about why I’d abandoned physics so long ago.

I also reviewed Einstein’s Jewish Science, in which Steven Gimbel – with grace and panache – took on the Nazis’ claim that Einstein’s science was unacceptable because he was Jewish. As well as the history and philosophy of science, he explains some of the Einstein’s trickier concepts in an approachable, understandable way.

All up, a big boost in my physics… but now I’m going to kick back with some sci-fi and give my brain a rest.

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