Why should you learn physics?
December 29, 2016 7 Comments
In a comment, Elliot Temple asked questions about when and why people should learn physics:
what’s the point of learning about physics? who should learn about it and why? should everyone learn about physics? how should someone decide if they should learn some physics, and which physics, and how to learn it?
There are several reasons people might want to learn about physics.
(1) Learning physics involves figuring out stuff, which can be fun. It’s like trying to figure out a very complicated puzzle. One difference from trying to solve a puzzle invented by a person is that for lots of physics problems nobody knows the answer. There are some puzzles invented by people for which nobody knows the answer. You can have computer games in which a program generates a puzzle. But even in cases like that the rules for generating the puzzle are known and written down in the text of the program. The laws of physics are not known or written down in many cases.
(2) You can want to learn physics for technological reasons. The laws of physics rule out some ways of solving problems. For example, you can’t travel faster than light so technology that requires faster than light travel won’t work.
(3) You can want to learn some physics for philosophical reasons. There are philosophical disputes about stuff like whether it is possible to understand the world and physics is relevant to those disputes. A person is a physical object, so a person can’t know X if learning X requires breaking the laws of physics. In The Beginning of Infinity, David Deutsch argues that all problems that are worth solving can be solved. This rules out some bad ideas people have about people being unable to understand how the world works cuz our brains evolved by natural selection only to solve some problems, see BoI Chapter 3 starting at about p. 53.
You can comment on the above or explain reasons I left out in the comments below.