Monday, February 06, 2012

Celebrity Physicists Trigger Enrollment Boom In The UK

This could be a double-edged sword.

It appears that all those famous physicists in the UK has triggered a boom in physics enrollment at UK universities.

On their application forms, physics candidates have been citing Cox’s show as their inspiration, as well as the Large Hadron Collider at Cern, near Geneva, and the American sitcom The Big Bang Theory, centred on a group of geeky scientists at the California Institute of Technology.

Jim Al-Khalili, professor of physics at Surrey and himself a television presenter, said there had been 320 applicants for 60 physics places, a 40 per cent increase from last year and a contrast to the 10 per cent decline in overall applications at the university.

“There are a whole host of reasons, but Brian has helped fuel this renaissance of enthusiasm for physics and astronomy,” said Al-Khalili. “We stress the career benefits . . . but students are not mainly choosing the subject for vocational reasons, it is because it is fascinating.”
On one hand, it is an amazing effect in that physics is now something "cool" to do and not just relegated as for "geeks" only. Brian Cox especially has managed to obliterate that stereotype. But on the other hand, are these people doing physics for the right reason, and not simply for the "romance" of it?

What is more beneficial here is that the general public, and students who are NOT going to be physicists, are learning about physics and having some idea on how physics work. To me, that is the most important effects. I wish more of what physics is is presented, and that it is not just the LHC and the Big Bang, but also your iPhones and your computers and your MRI's. Don't just show the esoteric side of physics, even if it is the sexier side. The "workhorse" side is where most of the physics students will end up in, and it is also the reason why most of physics gets funded and stays relevant with the population.


1 comment:

Fidustek said...

Welcome Sheldom Cooper, Brian Green's videos and so on. Since we haven't a vocation-meter, what matters the final reason who get you into physics? Popularity, even thru TV, funny characters or youtube is superb for Physics!