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Physics- a passion for understanding the world

Physics is the intellectual subject bar none. The world is filled with beautiful and wonderful things: the light of the sun on rippling water, the sound of birdsong, the power of a hurricane, the flight of a bee; things like these have fired the imagination of writers and musicians and artists for as long as there have been humans on the planet. And the imagination of the physicist adds to the beauty by trying to understand it. How does the bird make a sound? How does hearing work? What is sound? How fast does it travel?

What physicists do is try to understand how things really do work. Then, when you find out that the high notes sung by a bird are a consequence of the smallness of the bird, the size of all the little air cavities and so on in the body of the bird, then you realise why it is that an elephant could never sound like a robin, and this understanding makes the robin all the more wonderful and precious, not less so.

Well, it does to me. And this passion for finding out about it all, the sound of the bird and all the colours of the bird, how it flies and so forth: all this is physics.

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People don't just study physics to find out about sound, or inclined planes or how to wire a plug, but to get some idea about the origins and structure of the universe: the Big Bang, black holes, the formation and life of stars, and the structure and behaviour of matter, right down to electrons and quarks. Some of this is hard to understand but very, very interesting, and it involves tricky ideas like quantum mechanics. All this I can help you to understand, to imagine, and to visualize, not only to help you solve problems and get grades, but so that you can enjoy it too.

Maths is fun too, but it's not the same as physics. With physics, as with any science, you have to work with theories which explain experimental fact. So there is always an outside authority, the world of physical reality, and all the theories and equations and things, they only work if they coincide with that reality. And that is the intellectual discipline physicists learn to live with.

Physics Courses I Have Taught

Here is my experience of some of the different physics courses you may be learning:

One of Bill's physics classes showing off their graphics and IT skills