1. When I was a kid at school, we had Physics lessons which dealt with such things as the transfer of heat, specific heats, ohm's law and simple electrical circuits, Newton's laws of motion, and so on. At the time, little of this seemed at all inspirational. It was mostly a matter of learning a few facts and learning how to do solve certain types of routine problem. But one day, our teacher was telling us about refraction of light - Snell's law and refractive indices - and towards the end of the lesson, he briefly mentioned a completely different way of thinking about refraction. According to Fermat's Principle, light passed through a transparent object such as a block of glass in such a way as to minimize the time taken. A number of us in the class felt that this was extraordinary. It was as if the ray of light was somehow figuring out in advance which way it should travel in order to reach its destination in the shortest time. Clearly, a ray of light couldn't figure anything out - but how did this principle come about?

It would be interesting to know if anyone else can recall some topic which roused their interest in the subject and led to them studying Physics after leaving school.

2.

3. Even though I didn't go on to study physics ( except as a hobby ), for me it was the "Aha !" moment when I first understood the principle of space-time curvature as an explanation for gravity. I found the paradigm shift from Newtonian forces to geometry of space-time most fascinating, and that has stayed with me since.

4. i just studied physics to pass. thats all.

5. Originally Posted by JonG
When I was a kid at school, we had Physics lessons which dealt with such things as the transfer of heat, specific heats, ohm's law and simple electrical circuits, Newton's laws of motion, and so on. At the time, little of this seemed at all inspirational. .
I loved all that stuff.

6. I found the paradigm shift from Newtonian forces to geometry of space-time most fascinating, and that has stayed with me since.
I can see why you were attracted to that. It's amazing how two completely different theories - Newtonian gravitation and General Relativity - can arrive at conclusions that are not identical but very similar. However, I knew nothing or very little of General Relativity until I had left school. Even today, it seems bizarre that one person (Einstein) could have arrived at such a revolutionary theory and published it on his own. As well as exceptional insight, he must have had considerable self-confidence.

I have found that people become absorbed with Physics for quite different reasons. A colleague was fascinated by thermodynamics, of all things. He liked the way in which it could arrive at conclusions, such as what determines the efficiency of a heat engine, without knowing details of the engine.

7. Harold,

I was thinking about your comment about heat engines on the "Fuel cycle" thread when I wrote about my friend who was obsessed with thermodynamics. Maybe you are a thermodynamics junkie too :-)

8. If you understand the basics you have a foundation to build on

9. Originally Posted by JonG
Even today, it seems bizarre that one person (Einstein) could have arrived at such a revolutionary theory and published it on his own. As well as exceptional insight, he must have had considerable self-confidence.
I agree, though he drew many of his idea from earlier work by Minkowski, Riemann and Poincare. To this day I am not actually certain whether the concept of space-time curvature was his starting point, or rather a result of the maths after trying to generalise Newtonian gravity.

10. To this day I am not actually certain whether the concept of space-time curvature was his starting point, or rather a result of the maths after trying to generalise Newtonian gravity.

All I can offer on this is a statement from the Biography of Einstein written by Abraham Pais and entitled "Subtle is the Lord ... the science and the life of Albert Einstein" - a good book:

Page 211: This is what Einstein said in 1922 - (accelerated) and (physical) inserted by Pais.

In his Kyoto address (December 1922) he said, " If all (accelerated) systems are equivalent, the Euclidean geometry cannot hold in all of them. To throw out geometry and keep (physical) laws is equivalent to describing thoughts without words. We must search for words before we can express thoughts. What must we search for at this point? This problem remained insoluble to me until 1912, when I suddenly realized that Gauss's theory of surfaces holds the key for unlocking the mystery. I realized that Gauss's surface coordinates had a profound significance. However, I did not know at that time that Riemann had studied the foundations of geometry in an even more profound way. I suddenly remembered that Gauss's theory was contained in the geometry course given by Geiser when I was student ... I realized that the foundations of geometry have physical significance. ...."

It seems that he first of all realized that Euclidean geometry wasn't up to the job. So he looked around for geometries that might work. So the starting point appears to have been a recognition that Euclidean geometry wasn't adequate and Riemann geometry followed on from that.

11. Physics is interesting because I never will understand it therefore it keeps me on my toes as to things that I know little about.

12. Originally Posted by JonG

All I can offer on this is a statement from the Biography of Einstein written by Abraham Pais and entitled "Subtle is the Lord ... the science and the life of Albert Einstein" - a good book:

Page 211: This is what Einstein said in 1922 - (accelerated) and (physical) inserted by Pais.

In his Kyoto address (December 1922) he said, " If all (accelerated) systems are equivalent, the Euclidean geometry cannot hold in all of them. To throw out geometry and keep (physical) laws is equivalent to describing thoughts without words. We must search for words before we can express thoughts. What must we search for at this point? This problem remained insoluble to me until 1912, when I suddenly realized that Gauss's theory of surfaces holds the key for unlocking the mystery. I realized that Gauss's surface coordinates had a profound significance. However, I did not know at that time that Riemann had studied the foundations of geometry in an even more profound way. I suddenly remembered that Gauss's theory was contained in the geometry course given by Geiser when I was student ... I realized that the foundations of geometry have physical significance. ...."

It seems that he first of all realized that Euclidean geometry wasn't up to the job. So he looked around for geometries that might work. So the starting point appears to have been a recognition that Euclidean geometry wasn't adequate and Riemann geometry followed on from that.
Brilliant, thanks very much JonG. I was not aware of these comments by the man himself

13. i don't know how to describe it...i think the reason i love physics is that it is always explaining the facts that mankind is struggling to find out.every body is seeking the truth and physics explains the truth.i believe that everything can be explained by physics so you can find every answer you need with it...i can't imagine my life without physics.and i started realizing this when i studied laws of Newton in high school.it was the moment i realized:I HAVE TO STUDY PHYSICS

14. When I was 15 and had to redo a year (due to poor French, German, Latin) I started readin 'Quantum-mechanics' for beginners (not for dummies) It hooked me, and I have been doing it ever since. I wanted to understand, actually understand how Quantum physics and the world in the view of Quantum Theory worked. So I started doing Quantum Theory before I had thermodynamics etc. It helped. But it took me a Decade before I actually understood it. Yet, it was worth the effort.

15. “Physicists are made of atoms. A physicist is an attempt by an atom to understand itself.”

I love physics because It's a science that's deeply connected with all people, and with everything in this known universe.

16. My eureka moment was reading Einstein's narratives of Relativity. It opened a floodgate of real understanding of the concept "relationship", a concept that can be debated on both physical and abstract levels.

17. I must suggest that you change your title to "What ISN'T interesting about Physics?"

18. Originally Posted by shlunka
I must suggest that you change your title to "What ISN'T interesting about Physics?"
Looking for a minus sign. definitely looking for a minus sign.

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