Imagination in Physics

When I mention that I am studying physics people generally have the same reaction which follows one of the three responces: ‘How interesting,’ ‘That must be hard’ or ‘Isn’t that a bit dull.’ The first one is not an issue but the other two always spark me to confront them on that opinion, and the argument I use is both the same. Imagination.

To me, Physics has never been to hard as I am good at understanding the abstract concept. The maths is not quite so simple, but if you mentally manipulate the situation you can get the maths to fit the situation. Makes it so much easier.

It’s the same reason why it isn’t dull. Physics is, to me, one of the most creative subjects out there. The whole subject relies on thinking outside the box to manipulate situations so that you can work out the problem. It is about thinking about the monstrously massive Universe and turning it to a few points of mass that are manipulable. It is all about imagining the situation and working out what to do from it.

But why have I chose to write about this subject? It was due to an event in my physics class yesterday. We were looking at vectors with certain forces and moving to practical applications and we moved onto frictional forces. The situation was that we were moving a box of beer across a rough surface, and we were asked whether it took more effort to move it straight from A to B or whether we did a massively wiggly and indirect route. The answer is obviously to go straight from A to B.

If the answer isn’t obvious then I’ll very quickly explain it. Dragging the box uses energy, and for simplicity we’ll say that for every metre dragging the box you use J energy. So, to move the box 10m you use 10J of energy. Any route that isn’t exactly a straight line will use more than 10J energy. Very simple.

However, one guy in our class could not understand this. His logic was that as it is a vector, it must balance out as you subtract and attract so therefore you get the energy back somehow. While his maths was firstly wrong, as friction always opposes the direction motion so when you go to a negative direction the friction switches direction as well so two negatives make a positive, the fact that if you even think about it for a second you work out that dragging a box 400 metres takes more effort than dragging it four metres.

Think people, it’s infuriating.


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