Why is physics so hard?
Children grow up hearing phrases such as “It’s OK—not everyone can be good at hard math.” STEM fields like physics tend to have very low diversity, and modern research suggests the reason may lie in early education. This is particularly troubling giving the prevalence of physics in everyday life; special and general relativity make GPS possible, electromagnetic fields in headphones let us listen to music, and quantum physics is revolutionizing our computers. Isn’t it important to have a diverse group of people developing these cutting edge technologies?
The high difficulty and low diversity of physics appear to be interconnected. This course will look at physics from several different angles: the psychology surrounding its complexity, the best learning methods to make it easy, and reasons why it can be useful in many fields. Students should take this course to explore the issue of diversity in STEM and to gain a better foundational understanding of physics. We will discuss education at Duke, refine learning techniques, analyze the physics of movies, and explore fun science experiments. The course will conclude with an independent research project addressing the prompt: is physics hard?