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[Opinion] Abandoned Physics

Posted October. 17, 2005 06:38,   


People call physics the “study of genius,” which may partly come from the panegyric of a physical genius, Albert Einstein, who made great contributions to the development of mankind.

This entitlement, however, paradoxically produced a prejudice that physics is abstruse. Physics, however, is much more practical than any other studies. Almost all of the benefits of scientific civilization contemporaries are rooted in physics. For example, solid state physics invented computers and semi-conductors and DNA that opened a new era in life science was discovered while adopting physics to life science.

The UN declared this year as the “International Year of Physics.” To celebrate this UN initiative, the International Union of Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) issued a declaration, stressing that “policymakers and common people’s interest in physics is vanishing today.” This shows the current status of physics, and Korea is no exception. Among 570,000 students who took the College Entrance Examination last year, only 25,000 chose Physics II. Given the fact that students don’t study subjects which are not tested on this exam at all, the situation may be much worse than expected.

Spurred by such anxiety, the Korean Physical Society (KPS) is moving fast to tackle this problem now. The KPS will hold a seminar on October 20 titled: “Let’s Save Abandoned Physics Education” in which they appeal that, “At least, students who apply to the department of science and engineering must learn physics.” They also complain that since teachers who didn’t major in physics are teaching in schools, if students ask questions about physics, schoolteachers just say, “Ask this question to lecturers in private institutes.’ This is a very absurd reality.

In an ancient Greece, physics was a part of philosophy. Physics imbued ancient people, who were dominated by myth and emotion, with principles of logic. I sternly oppose that only students who study engineering and science have to learn physics because the basic ability demanded in a knowledge-based society that prioritizes creative capacity stems from physics. It is very ironic that physics is being disregarded by the scientific civilization that physics itself invented. The future of physics in this country is also bleak.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com