A major Physics magazine recently published recently a tribute to boredom, arguing that the only guarantee of success in Physics is the continuation of tedious and soporific work. To be a good physicist, the author seemed to say, one had to resign oneself to boredom and become a wet blanket.
It seems to me: if a science is not fun, exciting and challenging, this cannot be good. The great Archibald Wheeler, father of black holes and many other things and physical yet jovial and sparkling in his ninetieth year, often proposed as the first moral principle of physics the term “Do not do any calculation, without first knowing the outcome.” But it is necessary to state that there is another more fundamental still, a zero start, and Thermodynamics : “Learn to have fun with science”.
If we want to appreciate science, we must go further. After all, shoes or a can opener are useful objects, but they do not inspire deep feelings. To say that science is useful does not even give it justice. Because, José Antonio Marina says in his recent ‘Theory of creative intelligence’, “you can say many things about sciene: It is fun and solemn, loud, dazzling, opaque, terrible, mocking, enigmatic, discreet, overwhelming and even more”.
We must also defend an aesthetic conception of science, which brings it closer to art. The great Richard Feynman felt a deep emotion to the laws of nature, which he described as even religious, but added “few non-scientists can understand.” Though some, like the Portuguese poet Fernando Pesso to, for whom “the binomial of Newton is more beautiful than the Venus de Milo” . When I think of General Relativity in quantum theory or Newtonian Dynamics, I feel a similar emotion that I induce the music of Bach or Beethoven or pictures of Velázquez or El Bosco. Feynmann reminds me of Mozart, with his grace, his wit and penchant for gambling. Einstein was a builder of structures advancing security and poise of Bach. The serenity and balance of Faraday always remind me of Stravinsky.
Perhaps this example will clarify to us what the author was thinking about the article. The long years of study we have to follow scientists, with difficult calculations, so many laboratory sessions and learning complex techniques, correspond to those that musicians or painters have to follow. It is true that the hours of scales on the piano or repeatedly drawing hands and noses are annoying and heavy in themselves. But they become exciting and make sense, knowing that, behind them, will come the wonder of the finished work. That is why you have to see calculations and observations as stages to overcome a challenge and, as such, feel their fun.
For if in science you discover the grace of beauty, you also have the emotion of sport. It is a deeply human activity because it allows us to realize one of the most defining aspirations of our species: to accept challenges and overcome them. Athletes dedicate long efforts to surpass brands. A few are brilliant and they reach the newspapers, most of us are content to face our poor personal records, to keep the form, to travel a distance, to climb a mountain. But being small does not take away their emotion, because the brand itself is always the most important. The same impulse moves scientists to strive to understand a theory, to do the experiment, to be able to calculate something; No matter what others have already done, everyone has their challenges. That is why we must also learn to live science with the rejoicing of sport.
It is also a great adventure, collective and individual. Without it, human beings would not have arrived at what they are: after biological evolution, came a social, in which technology and science have been essential engines. Every personal work, no matter how modest it may seem to us, is a chapter of that great history, of the incredible feat of having come to elaborate such a marvelous description – in its pure sense: full of wonders – of the laws of nature, Thanks to the efforts of thousands and thousands of people. Without his work, the homo would be less sapiens today.
Physics must produce a great delight. You have to enjoy it, play with it, have fun with it. This helps you to understand it and make discoveries. If someone finds it boring, it is better to do something else.
We must be aware of our privilege and, therefore, the most important task that teachers have is to transmit that emotion. That is, the magic of science.