Tuesday, October 10, 2006

It's now official. Physics is hard.

Here is the pictorial proof. In the manner of all contemporary educational statistics I have taken fleeting whimsy and turned it into FACT.

I assumed people would rank the subjects they found easiest as objectively the easiest. This may be a false assumption. I know M has been honest in saying that programming is easy (look at his blog and guess his profession) but for all we know, some of you others could be physicists who enjoy the cachet...

Maybe we need to consider what standards we expect of people. There are dozens of rubbish drivers, rubbish actors and (according to my psychology colleagues) rubbish psychologists (most, apparently, writing for women's magazines or presenting reality TV shows.) However, we don't find ourselves whinging about the generally poor quality of historians or physicists in Britain today. Only the good get on, and mostly they keep themselves to themselves and only bother us to present Channel 4 series. However, one commentator argues conversely that rubbish physicists are still pretty useful, which is one of the ways we know it's hard, in comparison with rubbish actors, who are good for nothing...

Is physics objectively hard? Is acting objectively easy? Or do more people find physics hard and more people find acting easy?

My own personal experience is this.

Easiest of all is physics. (Although I did wimp out of physics after my first year at university.) Conceptually, theoretical physics is simply maths in action, and I find maths straightforward, given time and a clear head.

Then I would say programming. Only done a bit. But given time and resources, programming is a logical pseudo-mathematic process. Can't claim to be able to program with a haunting elegance, but I can usually get there in the end.

Next psychology and history, tied. I haven't studied psychology, but I have studied the sociology of the life sciences, and history of science. Harder than physics and programming because there's no end point, no answer, just an endless quest for meanings and connections. Also, a lot of language based understanding. But I find reading as easy as maths so that's OK.

The second hardest thing I've ever done is learn to drive. Took me four different instructors and 17 years.

And the hardest thing I have ever done is learn improvisational drama with a bunch of professional drama teachers. It's the only time I have ever considered physically running away from a learning situation. That's a whole other story.

PS If you have followed my blog for a while and remember my post on Jan Srameck, please check out his reply below.


M said...

Loving that hardness scale, is that logerithmic ?

Pepperpot said...

No. That would be too complex for the public who need SIMPLE PICTURES to help them understand STUFF about EDUCATION so they can make vital decisions about their children's lives.

M said...

I do like that your graph shows everyone thinks physics is hard. I think that you need to make it 3D and certainly on a mac, with textures and animations for effect. As everyone knows it is about style over substance.