The Cult of the Physic Amateur
The Cult of the Physic Amateur I resisted in having a blog of my own till some time last year, even though several people have suggested that I should have one. Frankly, I didn’t see the point of having one (or more). I also didn’t think that people would want to read about my opinions and what I find to be interesting. Most of my effort in writing about physics was directed to one of the online forums that I’ve been very active in.
That all changed when I realize that if I were to leave that forum, none of what I have written or some of the resources that I had highlighted would still be “mine”. This is especially true for the “So You Want to Be a Physicist” essay that I’ve put a lot of effort in. Besides, I’ve been told that my “opinionated” writings on physics are actually “fun” to read (whatever that means). I also figured that since other people less capable than me can have their say about physics (i.e. all those crackpot blogs), why can’t I? 🙂
That was the genesis of this blog. It isn’t just a way for me to highlight some of the important work in physics, but also my opinion on a number of things related to physics, ESPECIALLY on how the general public, through the popular media, learn about physics and about physicists.
While this is fun, the whole issue of anyone capable of writing about anything and everything on the ‘net is always something I face almost every day, especially in the public forums. It is awfully exasperating when you try to discuss or explain something on physics to someone, he/she tries to counter what you just explained with something from Wikipedia or, worse still, a crackpot webpage. I’m not a fan of Wikipedia. The whole concept that anyone can write something on any topic, and edit any topic, just doesn’t sit well with me. People seem to no longer care about the integrity and validity of their sources. All they care about is that it is written somewhere, and that’s good enough. Wikipedia certainly gives the illusion to many that the information is valid, despite the disclaimer, and despite the fact that anyone can edit those information.
It appears that my sentiment isn’t unique and he seems to feel the same way:
In an online society where anyone can start a blog on physics, contribute to the encyclopedia entry on Russia in Wikipedia or mash up a song by Bruce Springsteen, Keen worries that the experts – trained physicists, professional students of Russia and maybe even Bruce Springsteen himself – will lose their voices, their power and their careers. But most of all, Keen worries that the Internet might rob American society of cultural meaning and a respect for truth.
Keane wrote that “The religion of amateur has made it difficult to determine the difference between art and advertiser, readers and authors, between art and advertisement.” “Result? We lack the quality and reliability of the reliability, therefore, it is annoying, if there is no fault, our national citizen talk.”