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Go Out and Play

A thoughtful letter to the editor in Physics Today, July 2009, by Prof. John Fang of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona:

Science and technology are supposed to make life better for humans. I'm not convinced, though, that the same is true of the internet. Many people, especially young people, are now dangerously addicted to the internet; they think they have the world at their fingertips. But it turns out that people are busier, more stressed and irritable, less thoughtful, less reflective, and less humane now than in the days of less technology.

During more than 30 years of teaching physics at various universities, I have seen the change in students' minds and intellectual levels. Many students go through their days with blank expressions on their faces; they lack the ability to reason logically or think abstractly; and they no longer possess the drive to learn. Many become isolated; they are losing their natural curiosity, their ability to think deeply, and even their capacity and desire to interact with the world—or the people—around them. It's sad.

I recommend that my students—and the rest of us!—stop looking for answers on the internet and instead go out and play in the real world. We can learn a lot more physics from Nature than from being stuck to the computer screen. Why not emulate Copernicus, Galileo, or Isaac Newton, who saw the world with their own eyes. Spend time walking in the woods, listening to the ocean, experiencing the beauty of the spring flowers, and being amazed by the vast expanse of the night sky; it's bigger than your computer screen, you know. Nature—not the internet—is still the greatest teacher.

... and now, with a gibbous Moon peeking through pre-dawn clouds, I've gotta get ready to go out and run along Rock Creek with a friend ...

(cf. StayingTheCourse (2005-07-11), ...) - ^z - 2009-09-07

I like this!