I really enjoyed my trip to the Canadian Undergraduate Physics Conference in Fredericton last weekend, and I think I know exactly why.
The format was mostly a series of 15 minute talks by undergrad students on research they’ve been doing. Topics were widely varried, from the future of consciousness to gravitational lensing to quantum computer to optimizing electronic circuits. While there was always a choice of talks to go to, I mostly stuck to the interesting stuff, i.e. astrophysics. But that’s just me.
One of the things I liked the most was actually talking about physics with people who could get excited about physics. Usually it’s just me talking about physics to people who couldn’t care less about physics. You biology friends of mine are bringing me down!
So I find I really enjoy talking about physics, but not so much churning through the equations. It’s always the math that brings me down in my classes. I enjoy the lab projects I’ve done since, even though they have a lot of theory behind them, there’s always more to it than just writing out equations. There’s acutally something physical we’re looking at.
After forty minutes of working out some equations, I always love to hear the prof say, “That’s the math, but what’s the physics?” Although a theory without a mathematical description is weak at best, a theory without a description of what’s actually happening means nothing. A mathematical description doesn’t really describe anything.
So at CUPC, where there was lots of talk about physics, I had a great time. The talks that focused on what the actual problem was and a summary of results rather than the nitty gritty of grinding out a solution were the best. I wonder if I can find a grad program that doesn’t require solving equations.