Of tutors, societies and the Living room couch!
Physics makes an interesting subject when motivated by the desire to learn the fundamental or basic laws concerning matter and the forces of nature which shape the world that you live in. Face it….. We are living on a floating planet orbiting a burning central star. That along must be riveting as a revelation to you. You cannot be indulging in pointless pursuits of sheer entertainment while spinning on a planet around a star….. seriously!!!
It does not matter if you are interested in fundamental theoretical physics that predicts things or simply experimental physics that proves things, you should still learn the basics.
Learning never ends and that propels discovery. In the turn of the 18th century and onwards, people with similar interests in the sciences often gather at cafe’s and learning hubs to discuss the discovery of the day. Note that it was not a Physics cafe or a Physics Learning hub per se, but rather a centre where an influential few gather to discuss the science of the day, who could be and often are the rich, connected and influential member of the society. Even the royal society (of London) which was the scientific advisor to the British government, promotes, credits, documents and rewards discovery of the sciences, had its racist moments where whites were regarded as the torch bearers of modernity and discovery. Not only such institutions viewed people with a shade darker in skin tone as less capable of understanding science but also refused to involve them in the development in the first place and had refused to credit discoveries and even acknowledge the influence of the past contributors of science whom were predominately non-whites. It was first and foremost understandably a white man’s institution. It took a while before they changed.
The interest in Physics
Every child; including your own will find every little thing fascinating. It has been said that a 5 year old asks an average of about 300 questions per day. And do not dumb down your child by asking it to go read a book, watch a documentary or simply outsource your responsibility as a parent by sending them off for tuition. Give them the tools they need to discover and arrive at an answer on their own. Give them the confidence they need to pursue their discovery even if it yields at a temporary state or half truth. Don’t teach and despair your child with concepts of gravity. Let the child discover gravity. You may guide the questions they ask but never forge into them by force.
So you don’t need a Physics cafe or a Physics Learning hub or even a Physics department to spear heard the interest in Physics or any other subject for that matter. What you need is your living room; to build a castle using your couch, make a defence perimeter using the pillows, a corner for having tea and brooms as rockets. What I mean by that is; you need a good imagination. That is the spark you need and every human born is gifted with it albeit at different levels. The rest is curiosity and passion to persevere in the Math and Sciences.
Before long, your young 10 year old can bring his or her desire for a hidden laboratory into reality. You certainly do not need a tutor for that. Choose not those Physics tutors, top tutor, super tutors, champion tutors and even mega tutors, especially the self-declared ones who guarantee A1s and A2s. But rather those who can bring you to the front row seat of past discoveries and make you (and your child) experience those discoveries with words and diagrams that make you think as if it was you who discovered them. To provide for this sort of experience at home, I propose two items that every household or large extended family (in the grandparents’ house) should have.
1. A Microscope
Every family should have one or at the least you should know one person who has a microscope at home. Children are always fascinated with bugs, especially the boys. With our equatorial climate, there is no short of bugs. This could effectively bring down the dengue cases because the mosquitoes were caught by kids for scientific research. That is indeed an overstatement, but you get the point. A simple x20 or better, a x100 microscope can get the child to conclude that spiders are not insects. When the discovery is made, it sticks in the mind. But when it’s a text book or guide book that tells you that, it literally removes the joy of discovery and learning. And it’s no wonder children nowadays are disinterested in discovery but more keen towards simply “googling” for answers. Can you imagine the kids asking uncle Google; “what to do with parents when they become too old?”, and you expect this bunch to take care of this planet after we are gone?
2. A Telescope (or at the minimum, a star gazing Binoculars)
While the bug parts can be fascinating under the microscope, man will eventually want to zoom out into the heavens above to find his coordinates. Therefore, the second item is a telescope. When was the last time you saw the full moon and wondered what is that big thing doing up there? Where are the known stars in the night sky?
One danger of the telescope is that it can blind the eyes if pointed at the sun. Therefore, it is one instrument that should be controlled by parents and taken out only at night.
The Home as a Science Centre
Imagine if the microscope and the telescope were to become as household as the TVs and fridges. The fridge to store food and the TV to bring the food and sit in front of. Shatter this sedentary life style which many tend to lead and get them to observe the universe, not just observe other people’s talents on a stupid box called the TV. There is an “off” button on the TV for a reason. If you can spend hundreds of dollars on a phone every year, why not spend on a good microscope?
When the family takes charge of education, the Government can worry about other things. The scientific literacy will take off and future advancements are guaranteed. Add to that, you will have a nation of people who cannot be fooled by the Government or Corporations. Now, that is an investment for the society at large. This will set off a learning spree which is fueled by the joy of wanting to know through the method of discovery, which is what science is about. If parents think that their job is done by simply getting their kids an encyclopedia with colorful diagrams then they can’t be any more wrong about it. You as parents, must show that you are just as fascinated with the universe as they are.
On the matter of the telescope, I cannot emphasise this enough so, I am repeating again, that one danger of the telescope is that it can blind the eyes if pointed at the sun or any other extremely bright object. Therefore, it is one instrument that should be controlled by parents and taken out only at night.
We need to leave behind individuals on earth who are capable of solving the problems they encounter without despair or resorting to wars. We need to leave behind individuals who would sacrifice their time, money and energy and invest them in those whom they will leave behind.
And our investment in our children starts now.