Geheim gehaltene Physik

PRINCETON – Jedes Jahr im Februar beginne ich meine Einführungsseminare über Elektrizität und Magnetismus an der Princeton University, indem ich meinen Studenten mitteile, dass das Material dieses Semesters die Grundlage für die moderne Zivilisation darstellt.

Wer könnte eine solch unschuldige Bemerkung anzweifeln? Ohne die Entdeckungen der Physiker des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts und ihre Nachfolger können wir uns die heutige Welt kaum vorstellen: keine Elektrizität, keine Fernseher, keine Satelliten, keine iPads.

Physiker sind zu Recht stolz auf ihre Errungenschaften, die für die Menschheit nützlich waren. Aber eine Glühbirne oder ein Telefon zu konstruieren bedeutet nicht, die grundlegenden Prinzipien dahinter zu verstehen (Thomas Edison und Alexander Bell haben sie sicher nicht verstanden). Unglücklicherweise stellen viele meiner Kollegen – hauptsächlich die Autoren von Lehrbüchern – die Physik als eine über allem schwebende, makellose Basilika dar, und ignorieren die Lücken in unserem Sammelsurium behelfsmäßiger Modelle. Was als eine glitzernde Kathedrale dargestellt wird, ähnelt oft eher einer hastig errichteten Barackenstadt.

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